Page last updated at 21:58 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday 'pointless': Ford

David Ford
Alliance leader David Ford is widely tipped to take on the justice post

The man tipped to become Northern Ireland justice minister has described the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday as "pointless".

Alliance leader David Ford made the comment last November in a briefing note to the Liberal Democrats.

It was ahead of parliamentary questions to the secretary of state.

The inquiry was set up in 1998 to re-examine the events of 30 January 1972, when British soldiers shot dead 14 people in Londonderry's Bogside.

In the email leaked to the BBC, entitled 'Northern Ireland Questions', Mr Ford states "Saville is pointless", adding in brackets and "so is any question on it".

He goes on to write that the secretary of state is concerned at Alliance pushing the community relations policy Shared Future too much.

He suggests Shaun Woodward regards it as another distraction on the way to devolving justice.

Mr Ford writes: "If we, wanted to be slightly nice to Shaun, we could do a supplementary on the back of a question on the Independent Monitoring Commission."

He said it is not that he wants to be "particularly nice to the secretary of state but he is more or less doing the right things at present".

Bloody Sunday
Soldiers shot 14 people dead in Derry on Bloody Sunday

"And a question on the IMC would give him a chance to push Sinn Fein and the DUP a bit."

Mr Ford then recommends a question along these lines which also involves tackling the dissident threat from republicans and efforts to build a shared future.

An Alliance Party spokesman said Mr Ford would not be making any comment on the matter.

At Northern Ireland Question time that week, 4 November, the Liberal Democrat spokesman Alistair Carmichael did ask questions along those lines.

There were five questions on the Saville Inquiry from other MPs.

The Saville Inquiry was established in 1998 by then Prime Minister Tony Blair after a campaign by families of those killed and injured.

Thirteen people died when paratroopers opened fire during a civil rights march in Londonderry in 1972.

Another person died later of their injuries.

It is the longest and most expensive inquiry in British legal history.

The first witness was heard in November 2000 and the last in January 2005.

The Northern Ireland secretary is expected to receive the report on the week of 22 March, but relatives of those killed may have to wait at least another two weeks before they get to see it.

Tribunal

The tribunal received 2,500 statements from witnesses, with 922 of these called to give direct evidence.

There were also 160 volumes of evidence, containing an estimated 20-30 million words, plus 121 audio tapes and 110 video tapes.

In February, Mr Ford announced his intention to stand for the position of justice minister at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mr Ford has been favourite for the post after Sinn Fein and the DUP said they would not fill the role.

Under the Hillsborough Castle Agreement the responsibilities for policing and justice are to be devolved by 12 April.

The new minister's responsibilities will include policing, the courts, public prosecution service and prisons.

The Hillsborough agreement allows for the first and deputy first ministers to identify a candidate who would command cross-community support in the assembly.



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