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BBC NI's Kieron Tourish reports
Sir Edward Somers says his decision was taken with regret
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Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Bloody Sunday inquiry member quits

A Bloody Sunday anniversary march in Londonderry
One of the judges on the Bloody Sunday tribunal has resigned, citing "personal reasons".

Sir Edward Somers, a former New Zealand Appeal Court judge, said he was standing down with the "greatest regret".

He made his decision "only after very considerable soul-searching", he said in a letter to Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson.

The Bloody Sunday inquiry had already been adjourned until September, but will be further delayed following Sir Edward's decision to quit.

Sir Edward Somers: Resigned "after much soul-searching"
The inquiry, which opened in March this year, is examining the events of 30 January 1972 when British soldiers opened fire on a civil rights march in Londonderry.

Thirteen people were killed on the day and a fourteenth man died later from gunshot injuries.

The government must now appoint a replacement for Sir Edward, who was appointed to the tribunal, headed by Lord Saville, in l998 after Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a fresh investigation into the shootings.

The new member is expected to be named in the near future and to be drawn from the Commonwealth.

Inquiry delayed

A statement from the tribunal after Sir Edward's announcement said: "Given the volume of material with which any new member will have to familiarise him or herself, the resumption of the oral hearings on 4 September, will now be delayed by some weeks."

In the course of the inquiry so far, its counsel Christopher Clarke QC has aired thousands of pages of witness statements, classified military and cabinet documents from the time, expert evidence and newspaper and documentary material.

Mr Clarke said the process had taken longer than anyone "including its author" had anticipated.

The tribunal is expected to sit for another two years, or even longer.

In his letter to Mr Mandelson, Sir Edward, who will be 72 next month said: "I shall not be able to bring to the task the vigour and energy which it will undoubtedly require over the remaining two-to-three years of its life."

Mr William Hoyt from Canada is the third government-appointed member of the panel involved in the hearings.

Lord Saville said it had been "a pleasure and privilege" working with Sir Edward.

Call for speed

But the Bloody Sunday Trust, representing many of the victims' families, called for a new member to be appointed as soon as possible.

Patricia MacBride said: "This inquiry is an extremely traumatic time for the families of those who were killed and the individuals who were wounded, and any delay in the proceedings can only make the situation more difficult."

Sir Edward, from Christchurch, is married with a son and two daughters and was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand in 1974.

He was made a judge of New Zealand's Court of Appeal in 1981; in the same year he also became a Privy Councillor. He retired in 1990.

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24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Bloody Sunday: Tension and tragedy
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