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1973: 'Bloody Sunday' inquest accuses Army

The coroner presiding over the "Bloody Sunday" inquest has accused the British army of "sheer unadulterated murder".

The accusation came from the Londonderry City coroner, Major Hubert O'Neill, after the inquest jury returned an open verdict on the deaths.

Thirteen people died on 30 January last year when members of the Parachute Battalion opened fire on people attending a civil rights march in Derry.

Another man died later in hospital and 14 others were also shot and injured.

Major O'Neill said there had been no justification for the soldiers to open fire.

He said: "These people may have been taking part in a parade that was banned but I do not think that justifies the firing of live rounds indiscriminately."


"He has let his religious and political feelings dictate his decision"

Reverend Ian Paisley

But Mr Brian Hutton, QC, representing for the Ministry of Defence told Major O'Neill the inquest had heard only part of the evidence.

"It is not for you or the jury to express such wide-ranging views, particularly when a most eminent judge has spent 20 days hearing evidence and come to a very different conclusion," Mr Hutton said.

Catholic priests who were at the rally gave evidence to the inquest.

They said many of the dead men were unarmed and running away when they were shot.

They also claimed the troops' failure to stop firing prevented them from helping the sick and dying.

The MP for Antrim North, Reverend Ian Paisley, has said he will ask the Northern Ireland Secretary for Major O'Neill's removal.

"Mr O'Neill is not fit to be coroner for he has let his religious and political feelings dictate his decision," Mr Paisley said.

In Context
The first inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday under Lord Widgery in 1972, which largely exonerated the soldiers, was widely criticised for being inconsistent and lacking the testimony of eyewitnesses.

Nationalists campaigned unsuccessfully for many years for a new investigation.

In 1998 on the eve of the 26th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, announced an independent judicial inquiry led by the British Law Lord, Lord Saville.

The inquiry began hearing evidence in April 1998. It took statements from hundreds of witnesses including, in January 2003, the prime minister at the time Edward Heath.

It ended in November 2004 and had cost about 150 million.

The families of those who died have said they had been told by the Irish government the final report would not be released until 2007.


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