A Northern Irish court has ruled that “Soldier F,” the only British soldier charged in connection with the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings, will stand trial for murder. This decision signifies a pivotal moment in the long quest for justice over one of Northern Ireland’s darkest days during “The Troubles.”
Bloody Sunday, which occurred on January 30, 1972, in Londonderry, marked a turning point in the conflict between predominantly Catholic nationalists, who sought a united Ireland, and predominantly Protestant loyalists, who supported allegiance to the British crown. On that day, British paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights demonstration, resulting in the death of 13 people and injury to 14 others. The event caused international outrage, including the burning of the British Embassy in Dublin.
Initial inquiries into the incident exonerated British authorities, sparking further anger among the victims’ families. The Saville Inquiry, established during Tony Blair’s premiership, later concluded that none of the victims posed a threat and no warnings were given before the soldiers opened fire. Following this inquiry, the Police Service of Northern Ireland launched murder investigations, which concluded in 2016.
Although charges were initially brought against Soldier F, they were dropped due to concerns about the admissibility of evidence. However, following legal challenges, Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service decided to resume prosecution in September 2022. Soldier F now faces charges for the murder of William McKinney and James Wray, and the attempted murder of five others.
The recent court hearing presided over by District Judge Ted Magill in Londonderry, determined that there was sufficient evidence for the case against Soldier F to proceed to the Crown Court. Notably, the court allowed hearsay statements from five former paratroopers, which purportedly indicate that Soldier F fired a weapon at the scene of the murders.
This development marks a significant step in addressing one of the most controversial episodes of The Troubles, as it brings the long-awaited trial of Soldier F closer, potentially providing a sense of closure and justice for the families of the victims and the community at large.