The Observer | UK News | MBE for para angers Bloody Sunday relatives

MBE for para angers Bloody Sunday relatives

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday January 4, 2004
The Observer

A British paratrooper who was on Derry's streets on Bloody Sunday has been appointed an MBE in the New Year's honours list.
The Observer has learnt that the ex-soldier gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry last year about his role on the day 13 civilians were killed. Families of those shot dead on 30 January, 1972, described the honour as a 'kick in the teeth' for relatives of Bloody Sunday victims.

The Observer is aware of the former para's identity, but cannot name him - both for security reasons and under the rules of anonymity imposed by Lord Saville.

Now in his mid-fifties, the recipient of the MBE gave evidence to the Saville inquiry in London from behind a screen. All soldiers and security personnel involved in the operation on Bloody Sunday were given the option of concealing their identity at the tribunal.

Last night relatives of those shot by the Parachute Regiment after the civil rights march through Derry contrasted the soldier's demand for anonymity at the inquiry with his willingness to be named in the honours list.

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael died after being shot in the stomach by troops, said: 'The fact that he was part of the Bloody Sunday massacre and has now been granted an MBE is terrible. What's more it's totally insensitive, a kick in the teeth for the families.

'This man was screened at Saville in London and yet can come out and accept a medal openly from the Queen. That is a bit rich. The fact is that at an open and public tribunal he didn't have the guts to show his face. Yet the big contrast here is that he is willing to have his name printed in a public list. The authorities must have known his history and background.'

Kelly added that the decision to honour the soldier was not surprising, as other Bloody Sunday paratroopers had been given awards and citations. He cited the example of Colonel Derek Wilford, who was appointed an OBE. The Saville Inquiry resumes on 12 January with further oral evidence from eye witnesses in Derry. It will close down in late February and restart again whenever Lord Saville draws up his report. The tribunal's final report could be published as late as 2005 with the final cost running close to £200 million.

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