Key Bloody Sunday questions to be answered

22/11/2004 - 11:38:14

After more than 400 days of evidence and more than 900 witnesses, it is still unclear which soldiers shot 27 civilians on Bloody Sunday, the Saville Inquiry was told today.

Counsel to the inquiry, Christopher Clarke QC, in his closing statement, said the central question before the tribunal was why and how 13 civilians were killed and 14 wounded at a civil rights march in Derry on January 30, 1972.

This, he said, could be broken down into two questions: Who shot them, and was there any justification for doing so?

“It has to be said that, even after many days of evidence, the answer to even the first question – who shot them? – is not, on the soldiers’ evidence, in any way clear.”

Mr Clarke, whose final speech is expected to last two days at the Guildhall in Derry, said the tribunal could take one of two views on this.

“One view that the tribunal might take is that this is something that is not surprising if, as they say to be the case, soldiers came under fire from unexpected quarters and had swiftly to retaliate.”

The second was that the soldiers, while claiming they hit gunmen and nail bombers, seemed unable to explain why they killed or wounded 27 people who were not involved.

“These considerations may have a cumulative effect. The tribunal may attach some significance to the fact that so much is unexplained,” he said.

“It might conclude, taking that fact with all the other evidence, that so much is unexplained because no justifiable explanation could be given.

“On the other hand, it might take the view that uncomfortable facts have been airbrushed out of history and that the situation the soldiers faced was radically different to that of which the civilian evidence speaks,” he added.

Mr Clarke has presented his final submission, consisting of 10 volumes, to the inquiry team.

This summation is aimed at giving the three judges an overview of the issues they have to decide on, a summary of significant evidence and an indication of the range of conclusions the tribunal might reach.

The final report by Lord Saville and his fellow judges is expected to be published by the summer of next year – more than seven years after Tony Blair announced the inquiry.

The tribunal, which has now sat for 433 days, has heard evidence from 921 witnesses, with written statements from a further 1,555 witnesses.

By the latest calculation, the inquiry has cost £130m (€185m) and its final cost is expected to be about £155m (€220.6m).

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