Vigil held in Belfast after Bloody Sunday prosecution decision
A vigil has taken place in Belfast following news that one soldier will be prosecuted over the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry.
Thirteen civil rights demonstrators were shot dead on January 30 1972, on one of the most notorious days of the Northern Ireland Troubles.
Around 100 people gathered at the former site of the Andersonstown police station on Thursday evening to stand in solidarity with the Bloody Sunday families.
Many held black flags and pictures of people who had been killed on Bloody Sunday as well as in a 1971 shooting in west Belfast known as the Ballymurphy massacre.
West Belfast MP Paul Maskey, Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey, former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly were among those in attendance.
Mr Maskey said they were standing in solidarity with the Bloody Sunday families.
Speaking at the vigil, Mr Maskey said the decision to prosecute only one soldier over Bloody Sunday was “wrong”.
“The Bloody Sunday families have shown determination and dignity over the past 47 years that has been remarkable,” he said.
“We are proud to stand in solidarity with them this evening.
“The British state must be answerable for the crimes it has committed in Ireland.”
He continued: “The Bloody Sunday families are continuing on their journey for justice and Belfast will stand with them, the message to the British Government and its forces is very clear, justice will prevail.”
Briege Voyle, whose mother Joan Connolly was one of 10 people, including a priest, shot dead at Ballymurphy in 1971, also addressed the vigil.
She paid tribute to the “dignity” of the Bloody Sunday families following the “devastating” announcement that just one soldier will be prosecuted.
“They are heartbroken but they were dignified as they have always been, as we have always tried to be, we have followed them in their footsteps,” she said.
“We will be there standing by the Bloody Sunday families as they are there with us.
“We will get there … us fighting Irish will fight them all the way to the High Court if we have to.”
It came hours after Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced that a former paratrooper, known only as soldier F, will be charged with two murders and four attempted murders.
He will face charges for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell in Londonderry in 1972.
However, the PPS said 16 other former soldiers and two suspected ex-members of the Official IRA, all of whom were also investigated as part of a major police murder probe, will not face prosecution.
Relatives of those who died reacted with a mix of vindication, disappointment and defiance.
While welcoming the news for the six families directly impacted by the decision to prosecute Soldier F – declaring that a “victory” – the campaigners said they would keep fighting for the other dead and injured.