Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced Tuesday that after reviewing the evidence against 15 British soldiers suspected of killing civilians in Derry on “Bloody Sunday,” January 30, 1972, they will maintain the decision not to pursue prosecution.
Tuesday’s decision, announced in a statement from the PPS, upholds an earlier decision from March 2019. The PPS had decided not to prosecute the 15 soldiers for the killings that occurred nearly five decades ago, writing that “the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. In these circumstances, the evidential Test for Prosecution is not met.”
After the 2019 announcement, families who lost loved ones and survivors injured during the march, who continue to make calls for justice, asked for a review of the decision. In Tuesday’s statement, PPS Senior Assistant Director Marianne O’Kane said, “It is understandable that a number of the bereaved families and injured victims subsequently exercised their right to request a review of decisions relating to 15 of those suspects originally reported.” However, she went on to say, “I have concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of any of the 15 soldiers who were the subjects of the reviews.”
The persistence of the families and the wide attention that the PPS’s decisions have attracted are evidence of the lingering wounds from the early 1970s in Northern Ireland. Catholics, a minority in Protestant Northern Ireland, demanded equal rights from the sectarian state. Inspired in part by the Black leaders of the US Civil Rights movement, Catholics organized marches. As in the US, peaceful marches ended in bloodshed when the government responded with violence.
The final decision from the PPS means that only one prosecution will proceed for the deaths in Derry in January 1972. PPS is prosecuting a man referred to as Soldier F, a former member of the Parachute Regiment, for two murders on Bloody Sunday and attempted murders of four other men at a separate peaceful civil rights march in Northern Ireland.