DUBLIN (AP) — Divisions flared in Northern Ireland’s cross-community government Friday over police plans to open a criminal investigation into Bloody Sunday, a watershed event in the territory’s conflict 40 years ago when British troops killed 13 Irish Catholic demonstrators.
The Protestant who leads the 5-year-old coalition, Peter Robinson, said police must investigate what his Catholic colleague atop the government, Martin McGuinness, was doing as an Irish Republican Army commander on that day 40 years ago. The comments represented a rare moment of discord between Robinson and McGuinness over the latter’s murky IRA past.
Robinson said McGuinness “openly admitted that he was in charge” of IRA forces in Londonderry at Bloody Sunday. “If that was the case then there has to be an investigation, if you’re investigating the (British) Army.”
The episode underscores how scarred Northern Ireland remains from its four-decade conflict, which left a trail of more than 3,200 unsolved killings, most of them committed by McGuinness’ Provisional IRA. That dominant IRA faction renounced violence and disarmed in 2005, a prerequisite for McGuinness to become joint leader of Northern Ireland’s government two years later.
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, a British-government ordered investigation into the Jan. 30, 1972, killings in Londonderry’s Bogside district, took 12 years and nearly 200 million pounds ($300 million) to produce a 2010 report concluding that soldiers of the British Army’s hardened Parachute Regiment gunned down unarmed protesters without justification. Prime Minister David Cameron issued an immediate apology but none of the troops who opened fire that day has ever been charged with any crime.
Commanders of the Police Service of Northern Ireland announced Thursday they intend to open a criminal investigation into Bloody Sunday, but said they couldn’t say when it might start because the effort would require about 30 detectives working full-time on the case for at least three years, and they lacked the necessary resources.
Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority nonetheless welcomed the public pledge as a sign of progress — and leaders of the British Protestant majority immediately called for any new probe to nail down McGuinness’ record as Londonderry’s former Provisional IRA leader, too.
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry did rule that McGuinness’ testimony was not credible in parts and found that he probably had armed himself with a submachine gun on the day, and may even have opened fire at troops. But its report emphasized that nothing any IRA factions did that day could justify how the soldiers shot unarmed civilians, killing 13 and wounding 15.
McGuinness — who during his 2002 testimony to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry refused to answer questions about other Provisional IRA members’ actions on the day — rejected its findings about him again Friday.
“I totally and absolutely reject that. It didn’t happen, it’s not true,” he said. “I didn’t fire a machine gun, I didn’t even have a machine gun and that’s where it rests.”
He said Protestant leaders putting his IRA past in the spotlight “do not want to see the paras (paratroopers) investigated for murder.”
Experts on the Provisional IRA say McGuinness, 62, was a commander of the outlawed group from 1971 to 2005, holding a series of senior positions at a time when the group killed most of its 1,775 victims. He was convicted twice of IRA membership in the mid-1970s but insists he resigned from the organization while in an Irish prison in 1974.
Many Protestants have complained that disproportionate state resources have already been spent on Bloody Sunday versus an epically long list of other unsolved crimes, including the IRA killings of hundreds of police officers. They say any probe into Bloody Sunday should be handled by a “cold case” specialist unit separate from the police called the Historical Enquiries Team. It was created in 2005 specifically to review evidence on more than 3,200 unsolved killings from the conflict.
“Why are police resources, already under enormous pressure, to be devoted to a particular event when the unsolved murders of 211 RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) police officers are being investigated along with over 2,000 civilian unsolved murders through the Historical Enquiries Team?” asked Terry Spence, chairman of the police union.
Bloody Sunday Inquiry report, http://bit.ly/wjW597
More Related Stories
- Moore officials: Funds for "safe rooms" were held up by red tape
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- Rescue crews race to find tornado survivors
- Looting in Oklahoma?
- Hundreds of low-wage federally contracted workers strike in D.C.
- Okla. mother's tearful reunion with her 8-year-old son
- New campaign compares gun control to anti-LGBT discrimination
- Study: Salt Lake City is gay parenting capital of the U.S.
- Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Watch: Family emerges from storm shelter after tornado
- Must-see morning clip: Barackalypse Now
- Okla. tornado survivor reunited with dog trapped in rubble live on camera
- Is Pope Francis an exorcist?
- Oklahoma death count confirmed at 24, 9 children
- Frantic parents search for children in tornado's wake
- Crews dig through rubble after deadly tornado
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11