Bloody Sunday survivor fights amnesties for paratroopers

Michael Bridge says case of IRA Hyde Park bomb suspect John Downey is different from that of Bloody Sunday shootings

A man who was shot in the Bloody Sunday massacre has hit out at suggestions that, because the government gave secret “get out of jail” letters to IRA suspects, the soldiers responsible for the 1972 atrocity should also be given amnesties.

Michael Bridge, 67, who was wounded in the upper thigh when paratroopers opened fire on unarmed demonstrators in Derry, added that the Metropolitan police and the Police Service of Northern Ireland were “playing for time” with the survivors.

Bridge said there were only about six survivors left, and claimed police have told him that the criminal investigation into the soldiers who opened fire could last for at least another four years.

Bridge said the case of IRA Hyde Park bomb suspect John Downey and the Bloody Sunday shootings was completely different.

Downey’s legal team used one of the letters, sent to him in error, to ensure the case against him collapsed at the Old Bailey last Tuesday.

“We as survivors and the families of the Bloody Sunday dead have already been through a legal process. It was called the Saville inquiry and it made legal recommendations including that there should be a criminal inquiry against the soldiers not only for the killings and shootings but also, with some of them, for perjury.

“There might be a reluctance to see these soldiers in a court of law but that is what Saville concluded,” Bridge said. He said the police investigation into Bloody Sunday was “a facade and a case of kicking the ball into touch”.

Bridge added that the other Bloody Sunday families would oppose any move to grant amnesties to the soldiers.

In the last week billboards have been erected around Derry with an advert appealing for witnesses to come forward. The police have said the public’s response to their investigation has been disappointing.

Thirteen people were shot dead by the Parachute Regiment during a civil rights march in the city. A 14th victim later died of his wounds.

Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain, who in government backed the move to hand out letters of assurance to the IRA “on the runs”, called for the Bloody Sunday soldiers to be granted amnesties.

Hain told the Sunday Telegraph that if a line were to be drawn on the past it must include ending the pursuit of paratroopers involved in Bloody Sunday.

“Diverting police time to investigate Bloody Sunday soldiers or crimes from the Troubles seems a waste when the priority today should surely be tracking down the tiny, but dangerous, attacks from dissident IRA groups, as well as facilitating ordinary, plain community safety,” he said.

Bridge though stressed that he would continue to demand justice and see the paratroopers in court.

“At present the inquiry is a process, not an investigation, and there seems to be a real reluctance to put these people in front of a court. We have been told the inquiry has been given an annual …read more    

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