LONDON: The families of 14 civilians gunned down by British soldiers in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday learnt yesterday the findings of the Saville inquiry into their murder. The report was expected finally to exonerate their loved ones of involvement in violence, 38 years after the horror of that day.As thousands met in the city’s town square to finish the civil rights march that exploded into an inexplicable massacre on January 30, 1972, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was to speak in the House of Commons in London and pave the way for rewriting British military history on whether the soldiers had killed unlawfully.Before his speech, 56 relatives and injured survivors were given access to the report in a secure area in Londonderry’s Guildhall. Lawyers for family members were given access earlier.Lord Saville’s 13-year inquiry was expected to stop short of recommending prosecution of the soldiers but to clearly rebut the findings of the initial Widgery inquiry, which found that paratroopers involved in the shootings were acting in self-defence and that many of the dead – of whom seven were teenagers – had been handling firearms.Historians regard Bloody Sunday as a seminal moment that gave the IRA new impetus and public sympathy, sparking the two decades of violence in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.The inquiry, the most expensive in British history at £190 million ($325 million) and producing a report of more than 5000 pages, was ordered by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, in 1998 in an attempt to find the truth and help heal the wounds of the trauma.He insisted it would not attempt to ”invite fresh recriminations”. It was also a symbolic moment as it was announced during highly charged dealings between unionists and nationalists that ended in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.Lord Saville was always widely expected to stop short of recommending prosecution of the British soldiers who opened fire on the protesters and to refer the final decision to the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland – a symbolic move.The suggestion that soldiers acting under orders could face criminal charges nearly four decades on has infuriated unionists and the military, who warn it is an injustice, particularly when scores of IRA and loyalist paramilitary prisoners were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.The families of the victims – most of the parents have since died – want their loved ones declared innocent of inciting violence and do not want soldiers jailed. But they would be content to see them explain themselves in court or in public.with agencies
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