Bikers protest over Bloody Sunday prosecution

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Thousands of motorcyclists have held a protest in London against the prosecution of a soldier who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

On what became known as Bloody Sunday, 13 people were killed and 15 others injured when troops of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment fired on demonstrators during a civil rights march in Derry on 30 January 1972.

A veteran paratrooper – who can only be identified as soldier F – is to be charged with the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.

It follows decades of campaigning by relatives of the victims for justice.

Organisers of Friday’s Rolling Thunder event said their protest over the prosecution was directed against the British government – not the victims’ families.

Bikers from across the UK travelled to Parliament Square in Westminster for the demonstration.

Image: One former British soldier is to be prosecuted over the Bloody Sunday massacre

Veterans have reacted angrily to the decision to take legal action decades after the bloodshed.

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Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (NIPPS) announced the decision to charge the former British soldier last month.

Founder of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group, Alan Barry, said at the time: “It’s one soldier too many as far as we’re concerned.

“It’s very one-sided. No soldier should be charged. It happened 47 years ago, a line in the sand needs to be drawn and people need to move on.

“Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement veterans are being left open to prosecution while terrorists have been cleansed of their past crimes.”

James Wray (L) and William McKinney

Image: The soldier will be charged over the murders of James Wray (L) and William McKinney

The decision by the NIPPS followed an investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration. One veteran has since died.

Four other soldiers died before police had completed their investigation.

In 2010, a public inquiry under Lord Saville – ordered by former prime minister Tony Blair in 1998 – concluded the killings to have been “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

The investigation, which lasted 12 years and cost around £195m, dismissed suggestions those who were shot at had been armed with guns and nail bombs.

It also criticised the decision to send soldiers into the estate in vehicles.

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