DUBLIN — Officials in Northern Ireland said on Thursday that they would prosecute one former British soldier in connection with “Bloody Sunday,” the massacre of unarmed civilian marchers by British forces in Londonderry on Jan. 30, 1972.
Protesters running from tear gas during the clashes in Northern Ireland in 1972.CreditPL Gould/Images Press, via Getty Images
The former soldier, identified only as “Soldier F,” will be charged with murder in the killings of James Wray and William McKinney, and the attempted murder of four others. Eighteen others will not be prosecuted, the officials said, saying that there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable chance of conviction.
The massacre became one of the main flash points in the Troubles, the 30-year struggle over the status of Northern Ireland that claimed at least 3,500 lives. Within weeks of the shootings, the British prime minister imposed direct British rule, which lasted until the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement set out complex power-sharing arrangements for Northern Ireland.
At the time, the soldiers said that they had been responding to gunfire and nail bombs thrown by nationalist militants who were using a protest march as cover. An official inquiry later that year a former army officer, Lord Widgery, largely exonerated the soldiers and attributed the killings to armed protesters who it said had provoked the attack. That inquiry has come to be seen as a whitewash.