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Bloody Sunday: what can the report achieve?

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 13 June 2010

As Lord Saville's inquiry into Bloody Sunday gets set to report, Carl Dinnen looks at what it could hope to achieve 38 years after the event.

Memorial to the victims of Bloody Sunday (credit:Reuters)

James Joyce wrote Ulysses in seven years, Leo Tolstoy knocked out War and Peace in six. Lord Saville has been at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry for 12 years now, writes Carl Dinnen.

It's an immense undertaking. We are told the finished article will come in ten volumes and weighs 20kg. And it can be all yours for £572 if you have time on your hands and strong wrists.

Of course the report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry is not intended as a work of art. It aims to tell the true story of how 14 people died at the hands of the agents of the state which is supposed to protect them.

There are already reports that it will say the killings were "unlawful". In that case the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions will have to decide whether or not to prosecute the soldiers involved.

That will be decided on whether there's a realistic chance of prosecution and whether it is in the public interest.

There is no realistic chance of one of the key soldiers being prosecuted; he's dead. Another is still alive and was evasive in giving evidence to the Inquiry; he couldn't seem to remember much of the day.

Documents, photographs and even many of the rifles concerned appear to have been destroyed by the MoD. All of which diminishes the chance of success. And of course it was nearly 40 years ago.

More on the Bloody Sunday inquiry from Channel 4 News:
- What would an 'unlawful' Bloody Sunday verdict mean?
- Controversy either way in Bloody Sunday report
- Bloody Sunday Inquiry: a timeline
- Bloody Sunday inquiry rules in favour of ITN

Would it be in the public interest? That's an unenviable decision to have to make. Some of the victims' families do want prosecutions. But the government is likely to be dead set against them as are unionist politicians.

Northern Ireland is full of people who have committed the most serious crimes and been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. There are many more who have never admitted what they did. And of course the Northern Ireland Executive includes former IRA volunteers who certainly haven't told everything.

So at this stage prosecutions seem unlikely but having spent so long on his report what other plot twists might Lord Saville have in store? How high up the chain of command will he apportion blame?  What will he think of Deputy First Minister Martin Maguinness's evidence? Will he finally tell the world what the families want him to; that their relatives were completely innocent?

They've waited a very long time for Lord Saville's report. But they've waited thirty-eight years, most of their lives, for proper explanation of what happened that day. On Tuesday afternoon they may get it.

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