PSNI will have to round up Bloody Sunday families and nationalist politicians over ‘unnotified procession’, says solicitor

Earlier today, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood exited Strand Road Police Station in Derry saying he will not be partaking any further in an investigation after being asked to attend for interview for alleged participation in an “unnotified parade”.

The alleged offence relates to August 25 of this year which was the first time the case came before court after the families successfully challenged its discontinuance by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

Families, with a small number of supporters, walked about 150 metres from the Diamond to the courthouse.

Solicitor for the families, Ciaran Shiels said they viewed it as a “token demonstration” to signify that they were still resolute in their pursuit of justice.

Initial contact was made by the police approximately two months ago and nothing further was heard until this week.

At the time, Jamie Bryson posted on Twitter saying it was an “unnotified public procession”, adding that the “purported just nature of the cause matters not (as was evidenced when the justified anti-protocol gatherings were prosecuted).”

Reacting to Mr Eastwood’s statement on Friday, Mr Bryson said that as the complainant in this case who reported “this obvious law-breaking by Colum Eastwood” it is very enlightening to see the ‘disrespect’ for the rule of law from an MP.

“Nationalists aren’t above the law,” he added.

After a 51-year wait, the Bloody Sunday families found out on Thursday that Soldier F would be put on trial accused of murdering William McKinney and James Wray and for five attempted murders in Derry on 30 January 1972.

Thirteen people were shot dead and at least 15 others injured when members of the Army’s Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in the Bogside.

Mr Shiels said those called for questioning include bereaved family members John Kelly, Mickey, John and Joe McKinney, Gerry Duddy and Kevin McDaid.

Furthermore, two members of the SDLP, including Mr Eastwood, former Derry City & Strabane Mayor Sandra Duffy, Sinn Féin MLA Pádraig Delargy and legal representatives Ciaran and Fearghál Shiels have all been accused.

“We went down there today to tell them, nobody would be attending, and you would need to exercise your power of arrest,” Mr Shiels said.

“The families are absolutely disgusted. When one contrasts their treatment whereby they’re being asked to attend voluntarily or else be arrested on foot of a report.

“People who have never done anything on him and they are having no truck with it. They’re saying if the PSNI want to speak with them, they will have to arrest them.

“And it’s not just the families who are saying it, they’ll have to arrest Colum Eastwood, they’ll have to arrest me, they’ll have to arrest Fearghál, they’ll have to arrest Sinn Féin and they’ll have to arrest every person that they want.

“We are refusing to attend voluntarily, they may just come and arrest us.”

Mr Shiels said it was a “small walk” from the Diamond to the courthouse and there was a police car in front with no loudspeaker advising people they would be liable to prosecution, as happens at other unnotified parades.

Mr Bryson described the PPS decision to put Soldier F on trial as a “witch hunt against our brave veterans”.

In response, Mr Shiels said that if Mr Bryson read Soldier F’s cross-examination to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry he’d be “surprised if even Jamie Bryson would consider that person to be a brave veteran when you read what he did”.

He advised Mr Bryson to look at the Parachute Regiment’s involvement in the shooting dead of two innocent Protestant civilians, Richie McKinney and Robert Johnston, on the Shankill Road in September 1972.

Emerging from the Strand Road PSNI station on Friday, Mr Eastwood said he had waited for 20 minutes but had not been interviewed and branded the situation as a “total and utter farce”.

He said: “I was asked to attend an interview with the PSNI because I walked alongside members of the Bloody Sunday families to the Derry courthouse at a hearing for Soldier F.”

In a statement, Mr Eastwood said: “I was there to tell them that they should not be hauling victims and their families in for questioning, retraumatising them for walking together to court after 52 years of seeking justice.

“In the week that it was confirmed that someone will finally face a criminal prosecution for the events of that day, this process is an outrage.”

Mr Bryson said the law ought to apply equally to all persons, and there is “no exception based upon the self-perceived legitimate nature of any cause”.

He added: “If there were to be so the obvious question would be, who would decide which cause was legitimate and so warranted a blind eye being turned to the law?

“The Bloody Sunday families are absolutely entitled to protest or march in pursuit of what they see as Justice through the prism of their view on contested legacy matters. Those who are victims are also entitled to remember their loved ones, and I am sorry for their loss.

“The point here is not about the rightness or otherwise of the cause, but rather about whether the same law applies to nationalists as it does unionists?”

The PSNI said an investigation has commenced and, as enquiries are ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time.


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