The long campaign for justice by the Bloody Sunday families has been vindicated by the news murder charges are to be brought almost five decades after the killings, relatives said.
But the prosecution of just one soldier was also described as a “terrible disappointment”, by families who had hoped for multiple charges to be brought against all 17 paratroopers who were involved on 30 January, 1972.
As relatives emerged from a briefing by prosecutors at the City Hotel in Londonderry, carrying pictures of their dead loved ones, they said nothing to the waiting journalists, instead walking in silence to the nearby Guildhall for a press conference.
There Alana Burke, who was badly injured when she was run over by an Army vehicle on Bloody Sunday, said: “This announcement is vindication of our decades-long campaign to clear the names of our loved ones and to bring those responsible for their deaths and injuries to justice.”
A former paratrooper, known only as soldier F, will be charged with two murders and four attempted murders, the Public Prosecution Service announced on Thursday.
Mickey McKinney, whose brother Willie is one of the soldier’s alleged victims, said it was “disappointing” for families who had not received the news they wanted, but added: “For us here today it is important to point out that justice for one family is justice for all of us.”
Despite the fact there were not more charges, Mr McKinney added that a lack of prosecutions did not mean soldiers in the nationalist Bogside on that day 47 years ago had acted in a dignified and appropriate way”.
John Wray, aged nine when his brother James, 22, was killed – also allegedly by soldier F – said: “I’m relieved that somebody is being held to account for his death but I’m highly disappointed that the rest of the families haven’t seen justice here today.”
John Kelly, whose brother Michael was gunned down, said the families had worked for years on behalf of the dead, who “cannot cry out for justice”. He added: “We have cried out for them for many years, and now we have succeeded for them.”
Soldier F was investigated over 17-year-old Michael’s death but the PPS said the test for prosecution in that case had not been met.
John Teggart, whose father was killed in shootings involving soldiers in Ballymurphy in Belfast in 1971, praised the Bloody Sunday relatives for the example they have set others while campaigning for justice.
He said: “You have set the pace for how to correct history, and that’s exactly what you’ve done today, you’ve corrected history.”
Amid the relatively muted tone of the press conference, there was an air of defiance as the families vowed to keep fighting for their loved ones.
Asked where their campaign now stands, Mr Kelly said: “The Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet.”
Solicitor Ciaran Shiels, who represents a number of the bereaved, said his clients had made a “remarkable achievement” in seeing charges brought against one of the soldiers involved.
But he added that they will look at the decisions not to prosecute the others and, if they do not stand up to scrutiny, seek to challenge them.