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No decision in ‘Soldier F band’ investigation after 18 months

Clyde Valley Flute Band members wore Parachute Regiment insignia in support of a British soldier who is accused of murdering innocent civilians on Bloody Sunday

‘Soldier F band should not return to Derry’

Clyde Valley Flute Band shirt with parachute regiment insignia and letter F

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) says that further time is needed to decide whether members of the Clyde Valley Flute Band will be prosecuted.

It comes 18 months after the loyalist band from Larne wore Parachute Regiment insignia with a letter ‘F’ underneath in support of a British soldier charged with murdering innocent civilians in Derry.

It is 13 months since the police first reported three individuals to the PPS.

Thirteen people were killed and fifteen wounded when members of the British Army's Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

An ex-paratrooper known as Soldier F is charged with murdering Jim Wray and William McKinney.

He's also charged with attempting to murder Patrick O'Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon and Michael Quinn, as well as attempting to murder a number of persons unknown.

Bloody Sunday families viewed the band’s actions on August 10, 2019, as a ‘deliberate’ attempt to cause hurt and heighten tensions.

Providing an update on the investigation, a PPS representative told the Derry News: “We received an initial investigation file from police in relation to this matter on 15 January 2020.

“Further evidence and information was sought from police in order for a prosecutor to take a decision on this file and we received the outstanding information on 14 January 2021.

“Some further time was required to consider this additional material and the matter is in the latter stages of consideration. A decision will issue in due course.”

The PSNI is the principal investigative body and can submit files to the PPS in two ways: by charging a person or by submitting a report on a person.

The police service was asked why nobody has been charged in this particular case after 18 months and whether there has been any political pressure to either pursue charges or drop them.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “A file has been submitted to the PPS.”

BACKGROUND

In the lead up to the march on August 10, DUP representatives including East Derry MP Gregory Campbell, Foyle MLA Gary Middleton, current Minister Edwin Poots and local councillor Graham Warke stood under a Parachute Regiment banner in the Fountain estate in support of ‘our British soldiers’.

Then Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney, amongst others, accused the DUP of ‘provocation’ and ‘pandering to loyalists’.

Before the march it had been agreed that no provocative symbols would be on display, according to parade negotiators, businessman Garvan O'Doherty and Donncha MacNiallais of the Bogside Residents’ Group.

However, General Secretary of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, Billy Moore said it was ‘nonsense’ to suggest that any agreement was in place before the march.

During the march the PSNI intervened to escort the Clyde Valley Flute Band from Larne around the main parade, however, it was prevented from taking part in the return leg. 

The band’s bus was stopped by the PSNI on the way home.

Afterwards, Bloody Sunday families said they were ‘disgusted’ and felt it was a deliberate attempt to antagonise them.

They said the band should never be allowed to march in the city again.

The DUP described the policing operation as ‘heavy handed’ and ‘over the top’.

They said it ‘angered’ the unionist community and along with members of the UUP met PSNI officials to question the police response.

First Minister Arlene Foster also said ‘people have the right’ to support Soldier F.

Disorder followed in the Bogside during which petrol bombs were thrown at the Apprentice Boys’ memorial hall and the City Walls. 

Several days later the Apprentice Boys of Derry offered an apology saying that it recognised the potential upset caused to nationalists.

Families of the victims of Bloody Sunday then had a ‘cordial and constructive’ meeting with the Apprentice Boys with a view to restoring positive relations in the city.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email editor@derrynews.net or editor@derrypost.com at any time.


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