UK to compensate families over 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre

Members of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign march on June 15, 2010 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Story highlights

  • The Ministry of Defence says it acknowledges the pain felt by families
  • British troops shot dead 13 people and a 14th later died of his injuries
  • A report last year found that British soldiers were to blame in the massacre
  • Bloody Sunday is widely accepted as having fueled violence in Northern Ireland
The British government said Thursday it will pay compensation to the relatives of those killed and wounded by British soldiers in the Bloody Sunday shootings in Northern Ireland in 1972.
Thirteen people died when British troops opened fire at a mainly Catholic civil rights march in Londonderry, and another man died four months later of injuries sustained on that day.
Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron described what happened in Londonderry as "unjustified and unjustifiable," following the release by the British government of a damning report that reversed decades of official explanations for the 1972 killings.
The paratroopers who killed 14 people had no reason to believe they were under threat from the victims, gave no warnings before firing and lied to the far-reaching official inquiry into the seminal event, the inquiry concluded.
The independent Saville Report was a comprehensive rejection of the British government's official account of the killings, which had stood for 38 years.
Lawyers representing the affected families wrote to Cameron demanding compensation.
The families now say Britain's Ministry of Defence has replied, saying it wants to "resolve the compensation question as quickly as possible."
"We acknowledge the pain felt by these families for nearly 40 years, and that members of the armed forces acted wrongly. For that, the government is deeply sorry," a spokesman for the ministry said Thursday. "We are in contact with the families' solicitors and where there is a legal liability to pay compensation we will do so."
However, the relatives of one of the victims -- 19-year-old William Nash -- say they want the soldiers involved to be prosecuted for murder and will not accept the compensation. The relatives branded the British government offer "repulsive" and said they would not accept a payment "under any circumstances."
Bloody Sunday is widely accepted as fueling support for the IRA (Irish Republican Army) during the early years of what became known as The Troubles -- 30 years of violence between pro-British and pro-Irish forces. Even the name of the city where it happened is disputed, with pro-Irish nationalists calling it Derry and pro-British unionists calling it Londonderry.
The IRA, a republican paramilitary organization, is listed by the British Home Office as a proscribed terrorist group.
The Troubles claimed about 3,000 lives over a three-decade period, with 1972 the single bloodiest year.
The pro-British Ulster Unionist Party has called for IRA victims to be compensated by the British government.