Command Responsibility for Bloody Sunday?

By Aoife Duffy

Recently, Lance Corporal F of the British Army’s 1st Parachute Regiment was charged with the murders of James Wray and William McKinney, and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon, and Patrick O’Donnell in Derry on January 30th, 1972. Events surrounding ‘Bloody Sunday,’ the ten-minute window in which the shootings occurred, and the official response to the killings are critical to any understanding of the Northern Ireland conflict. 13 people were left dead (half of the victims were 17) and 16 more were injured by multiple shooters from the 1st Parachute Regiment’s Support Company.

Speaking more generally about the use of lethal force by the security forces in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley, recently stated in the House of Commons, ‘the fewer than 10% [of conflict related killings] that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes. They were people acting under orders and under instructions and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way.’ Although she later apologised for her comments, it is interesting to focus on the ‘orders’ and ‘instructions’ that framed the military operation in the Bogside, because there is a view that Lance Corporal F is being scapegoated for Bloody Sunday. Continue reading