The decision to delay publication of the Bloody Sunday report in the North is deeply disappointing, a committee of MPs said today.
Mark Saville’s report is expected to be published in the autumn, a year later than planned. It was established in 1998 and has cost £191m (€204m).
Paratroopers shot and killed 13 civil rights protestors in Derry in January 1972, with another victim dying later.
A report from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said: “We are deeply disappointed that Lord Saville and his Tribunal have decided to delay for a further year the publication of their final report into the events of Bloody Sunday.
“Parliament clearly intended when setting up the inquiry that it should provide a fair, accurate and thorough report of the events that resulted in the deaths of 14 individuals in 1972.
“It is for Lord Saville and his fellow Tribunal members to judge how best those aims may be achieved, but we share the Secretary of State’s surprise at the decision to delay publication for a further year and we deplore the facts that the estimated length of the inquiry has now reached more than 11 years and that its estimated cost has climbed to £191m.”
The tribunal sat for 433 days in Derry and London, hearing evidence from soldiers and eye witnesses.
More than 920 witnesses were heard including the prime minister in 1972, Edward Heath, police, IRA members and priests.
The inquiry team interviewed and received written statements from about 2,500 Bloody Sunday marchers, witnesses and members of the security forces.
Today’s committee report, “Work of the Committee 2007-08”, recommended that the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) take all possible steps to limit the cost of these and other statutory public inquiry.
“Any further public inquiry should be established only if agreed to, on a cross-community and cross-party basis, by the Northern Ireland Assembly,” it added.
Saville has apologised for the delay, and said he and his colleagues were determined to deal fairly, accurately and thoroughly with the issues before them.
“We have always found it difficult, given the scale and complexity of the material with which we are dealing, to predict accurately how long it will take us to complete our task,” he said.