Relatives 'totally devastated and very angry' at Bloody Sunday probe layoffs

Relatives of civil rights protesters shot dead by soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 have said they are devastated after learning most police investigators are to be laid off.

Relatives 'totally devastated and very angry' at Bloody Sunday probe layoffs

Relatives of civil rights protesters shot dead by soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 have said they are devastated after learning most police investigators are to be laid off.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was among 14 who died after British paratroopers opened fire, said justice had been sacrificed for the sake of cost-cutting.

A PSNI spokesman admitted the move would have a substantial impact on the investigation and blamed it on severe financial pressures.

The force faces multi-million pound budget cuts, partly due to political gridlock which is threatening devolved power-sharing institutions at Stormont.

Many affected staff are former officers employed on contracts.

Mr Kelly said: “We are totally devastated and very angry.”

Thirteen marchers were shot dead on January 30 1972 when troops opened fire on crowds at a demonstration in the early years of the conflict.

Catholics were campaigning for rights like one man, one vote.

Fourteen others were wounded, one later died.

The Saville Report following a lengthy public inquiry was heavily critical of the Army and found that soldiers fired the first shot.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “deeply sorry”.

Some relatives of the dead have been pressing for those who opened fire to face justice and a fresh police probe was opened which interviewed many people.

Mr Kelly said relatives had been promised that money for the investigation had been ringfenced barring a catastrophe and called on the British Government to step in.

“The British army was responsible for the murders, they funded the (Saville) inquiry, therefore they should fund this murder investigation,” he said.

Mr Kelly was 23 when his 17-year-old brother was shot dead.

He said he was there when he was placed in an ambulance, there in casualty and there when he was pronounced dead.

Mr Kelly added: “It is all about the budget but because of what is happening the families are going to lose justice.”

Police said they sympathised with relatives’ disappointment.

A PSNI spokesman said: “As a result of current severe financial pressures, the Serious Crime Branch team investigating the deaths of people on January 30 1972 in Derry has been advised it will be losing the majority of its investigation team.

“This will have a substantial impact on the investigation.”

The senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison, said he would be seeking clarification from his commanders about options for a way forward for the investigation.

He said: “We are faced with an extremely challenging set of circumstances which may well result in a reduced investigation or a delayed investigation.

“These are circumstances outside our control. We will be working to ascertain where and how our investigation sits along with our other commitments in serious crime investigations past and present.”

The PSNI has announced it would not be renewing the contracts of almost 330 temporary agency staff – a move that has forced the closure of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), a specialist unit set up to investigate unsolved Troubles killings.

Asked if more job losses were likely, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “I think it is inevitable.”

Stormont is wrestling with the requirement to cut £200 million in public spending.

A significant amount of that sum – £87m – is a penalty imposed by the UK Treasury for the ministerial Executive’s failure to agree to implement the governmental welfare reforms.

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