Nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland have described the decision to stop the prosecution of two former soldiers over three Troubles deaths as “devastating” for the victims’ families.
The Public Prosecution Service has announced that the case against Soldier F for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972 will not proceed.
The prosecution of another veteran, Soldier B, for the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty in Derry later in 1972, will also not proceed, the PPS said.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein said it was a “bad day for justice”.
“We will continue to stand by the Bloody Sunday and Hegarty families,” she tweeted.
SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood said the decision was “bitterly disappointing” and has raised concerns about the way families have been treated.
Mr Eastwood said: “This is devastating news.
“Devastating for the Bloody Sunday families and the family of Daniel Hegarty who have placed their faith in process after process only to be let down badly as they seek justice and accountability for the murder of their loved ones.
“It is galling that these cases appear to have collapsed because the British Army’s historical investigation process was so deficient that the evidence collected is considered to be inadmissible.
“These families are now in a position where their loved ones were killed by members of the British Army and their prosecutions have been discontinued because of the conduct of the British Army.
“It is totally unjust.”
Mr Eastwood added: “The Bloody Sunday Families and Daniel Hegarty’s family have been through worse days than this and they have marched on with dignity, decency and pride.
“The people of Derry have stood with them on every step of their long march toward justice, we’re with them today and we’ll be with them until the end.”
Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, who resigned as a defence minister over the treatment of veterans who served in Northern Ireland, said he had sympathy with the families, but said it was difficult to progress prosecutions after so many years.
He told the BBC: “I don’t think that you can have prosecutions of sufficient integrity that will stick 40/50 years later after these events and I feel very strongly that Government has failed veterans of that conflict.
“But, it is not one-sided, I have a huge amount of sympathy for the families.”
Alliance MP Stephen Farry said his thoughts were with the families of victims.
He said: “While the PPS has concluded there was no reasonable prospect of the evidence in the cases being ruled as admissible, that will in no way ease the emotions being felt by those families and the wider community.
“Of course their right to a judicial review of this decision remains available to them.
“Although we have to respect the decision made in a number of cases, clearly flaws were evident in the past relating to Ministry of Defence investigations.
“Those mistakes continue to haunt the justice process in the present.”