The families have always been anxious that the Inquiry proceeds as smoothly as possible and they thought long and hard before deciding to challenge the Tribunal’s blanket grant of screening to over 20 RUC/PSNI witnesses.
However, if left uncontested, it was felt that the Tribunal’s ruling could have significant implications for the families.
Restoring and retaining public confidence is a key function of any Inquiry and in particular this Inquiry, bearing in mind the deception of trust carried out by Lord Widgery in the original Inquiry in 1972.
Clearly the screening of witnesses would further erode the open and public nature of the Inquiry, already damaged by decisions of the English courts on anonymity and venue.
Indeed the recent applications for screening by Soldiers H and 104 have confirmed the families’ fears that the soldiers are intent on insulating themselves from public scrutiny to the greatest extent possible. Although only two soldier applications have come forward to date, undoubtedly it would be open to the remaining 250 or so to rely on any decision given in favour of the RUC witnesses in the instant case.
Inclusion of the families
Although there is a general obligation to hold the Inquiry in public, the families’ legal rights to a fair and open investigation into the deaths of their loved ones ought to have been taken into account by the Tribunal in making their ruling on screening.
The proposal that the families and the wounded be allowed to see the witnesses while the general public remain screened should have been fully explored by the Tribunal before coming to their decision. In fact it is common ground among all the parties that there has never been any allegation that the families pose a security risk to any witness.
Significance of RUC witnesses to Mary Doherty
[Gerard Donaghy is the only person killed on Bloody Sunday who has any allegations remaining against his name.]
There is compelling evidence that the nail bombs were planted on her brother Gerard Donaghy by members of the security forces and many of those RUC witnesses granted screening have direct evidence to give in relation to the circumstances in which the nail bombs were found on his person.