The second inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday, commonly referred to as the Saville Inquiry, became the longest legal proceedings in British or Irish history.
Lord Saville and his fellow judges, Canadian William Hoyt and Australian John Toohey (original judge Edward Somers, from New Zealand, retired due to ill health), heard evidence from 921 witnesses and considered 1,500 other statements. The report ran to more than 5,000 pages.
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry published its report on 15 June 2010. Its main finding, that all of the dead and wounded were innocent, was loudly welcomed by the thousands gathered in Guildhall Square.
A statement on behalf of the Families declared:
“The victims have been vindicated. The Parachute Regiment has been disgraced. The truth has been brought home at last. Widgery’s great lie has been laid bare.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to apologise, and declare that what had happened on Bloody Sunday was
"unjustified and unjustifiable".
But the report was not without its problems. Many were dismayed that blame was ring-fenced around one officer, Derek Wilford, and a number of rank-and-file soldiers. The report did not place any blame on the military and political elite. General Sir Michael Jackson, who was adjutant on Bloody Sunday and architect of the cover up afterwards, and who went on to become the most senior officer in the British Army, received no real criticism despite having been the only witness who had to be recalled to the stand during the inquiry.
The finding on Gerald Donaghey – that he was "probably" carrying nail bombs when he was shot, but that this did not justify his shooting – was also met with some shock. All of the evidence pointed to what most people believed, that the nail bombs had been planted on his body by members of the British Army or police, and this qualification of his innocence left his family without the full relief felt by others.
But after 38 years the Bloody Sunday families had achieved what they had set out to do, they had cleared their loved ones’ names and forced the truth about Bloody Sunday to be admitted to the world. Their long campaign had been vindicated.
Lord Saville and his colleagues visit the Bogside during their first day in the city on 3 April 1998. (Derry Journal)
Many of the Bloody Sunday families and wounded pictured in Westminster after the Bloody Sunday Inquiry relocated to London to hear military evidence in 2003. (Bloody Sunday Trust)
Two of the surviving mothers of Bloody Sunday lead relatives through the city for Lord Saville's first appearance in Derry in 1998. Front row, from left; Eileen Green, Nancy 'Anne' McKinney, Kay Duddy, Kathleen Kelly, Helen Young. (Derry Journal)
Relatives of the dead and wounded, accompanied by Derry's Mayor, make their way towards the Guildhall for the pre-read of the long-awaited Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry on 15 June 2010. (Hugh Gallagher)
A delegation of delighted relatives and campaigners travelled to Dublin the day after their vindication to personally deliver a copy of Lord Saville's report to Taoiseach Brian Cowen. From left, Linda Roddy, Conal McFeely, Kate Nash, Robin Percival, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Kay Duddy, Mickey McKinney, Leo Young and Gerry Duddy. (Dept. of the Taoiseach)