FIRST minister Peter Robinson has called for Martin McGuinness to be investigated by police if a murder probe into the soldiers who killed marchers on Bloody Sunday goes ahead.
As pressure intensified on the PSNI over its decision to investigate the 1972 killings, Mr Robinson argued that the logic of the police decision is that they should investigate his Stormont Castle colleague.
Speaking on Friday morning after several unionists had sharply criticised the PSNI to investigate the Paratroopers but not others, the DUP leader said: “How could you avoid an inquiry into that and say that we’re going to have an inquiry into the Army personnel that were there?
“The Deputy First Minister has openly admitted that he was in charge [of the IRA in Londonderry that day]. If that was the case then there has to be an investigation if you’re investigating the Army.”
The PSNI has, so-far, declined to comment.
But Mr McGuinness hit back, saying: “I consider comments from unionist politicians today in the wake of the decision of the PSNI to investigate the events of Bloody Sunday as an attempt to divert attention away from the actions of the Parachute Regiment on that day.
“It is clear that they do not want to see the Paras investigated for murder.”
There is a widespread view among many unionists that republicans are in many instances succeeding in re-writing the history of the Troubles to pain the state, rather than terror groups, as the perpetrator of the Troubles.
Lord Saville’s inquiry found that some soldiers may have opened fire on civilians in the “indefensible belief” they were members or supporters of the IRA so “deserved to be shot notwithstanding that they were not armed or posing any serious threat”. It also found that Mr McGuinness was “probably” carrying a sub machine gun that day, something he denies.
The Saville Inquiry, which lasted seven years, cost £200 million, but the findings cannot be used as evidence in the police probe.
The PSNI is already under massive pressure investigating unsolved murders, many going back decades, including the bombing of village of Claudy, Co Londonderry, in July 1972 which claimed the lives of nine people.
Even though the IRA is widely believed to have been responsible, the organisation never owned up to that attack, 15 miles from Londonerry. It is currently under investigation by the PSNI.
But a brother of one of the victims, nine-year-old Kathryn Eakin, claimed police told him two months ago that they did not have enough resources to do it.
Mark Eakin said: “They were stretched for manpower. I am not saying that Bloody Sunday should not be investigated by the police, but how are they going to do it if they can’t investigate what happened in Claudy?
“Is this another inquiry which is going to be swept under the carpet?”
Chief Constable Matt Baggott has said the Bloody Sunday inquiry will involve up to 30 officers could take four years.
Police have yet to set a start date but decided to announce the probe after reviewing the findings of the Saville Inquiry — which cannot itself be used as evidence — with the Public Prosecution Service.
Kate Nash, whose brother William, 19, was among the Bloody Sunday victims, said relatives were still seeking justice.
She said: “We never asked for an (Saville) inquiry. We always asked for prosecutions because my brother was an innocent victim. They were all innocent.”
She said the police inquiry should go to wherever the evidence took them, even it meant Mr McGuinness being questioned as well.
She did not know if he had been carrying a gun on the day of the shootings. He could defend himself.
She added: “Everyone concerned with Bloody Sunday should be questioned. If the police have any evidence against anyone who committed a crime, then they should be questioned. Everyone is entitled to justice.
Former Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott — who served in the UDR during the Troubles — said: “If the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service are going to seek to conduct a murder investigation based on the findings of the Saville Inquiry, I can only assume they will also be seeking to question Martin McGuinness regarding the findings of that same Inquiry that he was armed on Bloody Sunday?
“And if not, why not?”
He stressed that the 1972 civil rights march in Londonderry was illegal and said he did not believe prosecutions would be successful.
Mr Elliott said that he was deeply unhappy at the “inequality” of prosecuting the soldiers but not IRA members such as Mr McGuinness.
Two years ago Prime Minister David Cameron made one of the landmark speeches of his career about the publication of the Saville Inquiry.
Mr Cameron told the House of Commons that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable” and apologised to the families of those who had lost loved ones on 30 January, 1972.
BY SAM MCBRIDE