After a dozen years in the making and at a cost of nearly $300 million, the long-awaited landmark report into the so-called Bloody Sunday killings in Northern Ireland has finally been published. The inquiry looked into events in January 1972, when British soldiers opened fire during a civil rights march in Londonderry, killing 14 protesters.
For nearly 40 years, the friends and relatives of those who died or were wounded on Bloody Sunday knew the victims were innocent.
With the release of the lengthy inquiry report into those shootings headed by British judge Mark Saville, British Prime Minister David Cameron stood in the House of Commons and apologized. He said what happened on Bloody Sunday was unjustified and unjustifiable.
"Some members of the armed forces acted wrongly," Mr. Cameron said. "The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces and for that on behalf of the government, indeed on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry."
Reading from the Saville findings, Mr. Cameron stated the civil rights marchers who were shot on January 30th, 1972 were all innocent. His words were greeted by cheers by the thousands who gathered in the streets of Londonderry for the historic admission.
"None of the casualties shot by the soldiers of Support Company was armed with a firearm," Mr. Cameron said. "He finds that there was some firing by republican paramilitaries, but none of this firing provided any justification for the shooting of civilian casualties and he finds that in no case was any warning given by soldiers before opening fire."
And in reference to a particular damning section of the Saville report, Prime Minister Cameron said the truth was in part covered up by some of the soldiers who were there on the day.
"He finds that despite the contrary evidence given by the soldiers, none of them fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombers," Mr. Cameron said. "And he finds that many of the soldiers, and I quote, knowingly put forward false accounts in order to see to justify their firing."
Cheers again rang out in Londonderry when that admission by the British government was made.
As to any prosecution moves in the future, that door has been left open, although after nearly 40 years it may well not happen.
The events of that one day 38 years ago drove hundreds of new volunteers into the clandestine Irish Republican Army, which then stepped up its armed campaign.
In the decades that followed, more than 3,000 people from all backgrounds died in the sectarian violence that gripped Northern Ireland until the peace process finally took hold in the late 1990s, capped by the Good Friday agreement.