Factbox - The Bloody Sunday killings

Thu Sep 22, 2011 1:12pm BST

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(Reuters) - The government said on Thursday it would compensate the families of those killed and wounded by its soldiers on Northern Ireland's "Bloody Sunday" in 1972, one of the pivotal events in a three-decade conflict in the British-ruled province.

The compensation talks followed a 2010 official inquiry that concluded there was no justification for the shootings and that all of those killed were unarmed Catholics.

Here are some details about what happened and the inquiry:

* WHAT HAPPENED IN 1972:

-- January 30, 1972 became known as Bloody Sunday after British soldiers shot dead 13 men taking part in an unlawful civil rights march in Londonderry. A 14th died weeks later. The troops said they shot at people armed with guns or nail bombs.

-- The shootings by the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, who had been ordered into the staunchly nationalist Bogside area to arrest rioters, prompted the IRA to declare its intention to kill as many British soldiers as possible.

-- By the end of March that year, the Northern Ireland Parliament had been suspended amid spiralling violence and direct rule from London was imposed by the British government.

-- The shootings boosted support for IRA guerrillas and their nationalist political allies in the United States, providing fertile ground for fund-raising until the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

* A FIRST INQUIRY:

-- Britain's then-Prime Minister Edward Heath ordered a swift inquiry into Bloody Sunday chaired by the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Widgery.

-- The findings, concluded in April 1972, largely exonerated the soldiers involved as having acted in self-defence, and prompted charges of a cover-up from family and friends of those killed.

* NEW EVIDENCE:

-- In January 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a fresh inquiry on the basis there was new evidence that had not been seen by Lord Widgery.

-- The Saville report was 12 years in the making and the costliest in British legal history at close to 200 million pounds ($293 million). Chaired by Lord Saville, a British judge, the inquiry took evidence from 2,500 people from 1998 to 2004 and heard oral evidence from more than 920 witnesses.

-- Heath, testifying in January 2003, blamed army officers on the scene. "The tragic deaths in Londonderry outraged the Catholic community, increased support for the IRA and destroyed the prospect of a political initiative," he said.

"Therefore it was absurd to suggest that Her Majesty's Government intended or was prepared to risk the events which occurred."

-- Martin McGuinness, now the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister and a Sinn Fein MP, admitted in evidence that he was the Provisional IRA's second-in-command in the city at the time. He denied accusations by security force informers that he had planned nail bomb attacks and had fired the first shot on the day.

-- Relatives of the 14 people who died hoped the release of the new inquiry would lead to the prosecutions of soldiers and their political masters.

-- Prime Minister David Cameron apologised on June 15, 2010 for the killings after the long-awaited report was published, and said all those shot were unarmed. Cameron told parliament the Saville report unequivocally showed there was no justification for the shooting of civilians during a civil rights march. "What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong," Cameron said. "For that, on behalf of the government, and indeed our country, I am deeply sorry."

(Writing by Ian Graham; additional writing and editing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference unit;)

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