Bloody Sunday Inquiry: Saville has 'no regrets'

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The man who led the Bloody Sunday Inquiry has defended the length of time it took and the cost to the taxpayer.

Lord Saville told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster that he was not aware of anything that could or should have been done better.

He said that he was asked to conduct a "thorough" inquiry - and that meant it could not be done cheaply or quickly.

The inquiry was the longest running in British legal history and cost about £200m between 1998 and 2010.

Lord Saville, who was speaking publicly for the first time since the report was published, said it had been "unique" and had taken a decade of his life, but expressed no regrets.

He said he had "no idea" how long it would take or how much it would cost when he began his work.

'Expensive, very expensive'

Lord Saville said: "If you're going to have a thorough, proper, fair inquiry, whether it is into something like Bloody Sunday or Rosemary Nelson or any of the others, it is going to cost a large sum of money and take a very long time.

"If you try and do an inquiry on the cheap or you try and do it quickly, you come seriously unstuck.

"Lord Widgery was asked to do an inquiry quickly, and if I may say so, boy, did he come unstuck."

Lord Saville also defended the length of time to write the report - almost five years.

He said: "One thousand pages a year to write - not too bad is it?"

In response to questions about the cost of lawyers during the inquiry - around £100m - he said lawyers were "expensive, very expensive".

However, he said that the inquiry could have cut costs by buying a house in Londonderry, which could then have been sold for a profit when his team had finished their work.

He also stressed the importance of forward planning and said it was important to have "the highest possible calibre of persons assisting you".

'No regrets'

Lord Saville was asked at the end of his evidence if he would do it again.

"If someone wrote me a letter tomorrow, I think I might think twice before I said yes," he said.

"I don't regret doing it, it was an amazing thing.

"A lot of it was very hard work but in the end we came through at the other side and we wrote a report and I don't regret the time I spent on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry for one moment.

"I was very privileged to be asked to conduct it."

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry reported on events in Londonderry on 30 January, 1972, when Parachute Regiment soldiers opened fire during a civil rights march killing 13 people.

The report was heavily critical of the Army and found that soldiers fired the first shot.

It concluded that none of the casualties was posing a threat or doing anything that would justify their shooting.

The report was commissioned in 1998 by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The inquiry took more than 2,500 witness statements and became the longest-running and most expensive in British history.

It closed in 2004 with the report initially due for publication the following year. It cost £195m and took 12 years in total.

The Widgery Tribunal was the British government's immediate response to Bloody Sunday.

It sat for three weeks, a month after Bloody Sunday.

Lord Widgery's report concluded that the soldiers had been fired on first, and there was "no reason to suppose" that the soldiers would have opened fire otherwise.

Following its publication, relatives of the victims and nationalists campaigned for a new inquiry.