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Compensation offered in Northern Ireland's Bloody Sunday killings

By Peter Taggart and Matt Smith, CNN
February 14, 2013 -- Updated 1956 GMT (0356 HKT)
British paratroopers take away civil rights demonstrators on 'Bloody Sunday' in 1972.
British paratroopers take away civil rights demonstrators on 'Bloody Sunday' in 1972.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Speculation about payments is "unhelpful and premature," government says
  • 14 people died in the 1972 Londonderry shootings
  • One relative called the offer "insulting"
  • A Unionist MP calls the compensation process "one-sided"

Belfast, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Families of the people killed in the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland are being offered 50,000 pounds ($66,670) each in compensation, the sister of one of the dead said Thursday.

Kate Nash, whose brother William was killed in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, called the offer "insulting." She says she would never accept any money and insists on the prosecution of the British soldiers involved.

The Defence Ministry said it had no immediate comment on the reported offer.

"The prime minister has already apologized for the Bloody Sunday events," the ministry said. "Discussions with the families' solicitors about compensation are ongoing, and any speculation about payments is unhelpful and premature."

A total of 14 people were killed when British troops opened fire at a mainly Catholic civil rights march in Londonderry in July 1972. Thirteen died that day, while another man died of his wounds four months later.

In 2010, a damning investigation by the British government reversed decades of official explanations for the killings. The independent Saville Report found that the paratroopers had no reason to believe they were under threat from the victims, gave no warnings before firing and lied to the official inquiry into the event, the inquiry concluded.

Prime Minister David Cameron called the killings "unjustified and unjustifiable" after the report was issued, and the British government announced in September 2011 that it would pay compensation to the relatives of those killed.

The killings helped fuel support for the Irish Republican Army during the early years of what became known as the Troubles, 30 years of violence between pro-British and pro-Irish forces. Even the name of the city where it happened is disputed, with pro-Irish nationalists calling it Derry and pro-British unionists calling it Londonderry.

The Troubles claimed about 3,000 lives over the three-decade period, with 1972 as the single bloodiest year. The IRA, a republican paramilitary organization, is listed by the British Home Office as a proscribed terrorist group, and the pro-British parties have called for IRA victims to be compensated by the British government.

Gregory Campbell, who represents East Londonderry in the House of Commons, said the Bloody Sunday inquiry has been "an entirely one-sided process" that ignored IRA actions "in the days and weeks before" the killings.

"Now we have yet another example coming forward where compensation will be made to families in one particular incident, whilst there are countless others whose relatives were maimed or murdered yet have received either token amounts or nothing," Campbell said in a statement issued by his Democratic Unionist Party, the territory's largest pro-British party.

"The family of anyone murdered deserves to be compensated, but with the issue of Bloody Sunday there must be a demonstration that everything which occurred will be investigated and not this partisan and unacceptable approach," Campbell said.

Journalist Peter Taggart reported from Belfast, Northern Ireland; CNN's Matt Smith wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Susannah Palk and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

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