Bloody Sunday and the Saville Inquiry

This is a subject close to heart, close to my home, in fact.  My granny, a strong, opinionated Republican woman from the Falls area in Belfast, was there that day in 1972.  When it all kicked off, my uncles ran into the streets to find my dad amidst some minor, recreational rioting.  They dragged him in and they watched the news unfolding with their hearts in their mouths.

Throughout the veins of the passing years, the anger at this massacre has throbbed on.  The Army, at that time, were pretty much the police.  It remained so even after the ceasefire.  I grew up with British Army soldiers stationed outside the doors down the street, resting guns on their knees, chatting to kids like me.  And I liked those young men, bewildered, mostly English, far from home, but I hated what they stood for, and I hated the police.  Few in Northern Ireland trust the police, and it’s not just Catholics and Nationalists that feel that way.  Bloody Sunday is part of the reason why my family got bricks thrown at their windows when they once made that 999 call.  They were still the RUC in those days.  Now that they’re the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and not the Royal Ulster Constabulary, it doesn’t make much of a difference.

The events of that day were a catalyst to the IRA in waging their war, and it was also seen as part of their justification.  And growing up, if anything made me felt that I was a subject in a country that hated me and others like me (Republican Catholics), it was that event.  It wasn’t the first, nor the last act of police and army brutality in my country.

The Saville inquiry has concluded what we have all known over these years: those killings were unprovoked murders.  Those people were not armed.   Nor (apart from one young man being a member of Fianna na hEireann) were they members of the IRA. And that is wonderful news for their families, who have always known this.

Here’s the outcome, now let’s see if the British government have the balls to prosecute the soldiers involved in that killing spree.

As to the effect on Northern Ireland, I don’t really fear this is going to spark a renewal in tensions or actions.  Nobody, not even the hardcore Republicans, want to see a return to the bad old days.  You might have the odd dissident group like the RIRA (IRA Original?  IRA Classic?) and the CIRA attempt to cause some trouble, but they’ve already done so in the past few years, and have been roundly condemned by everybody.  We just want peace.

15 Responses

  1. Did I hear a spokesman for those killed and injured say that the Parachute Regiment were the assassins for the ruling classes? He must me mad.

    Did I miss something?

    The Bipolar diagnosis is not yours its in the eye of the beholder and its an imperfect science-a bit like witchcraft.
    If they are looking to clear as many people off disability there is clearly a watershed point between those that can be kicked off with a minimum of fuss and those that have the potential to cause the system even greater expense.
    I have heard of a number of instances where they have been eager to replace a BP job tittle with something else which suggests where the cut off might be .
    Take care.
    ps I must be mad giving sleep tips to someone that drinks 2L of coke a day

  2. Although I come from the ‘other side of the fence’, I agree with all that you’ve said here. I think most people from all persuasions have always known that those killed were guitless, killed for no other discernible reason than violent megalomania. It’s only the DUP wingnut types that would seriously try to contest this.

    I’m glad the families and friends of those killed have been vindicated. I wish them well and hope that we can all now continue to move forward peacefully.


  3. Despite coming from where I do, I’ve never felt a strong sense of belonging to any side of the community. I’m not a Nationalist nor am I a Unionist and I don’t feel particularly British or Irish. I’m amongst the people that would mark themselves down as ‘Northern Irish’ because I believe that we’re very different to people in the South or the people in Wales, Scotland and England and for that I’m happy enough. If we are going to be segregated from everyone else, we should look after each other because a man on the Shankill Rd has more in common with a man on the Falls Rd than he does with men from Dublin or London.

    I am grateful to those who fought for my rights but I hate knowing that anyone had to die for them. I do my best to empathise with both sides of our community because it’s the only way I can understand what has happened up to now and what we have done to each other.

    Saying that, Bloody Sunday has always made me incredibly angry as an (admittedly poor) Catholic. It made me angry yesterday to hear some individuals still refusing to accept the innocence of the victims and doing their best to tear apart old wounds. For me, to go back to the horrors of the past would be an insult to anyone who has died during the Troubles and I can’t understand why anyone with a sense of moral decency couldn’t just be happy for the families.

    I would love if we could have inquiries for every victims family but it’s just not possible. This had to take priority because the shootings were carried out by the very people sent in to protect NI people and they should be held accountable.

  4. Have the balls to prosecute the soldiers for what ? They have immunity from everything but perjury , which seriously complicates going after anyone else almost 40 years after the fact, and like it or not, that immunity deal was the only way Saville was ever going to get anywhere near the truth of what happened that bloody sunday with ‘input’ from 1 para and the chain of command on the day. That input , often evasive and , yes, perjurous as well, was absolutely crucial to openly exposing the official version of events provided at the time and conveniently adhered to thereafter as a monstrous lie. As perjury is was a necessary evil that betrayed far more than silence ever would have.

    Prior to Saville the terrible burden of raw truth of what happened on bloody sunday was left weighing down on the people it happened to . That’s some fucking weight and I’m pretty sure that carrying it has already driven quite a few people totally insane , you’d probably know more about the reality of that than me but as a borderline I constantly have good cause to wonder just how much raw bitter truth is it possible for people or a community to bear and be driven by . So even if the Director of Public Prosecution had the balls to do it what would adding more weight through another decade of legal wrangling over perjury or whatever – and I’m assuming the Goverrnment will settle any comp compensation claims quietly – actually achieve? Justice? Sometime’s there’s just cause for letting go and just getting on with life because its finite.

  5. well obviously i’m british so not directly involved at all but the whole affair has always kind of been an interest for me (like hillsborough as well actually) just because of the blatant miscarriages involved. i’m very glad this conclusion has been come to, and your post was excellent, very well written! i also wonder if there’ll be prosecutions but somehow i doubt it.

  6. What a well balanced post…..not. Much talk of innocence and murder, as if the British army deployed to the province on a whim, rather than in response to serious disorder conived at by a community hell bent on allowing a minority to kill and maim at will behind a thin veil of political legitimacy. What justice then for the families of those cut down by the likes of Adams, McGuinness et al? Frightned young soldiers from an assault battalion…….who was responsible for deploying such an unsuitable unit into a volatile situation and where are they now that blame is being apportioned. Grow up and be thankful that you receive treatment for your mental health issues when many ex-soldiers seem forgotten. I have followed you for three years but you sadly no more.

    • No, bollocks to that. Feel free to unfollow me, but these soldiers, inexperienced or not, shot unarmed people in the back. Read the inquiry. They were unarmed civilians who were protesting. There is no excuse, there is no justification.

      And I’m not going to get into the history because I could go on forever but remember Northern Ireland is an occupied country. This was at the time when internment was happening there. People had a right to protest.

      And I think the IRA are scum. I’ll say it now, they are murdering scum. But if we’re talking about justice, it runs both ways. Where is the justice for those murdered by the RUC and the Loyalist paramilitaries, murders the British government roundly ignores? Do you know that in the seven years I’ve lived in England, I’ve only met a few people who even knew who the LVF, the UVF and the UFF were? This is not a one sided assault.

      I always had the sympathy for the soldiers for doing their jobs, even when they were in my streets pointing machine guns at my neighbours. But in this inquiry, THIS INSTANCE, there is NO JUSTIFICATION for their actions.

      And I have never, ever claimed to be balanced on this issue. Do you really expect me to be?

  7. Never Mind – Seaneen has admitted that she is somewhat biased when it comes to certain NI situations. We all are and we can’t help that but when it comes to Bloody Sunday, innocent civilians were gunned down by the very people sent in to protect them.

    It was a peaceful Civil Rights protest than ended with people being shot in their backs. Someone was shot, mortally wounded and then a soldier shot him at close range in head. A young boy was shot in the back crawling away and then as he lay dying, his father was shot coming to his aid. There was absolutely no dignity in the way those people died. This is all in the report. It might describe a tragedy with mostly Catholic victims yes but it was a tragedy for everyone in NI that this even happened despite similar occurances happening in Ballymurphy several months before. Bloody Sunday, to anyone with a shred of moral decency, is a horrible scar in our regions past.

    Victims from the Protestant community and Soldiers stationed in NI just to do their job deserve their justice as much as anyone and I want them to have it but I think everyone in NI should be grateful that some families are starting to get the closure they need.

  8. All of those who have suffered and continue to suffer because of the conflict in NI need to bring out their dead and bury them and it’s clear the owner of this blog posted specifically about Bloody Sunday within hours of a near 40 year injustice being officially put right by Saville and in that sense her post was fairly well-balanced and clearly part of bringing out the dead, and of course the victims of Bloody Sunday deserve justice , all the dead of the troubles do and none deserve to be forgotten, not a one, and that’s what that other guy should have said instead of leaping to conclusions about the post being overly sectarian , but as callous as it may seem , the living deserve the right to live in peace together far more than all the dead deserve justice here and I’m sure that the families of the Bloody Sunday dead understand this along with all the other families who have lost people to the troubles .No side here has a monopoly of innocent victims or violent scum for that matter and that’s a truth that isn’t worth fighting for.

  9. As someone who was raised in the unionist tradition, can I just say that I am appalled by Never Mind’s comments. Plenty of British and Northern Irish people, soldiers and civilians alike, were traumatised, killed and injured during the Troubles – I don’t believe Seaneen ever suggested otherwise, and yes, of course these people matter. Of course what happened to them was heinous. Of course these people, their families, their friends, deserve justice. But this is inevitably a rocky road, as we try to build a meaningful, consensual peace.

    Does Bloody Sunday deserve special treatment? I would probably have to say that it does. As pointed out, unarmed civilians were (mostly peacefully) protesting and they were shot dead for little more reason than because they were there. Furthermore, the protest cannot be considered unjust because of the frankly grotesque fashion in which Catholics and nationalists were at the time treated by the establishment. Accuse me of bias if you will – which would be shite in the first place – but just check your history books first.

    Unless significant numbers of shots were levied at the army, and Saville does not consider this to have been the case, shooting at the protesters cannot have been considered a proportionate response.

    I feel that those that fired the shots should be brought to justice, but I also think their superiors probably drove their actions, so I’d like to see them up in court too.

    In an ideal world, I’d like to see every atrocity from the Troubles and beyond investigated, both the ones perpetrated by the British or unionists and those for which nationalists were responsible. This is not an ideal world. We can only do so much, and things have to be prioritised accordingly. Since the 14 people that died on Bloody Sunday were widely regarded even before the Saville Enquiry to have been unarmed, since they were shot dead by representatives of a government and since that day could be considered to have kick-started the Troubles as we knew them, I really can’t see how it’s unreasonable to have considered this an important case to have investigated.

  10. Agree with last comment up to a point as of course getting to the truth of Bloody Sunday was reasonable and necessary and always has been but as we’ve seen from truth and reconciliation processes elsewhere, it’s where you go from finally getting great injustices acknowledged that then becomes the issue , particularly in contexts where hostilities have largely ceased but there are still many competing demands on justice that even if they dont directly threaten peace certainly threaten any realistic understanding of the sort of acceptance and burial of past wrongs and injustices that peace so often requires of the former foes and their distrusting communities left standing once the killing stops.

    I remember being shocked into a form of subtle violent enlightenment a few years into the NI rocky peace process when a well known Unionist politician attached to one of the more extreme loyalist paramilitaries , a pretty nasty piece of work probably, calmly turned the tables on a journalist who had suggested during an interview how perverse it was that Republican and Loyalist prisoners were dictating how society should work in NI when in reality they had no real democratic base at all and had simply bombed ,maimed and killed their way to power and the negotiating table , or words to that effect. . Without batting an eyelid the guy said ‘ You have to understand that Northern Ireland is an abnormal society’ and he wasn’t condeming anyone or excusing himself , he was just stating an obvious brutal fact as he discussed where the peace negotiations were at . He went on to advocate for the Republican paramilitaries on some tortuous point around decommissioning as well. Democracy and justice didn’t get a look in as that ‘abnormality’ locks out us little people, we pawns don’t really get a say at the level of real world flesh and blood Machiavellian politics that transforms ruthless killers into peacemakers and fine upstanding and wealthy pillars of the community who will grow old and die in the bosom of their families just as General Mike Jackson and other surviving leaders and representatives of the occupying British State will for all the shrill clamouring for the prosecution of bit players.

  11. … will the British Govt prosecute those responsible? Only time will tell on that one.

    On a tangent here but surely you have noticed how trendy a Northern Irish accent has become since “the troubles” are mostly ended

    and thank God they did end

  12. Oh the troubles are over now……………………………….apart from the bombings, shootings, punishment beatings etc that even the beeb, try as it might, can’t ignore. Let’s ask someone with more local knowledge, Seaneen any thoughts?

    I know, I know but you’re a hard habit to break!!

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