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After 38 years, the truth
June 15, 2010 10:28 AM   Subscribe

After 12 years, the enquiry is over. And the report on the Bloody Sunday massacre is published.

The PM has apologised fully. The families of the victims seem -at long last- to have been vindicated.
A dawn of a new day and the end of a 40-years-long nightmare?
Will update this later, just wanted to provide first info/reactions on a long-awaited day.
posted by MessageInABottle (60 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
How on earth does an enquiry take 12 years?
posted by A189Nut at 10:35 AM on June 15, 2010


How on earth does an enquiry take 12 years?

Just wait till you find out how much it cost!
posted by atrazine at 10:38 AM on June 15, 2010


Apologies just sound better in the mouths of Thatcherites.
posted by koeselitz at 10:39 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


These things always take forever. Gotta allow plenty of time for the guilty parties to be replaced and forgotten.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:39 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


How on earth does an enquiry take 12 years?

And why was it not even started for 26 years?

But it does seem like justice is being served; the wheels of justice turn slowly and all that. I wonder if 38 years from now there will be a similar report on torture and civilian deaths in the "war on terror" here in the US.
posted by TedW at 10:39 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder if 38 years from now there will be a similar report on torture and civilian deaths in the "war on terror" here in the US.

In the USA, the magic length of time seems to be about 40 years and eight months for the dirt to appear, since documents are routinely de-classified after 40 years :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:44 AM on June 15, 2010


From Cameron's apology: “For those people who are looking for the report to use terms like murder and unlawful killing, I remind the House that these judgments are not matters for a tribunal or politicians to determine.”

Really?
posted by koeselitz at 10:48 AM on June 15, 2010


Well, spoken too soon. It appear that certain ars..I mean, people always focus on the wrong things. To quote "What will stand out to most people is the exorbitant cost of investigating the deaths of thirteen people in Londonderry". ORLY?
Seriously. I know the DUP has to pander -as does every political movement- to their constituency, but I think in this case they've a) underestimated their constituency and b) lost an opportunity to shut up.
/rant over
posted by MessageInABottle at 10:49 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


How on earth does an enquiry take 12 years?

And why was it not even started for 26 years?


And why did it take 38 years for them to tell everyone what everyone already knew?
posted by Think_Long at 10:49 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, those people shouldn't have been killed. No arguments there. It's unjustifiable. The British government has not exactly covered itself in glory with its previous investigations of that day. I'm fairly certain that the soldiers involved will never stand trial. It might appease Irish nationalists, but the rest of the British public would not stand for it.

I don't begrudge the enquiry itself. It was a long festering sore and the families got dicked about for decades. But the £200 million quid cost is obscene. Given the context of events in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, to spend that money investigating 13 deaths, however unlawful or tragic, smacks of politics at its worst.

And it's fairly sickening to see former IRA terrorists like Martina Anderson, now in Sinn Fein, blithely glossing over the fact both that the IRA killed a hell of a lot more innocent civilians than the British Army could ever have and the idiotic denial that armed IRA men were present there, on that day.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:50 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


How on earth does an enquiry take 12 years?

And why was it not even started for 26 years?

They had to get the whitewash out first.
posted by Abiezer at 10:54 AM on June 15, 2010


MuffinMan,

once they set up the enquiry with such broad terms a certain "snowball" effect was probably unavoidable. Although I agree with you that the £200 million price tags stings/stinks.
As for the likes of Martina Anderson, well, I'd say it's a different story. What the enquiry does is finally say that "unjustifiable" word which we both agree with but that was missing for 38 years. Even if the Andersons of this world may gloat, it was right to have the enquiry, if only for the families.
posted by MessageInABottle at 10:57 AM on June 15, 2010


Even if the Andersons of this world may gloat, it was right to have the enquiry, if only for the families.

Agreed. It's shameful that it's taken as long as it has, but it's much better done than not.
posted by rtha at 11:00 AM on June 15, 2010


> For those people who are looking for the report to use terms like murder and unlawful killing, I remind the House that these judgments are not matters for a tribunal or politicians to determine.

Public inquiries are not trials – and they don't come up with the definitive answers that courtrooms sometimes provide.

Which means that those in power are often found to be "bear responsibility" for events, but they rarely if ever face significant consequences.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:02 AM on June 15, 2010


I really don't mind the enquiry itself. I don't mind particularly it's become a Republican rallying point.

What I mind is that £200 million has been spent and huge amounts of attention focused on the crimes of Bloody Sunday, while the self same people who committed numerous acts of terrorism against civilians preach to the world about what a terrible crime it was. And specifically fail to acknowledge that the endangered Catholic protesters by putting armed men among them and that the IRA has largely been absolved, politically speaking, of its sins.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:03 AM on June 15, 2010


Yeah, forty years sounds about right. It was about that long for the audio analysis of the Kent State Massacre. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment took about forty-seven years to come out. MKUltra came out in, what, twenty-five years and that caused way too much hassle.

Forty years is time enough for those you have wronged and whose families you have deprived to become weary and want to be done with it. Malevolent governments of the world, take note. *adds to Evil Overlord List* "I will only reveal documentation regarding my minor atrocities to come out after I have retired and nearly everyone is dead. Heads on sticks are satisfying in the short term but bad PR long term."
posted by adipocere at 11:10 AM on June 15, 2010


And specifically fail to acknowledge that the endangered Catholic protesters by putting armed men among them and that the IRA has largely been absolved, politically speaking, of its sins.
Except that Lord Saville has just spent twelve years finding that that's not what happened at all and no actions by gunmen real or imagined justified the shootings of unarmed civilians. Do you have information to the contrary that the inquiry should have heard? Otherwise, you're just wrong -- and it doesn't matter who points out the crime if indeed it did occur.
posted by Abiezer at 11:12 AM on June 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


MM,

I guess the difference is - the self same people who committed numerous acts of terrorismthe British Army
I would not hold them to the same standards.
In the words of someone I cannot recall - "these were unarmed British citizen killed by the British Army in a British city". "unjustified, unjustifiable and wrong" is about right.

As for endangering the protesters - still, no argument as to where the blame lays.
In my mind, at least, and for this particular day. As for the whole of the Troubles, maybe you think that it is different story (I may not).
But this is the result into an enquiry into the unlawful killing of peaceful protesters, not a re-evaluation of all the actions of all the players.
posted by MessageInABottle at 11:17 AM on June 15, 2010


PM David Cameron: Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. 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. . . . Yes, sir, you in the back.

Me: Hi! The Bellman. America. I read the entire transcript of your apology, but I can't find the part where you equivocate and blame the victims and the opposing party. Can you point that out for us? My readers in the US are going to want that in an apology from a politician.
posted by The Bellman at 11:20 AM on June 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


I liked the apology, pleasantly surprising for a Tory PM. On the other hand some people will take this investigation and apply it in general to the whole of the Troubles whenever N.I is mentioned even vaguely, which will be annoying for the next forty years at least.

Still. Good for truth and justice, probably.
posted by shinybaum at 11:28 AM on June 15, 2010


The Bellman: “Hi! The Bellman. America. I read the entire transcript of your apology, but I can't find the part where you equivocate and blame the victims and the opposing party. Can you point that out for us? My readers in the US are going to want that in an apology from a politician.”

David Cameron: “Oh, that's easy! I can understand that you're used to politicians who aren't so subtle about their equivocations. You can find mine under the section which the BBC has handily titled ‘Bloodiest Year.’”
posted by koeselitz at 11:28 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


MuffinMan, you're right, it is appalling that so much money and so much time has been spent on this. Had there been a proper investigation at the time, not a whitewash based on lying by the soldiers involved and lying by their army superiors, then all of this could have been saved, and justice could have been served in a timely and appropriate way.

But there wasn't a proper investigation at the time. And there was a whitewash. So what do we do - say to the relatives sorry, tough shit and all, but times gone by and lawyers are pricey, so chin up and on with your lives because frankly, we're not going to do anything about it?

I'm no apologist for the murderers of Sinn Fein - a murderer's a murderer whether green, orange or camo - and I agree, it is unpleasant to hear them crow. But I find it a greater unpleasantness that soldiers - agents of our state - who killed 14 innocent people get away without even a stain on their reputation.

Perhaps the Army should find the cost of the inquiry from within its current budget. Might be an object lesson that if its employees do lose control and shoot unarmed civilians in the back, it's best to deal with it, not collude in sweeping it under the carpet.
posted by reynir at 11:28 AM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


How on earth does an enquiry take 12 years?

It's kind of a Big Deal.

And why was it not even started for 26 years?

Getting it started was kind of a Big Deal too, and impossible in the climate of The Troubles.
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on June 15, 2010


And it's worth pointing out that David Cameron was one of the advisors two decades ago who was probably telling John Major to say that this inquiry should never happen. The Tories fought tooth and nail for fifteen years to keep this inquiry from ever seeing the light of day. If anybody wonders why it took so long, David Cameron and the Tories should be accounted as the principle reason.
posted by koeselitz at 11:34 AM on June 15, 2010


David Cameron (via koeselitz):"Oh, that's easy! I can understand that you're used to politicians who aren't so subtle about their equivocations. You can find mine under the section which the BBC has handily titled 'Bloodiest Year.'"

Me: Oh, thank you Mr. Prime Minister, I see it now! You Tories really are slick as owl shit.
posted by The Bellman at 11:37 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really?
Those are decisions for the courts. He left the thought there, though, because taking it any further immediately raises the question "right, so when do the trials start?"

posted by bonaldi at 11:51 AM on June 15, 2010


And it's worth pointing out that David Cameron was one of the advisors two decades ago who was probably telling John Major to say that this inquiry should never happen

Major rejected the call for an inquiry at the start of 1993, at which point Cameron was a special adviser to Norman Lamont at the Treasury. So he probably wasn't one of the advisers telling Major not to go forward.

And although you can lay the blame for a lack of inquiry at the feet of the Tories, politically the situation the Tories were in during 1993 was hugely different to Labour's position in the late 1990s. The former had next to no parliamentary majority, relied on the Unionists for their majority, the ceasefires had not yet declared, and discussions with the various parties were only happening behind closed door. The latter had a huge majority and didn't have any of the baggage that came with the Tories. I suspect any political party in Major's position in 1993 would have made the same decision, morally wrong though it may have been.
posted by greycap at 11:53 AM on June 15, 2010


It's good to finally see the names of those massacred on the day cleared in such a public way. If expense is such a problem for those naysaying this enquiry then I suggest they take the lesson and perhaps learn that no event drove more young men and women into the IRA than those of the 30th of January 1972; that lesson when applied elsewhere could save much money and many lives in the future.
posted by nfg at 12:09 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Except that Lord Saville has just spent twelve years finding that that's not what happened at all and no actions by gunmen real or imagined justified the shootings of unarmed civilians

Well, luckily I'm not arguing that. I'm arguing that the IRA commanders endangered protesters by placing IRA men and arms among them. Now that doesn't justify shooting. As I've said. We've covered that. But it certainly doesn't absolve the IRA commanders of their responsibility either.

But to hear some of the Sinn Fein politicians crow, you'd be under the impression that this was an almost harmless civil disturbance. And yet, even among the dead, Gerald Donaghey was found with hand grenades.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:25 PM on June 15, 2010


Koeselitz, as an Irish person affected by the long-term consequences of the Bloody Sunday episode I find your political haymaking rather simplistic and offensive.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:31 PM on June 15, 2010


I can't believe the news today...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:36 PM on June 15, 2010


Fair enough, anigbrowl. Sorry. Bowing out...
posted by koeselitz at 12:38 PM on June 15, 2010


MuffinMan: I'm arguing that the IRA commanders endangered protesters by placing IRA men and arms among them.

What endangered the civil rights protestors was being shot indiscriminately by British troops. I fail to see how having IRA forces in the vicinity changes the situation. By your logic every civilian in the vicinity of British forces who was injured or killed as a result of republican attacks has the British forces to blame. Do you consider British authorities responsible for all civilian casualties suffered in their vicinity during Republican attacks also?

And lest I be taken the wrong way I want to be clear that I absolutely despised the IRA — as did the vast vast majority of Irish people. If the majority of those directly affected by IRA attacks can find it in their hearts to accept that things have changed, and that Sinn Fein are a legitimate political force then I would imagine you could do the same. It's everyone's past, and there can only be a sane future if all sides can voice their opinions of it. Peace and reconciliation, we're trying it, why don't you?
posted by nfg at 12:39 PM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Saville's 'inquiry added: "We are sure that Gerald Donaghey was not preparing or attempting to throw a nail bomb when he was shot; and we are equally sure that he was not shot because of his possession of the nail bombs. He was shot while trying to escape from the soldiers."'
It was essentially a harmless civil disturbance in the context of the north at that time - ("None of the casualties was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, or indeed was doing anything else that could on any view justify their shooting." Source as above) - until one of the crack, battle-hardened regiments of the British Army supposedly 'lost control' and fired indiscriminately at unarmed civilians. In countless other disturbances petrol and nail bombs were thrown without anything like a comparable death toll. In the later riots on the mainland at Broadwater Farm a police officer was hacked to death and by some reports shots were fired; no-one saw the need to send in the army to shoot indiscriminately. The actions of the PIRA, OIRA and whoever else are neither here nor there.
posted by Abiezer at 12:46 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


What endangered the civil rights protestors was being shot indiscriminately by British troops. I fail to see how having IRA forces in the vicinity changes the situation

To be absolutely clear, we're talking about degrees of blame here. Like Saville, I'm clear that the deaths were not justified or justifiable. But that doesn't either absolve IRA commanders of their decisions nor give them the right to take the moral high ground.

How do IRA forces in the vicinity change things?

"Soldiers of Support Company had been told by officers and believed that this was a particularly dangerous area for the security forces, with any incursion running the risk of meeting attacks by paramilitaries using bombs and firearms."

"If these soldiers were not frightened, they must at least have been highly apprehensive."

That's how. They give the frightened, the stupid, the belligerent, the misinformed some grounds for believing that what they're doing isn't simply shooting unarmed civilian protestors. I don't think the IRA set out with the intention of baiting the army to shoot protestors. But it didn't hurt them that it happened. Even 38 years later, it's forced the attention 2000 or so people killed by Republicans.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:53 PM on June 15, 2010


It's good to finally see the names of those massacred on the day cleared in such a public way.

I don't think they were ever stained anywhere except the Widgery Tribunal report. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to do the math on one highly armed paratroop regiment vs 14 unarmed civilians, four of whom were shot in the back and one of whom was exectuted laying on the pavement.

On the one hand, a seriously delayed report doesn't serve the interests of the public or of the familes; nobody would argue that this was the best outcome. On the other hand, the report is thorough and exhaustive and frankly, I think it's far more important that it be unimpeachable than that it cost $200 million. I'm completely fine with the pricetag.

I also think that while the delay is unfortunate, the timing is providential. There are many, many points in the last 38 years when a report as damming as this would have done nothing but throw fuel on fire.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:53 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't believe the news today...

"This is not a rebel song..."
posted by kmz at 1:11 PM on June 15, 2010


I'm arguing that the IRA commanders endangered protesters by placing IRA men and arms among them. Now that doesn't justify shooting. As I've said. We've covered that. But it certainly doesn't absolve the IRA commanders of their responsibility either.

Responsibility for what?
posted by stammer at 3:15 PM on June 15, 2010


MM,

What endangered the civil rights protestors was being shot indiscriminately by British troops. I fail to see how having IRA forces in the vicinity changes the situation

To be absolutely clear, we're talking about degrees of blame here. Like Saville, I'm clear that the deaths were not justified or justifiable. But that doesn't either absolve IRA commanders of their decisions nor give them the right to take the moral high ground.

May I point you to the guy who has now expressed a half-hearted (at best) apology, Mike Jackson's (in that Para regiment on the day, eventually destined to become Chief of General Staf, British Army) own testimony:

Specifically:
"I am asked if this operation was designed to 'flush out' the IRA. I am quite certain that we were not deployed to tempt the IRA into a fight."
[...]
***AHEM***
(and, thank g*d for the British barrister, sometimes at least)

"This is the operational order, with a date in July 1971, for what is described as Operation Hailstone. If we go over to the top of the next page, in relation to phase 2, the order prescribes that:

"If, in the event, there are no 'spontaneous' attacks on Bligh's Lane during the evening and night of 17/18 July, it will be necessary for 1RS to offer targets or to arrange circumstances which will lure mobs into the target area and attract gunmen to the periphery."

MuffinMan,
I would strongly advise the use of the sentence "moral high ground", on the day the British Army has been found to have covered up and pro-actively protected common murderers, paid by us the taxpayers, for nigh-on four decades.

Because it is exactly that sort of behaviour/comment that makes people go from a "I just want the truth" to a "Tiocfaidh ár " attitude....EXACTLY what happened after this as well as many other atrocities in NI...
posted by MessageInABottle at 3:34 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it is important to consider why the IRA even existed, and to distinguish between the IRA then, and the more recent IRA (last 20 years or so). They evolved to protect Nationalist communities as the police force was not trusted. I despise (despised) the IRA's crusade of terror and violence, but it did not emerge in a void. And there were similar organizations, with opposite political aims (loyalists) which were treated much more tolerantly by the army/police.

And it's fairly sickening to see former IRA terrorists like Martina Anderson, now in Sinn Fein, blithely glossing over the fact both that the IRA killed a hell of a lot more innocent civilians than the British Army could ever have and the idiotic denial that armed IRA men were present there, on that day.

MuffinMan, what do you mean 'could ever have'?

But to hear some of the Sinn Fein politicians crow, you'd be under the impression that this was an almost harmless civil disturbance. And yet, even among the dead, Gerald Donaghey was found with hand grenades.

Well, isn't this what the report concluded? The army fired unprovoked on a crowd?

I quote from the Irish Times: "The jubilation intensified when Mr Cameron quoted the report as finding there was no evidence that any of the victims had been armed."
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 4:46 PM on June 15, 2010


messageinabottle:MuffinMan,
I would strongly advise the use of the sentence "moral high ground"


So would I if I was claiming the army were occupying it, as you are rather bizarrely implying.

I think we're clear on where the moral *low*ground is. But having former terrorists of a movement that killed more than 2000 people during the troubles, some for crimes as serious as helping a wounded British soldier or happening to shop in the wrong place on the wrong day, claim the high ground is... well, let's just say it's ironic.

a womble is an active kind of sloth: Saville found Gerald Donaghey was armed. He also concluded that him being armed did not lead to his death. Saville's not being asked to rule on whether the IRA endangered protestors. He's being asked to rule on whether the people shot were gunmen, and whether they were lawfully killed. He has ruled they weren't, which is obvious.

Look, if you want an example of where the focus of an enquiry can elicit the truth while ignoring the elephant in the room, then read up on the Hutton Enquiry.

I can rejoice that years of obfuscating and whitewash have been removed by this report, and justice served, while still being repulsed by former terrorists using it to deflect away from their crimes.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:48 PM on June 15, 2010


There's a whole menagerie crowded into that room MM and your elephant isn't necessarily the biggest beast among them.
The larger background is the repeated failure of the British state to deal with the injustices in the post-partition six county statelet, preferring to turn a blind eye to entrenched discriminatory practices until a non-violent civil protest movement pressed the issue. Responding to that, the IRA (post split those known as the OIRA) turned away from the gun as politically counter-productive, only to be accused of failing to protect Catholic communities during communal violence, hence the emergence of the PIRA.
On the day in question here, we had a similarly non-violent protest against the extraordinary measure of internment without trial. Also worth noting that the Para unit is the same one earlier implicated in the Ballymurphy massacre whilst implementing that enormously counter-productive policy.
We should certainly condemn the murderous criminality of the various paramilitary factions but as British citizens I feel we have an even greater responsibility to hold our government and armed forces to account for their political errors and crimes which were the warp and weft of the tapestry of violence in the north of Ireland (and after all, a state will be held to higher standards than paramilitaries or find its legitimacy coming into question).
posted by Abiezer at 2:15 AM on June 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Abiezer, we agree that states hold greater responsibility than paramilitary or terrorist groups. I've consistently believed the same thing about, for example, Israel.

I'm aware of the background to the split in the IRA, the allegations of heavyhandedness on the part of the British soldiers and the failure to protect Catholic communities. The Widgery report was a whitewash, no question. The truth, or at least a decent attempt at finding it, needed to occur. What I dislike is the disproportionality of it - just because 14 people died at the hands of the state is no reason to lose sight of the hundreds of civilians also murdered in cold blood by the IRA (or Loyalist factions, for that matter).

Where we don't seem to agree is that nationalist politicians who supported terrorism have no right to claim this as a moral victory. The families do. Their communities do. But someone like Martina Anderson, convicted of bombing campaigns on the mainland? Or Martin McGuinness, who sent a 17 year old boy out with grenades, who Saville found was "probably" in the area that day, armed with a machine gun at an ostensibly non-violent demo, who commanded the IRA sniper that fired on British soldiers that day? No way.

There is a middle ground between finding the killings unjustifiable and my view that the IRA recklessly put armed men among the protestors, and that the IRA's track record it makes it singularly unqualified to comment on "justice" for civilians. For just one example: even now, post-Good Friday agreement, where is the justice for someone like Jean McConville, whose family have got nothing more than a mealy-mouthed non-apology and obfuscation? In short, it's the double standards and hypocrisy that rankle.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:58 AM on June 16, 2010


Where we don't seem to agree is that nationalist politicians who supported terrorism have no right to claim this as a moral victory.
Not so much a disagreement on the substance of that so much as on its relevance - just as I don't think the actions of the IRA on the day were a contributory factor to the crime that occurred, nor do I think questions of who's making political hay should affect our own judgements on the rights and wrongs of what happened. In the sense that it's hard to avoid a feeling of 'whataboutery' to raise such issues (legitimate matters for debate though they may well be) in the immediate aftermath of the report being issued.
As a semi-aside, I thought this article by Eamonn McCann did a good job of highlighting what made the killings in Derry that day different from the many other atrocities of the era.
posted by Abiezer at 4:41 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're right, it is a good article.

I'd disagree with his statement that "Bloody Sunday was unique among atrocities, too, in that it was perpetrated in full public view" - the executions of David Howes and Derek Wood definitely fit that bill.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:57 AM on June 16, 2010


Another bit of 'lest we forget' that I've seen linked elsewhere: Heath warned over Bloody Sunday Paras
Former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath was warned days before the fatal Bloody Sunday march in Londonderry that soldiers being sent to the city had already "over-reacted" at civil rights protests.

According to papers released under the 30-year-rule, the former prime minister's most senior official asked him whether or not he was prepared for the consequences of action by the military against protesters in Northern Ireland.

The papers also reveal Sir Edward told the judge investigating how the Parachute Regiment shot dead 13 people at the march that he should not forget the UK was fighting a "propaganda war"...

The papers confirm that four days before the march, Sir Edward received a security briefing on the march, organised to protest against internment, a form of imprisonment without trial introduced at the height of the political and civil crisis.

In his memo to the prime minister, Cabinet secretary Sir Burke Trend, the most senior civil servant, recommended Mr Heath review the activities of the Parachute Regiment which was being moved to Derry as part of the operation.

"You may wish to question the Secretary of State for Defence about recent suggestions in the press and on television that the army over-reacted against some of the civil rights demonstrations last weekend," wrote Sir Burke.

"And that, in particular, soldiers of the Parachute Regiment, by being unnecessarily rough, have gratuitously provoked resentment among peaceful elements of the Roman Catholic population."

...

Following the deaths, the government appointed Lord Widgery, Chief Justice of England, to lead the inquiry.

Sir Edward met Lord Widgery at Downing Street immediately after his appointment was announced to parliament.

According to the minutes, Sir Edward told the judge that a public inquiry was "not realistic" for security reasons.

"It had to be remembered that we were in Northern Ireland fighting not only a military war but a propaganda war," Sir Edward told Lord Widgery.

...
posted by Abiezer at 5:16 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


just because 14 people died at the hands of the state is no reason to lose sight of the hundreds of civilians also murdered in cold blood by the IRA

But MuffinMan, you're using two different standards, here: hundreds of civilians were murdered by the IRA - over decades - and you're comparing that to one event in one afternoon. Without trivialising those deaths, if you compare the ledgers in a fair fashion, i.e how many people the state has killed over centuries in Ireland, not to mention lives disenfranchised, poverty, etc. you see a radically different picture to the one you're painting.

Of course, doing so brings up imho why so many people have reacted to some of your comments - this isn't about the IRA, on the day, or throughout the history of Britain in Ireland; it's about the government, what they sanctioned, what their representatives did on that day.

That's what this particular day in court is about, and bringing up a "yeahbutnobut" about the IRA is, I think, if not a little insensitive, certainly somewhat beside the particular point about this particular inquiry.
posted by smoke at 5:30 AM on June 16, 2010


But MuffinMan, you're using two different standards

I don't think it's unfair to point out that at the same time - or if we're splitting hairs, within a couple of years - that the Paratroopers killed civilians that some of the people now hailing the justice of Bloody Sunday killed far more civilians.

There's no yeahbutnobut about it. It doesn't mitigate or explain away Saville's findings. I just find the rank hypocrisy of some of the former nationalist terrorists 38 years later on what justice means rather disgusting.

It might seem insensitive to you, but I'd guarantee you it's not insensitive to the families of the victims.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:40 AM on June 16, 2010


On the "why did it take 12 years" question - I assumed there was some sort of tacit understanding that keeping the process going suited both side while the peace process gained momentum. No awkward prosecutions of British troops while IRA members were being released from prison. Plausible cover for Sinn Fein to say the issue hadn't been forgotten when talking to the UK government.

No idea if it's true, and it's not like the UK government would have a memo somewhere to Lord Saville saying "spin it out a bit old chap", but it just seems like a very British way of handling the problem.
posted by crocomancer at 5:44 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


They also had a lot of lies from the British state and the soldiers present on the day to unpick and refute such that the usual equivocation could be minimised, which drags things out.
posted by Abiezer at 6:05 AM on June 16, 2010


...mainland...

Not to derail, as this post is about something important and historic, but I would like to point out that using the term 'mainland' is extremely insulting, and reveals certain inherent prejudices.

Regarding different standards, I think the point is that if you didn't have a state responsible for killing innocent civilians because of their political/pseudo-religious beliefs (and subsequently denying it) the IRA would never have become that strong or respected in communities.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:59 AM on June 16, 2010


Not to derail, as this post is about something important and historic, but I would like to point out that using the term 'mainland' is extremely insulting

"Mainland bombing [campaign]" is the preferred term of the BBC, among others, to differentiate between terrorism activities in Ireland and those in [predominantly] England. If it reveals prejudices, it would be helpful to elaborate what those are, and what your preferred term would be.

Regarding different standards, I think the point is that if you didn't have a state responsible for killing innocent civilians because of their political/pseudo-religious beliefs

It's a bit rich to lecture on prejudice and then come out with the inflammatory statement that the protestors were killed because of their religion or politics.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:27 AM on June 16, 2010


Danger is, MM, that you come across as if you keep spinning this story away from what this story is about. Not saying it's deliberate, but that's how it comes across. To me, anyway.

This is about the British state, through the agency of its armed forces, massacring civilians, then lying about why, and then through the agency of its political and justice system lying about the lies, and then refusing to engage with any of this for decades. That is an appalling, terrible thing. And I don't give a fuck about what any Sinn Fein politician-now, terrorist-then has to say about it, because I know what they are already, and why should I pay attention when there is something more important than their grandstanding to think about.

And smoke sums it up really well: your posts sound yeahbutnobut. Yeah this thing was terrible but WHAT ABOUT THESE MORE TERRIBLE THINGS THIS PALES AGAINST THEM.

Of course there is an overall narrative in which Bloody Sunday is just one part, and a huge part of that narrative is about the inhuman butchery from other players in the tragedy. No-one's minimising that, or dismissing it. It's just that this story is about this one thing, and it's a shameful thing, and all the other shameful things by other shameful people do not obscure that one bit.
posted by reynir at 9:58 AM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course there is an overall narrative in which Bloody Sunday is just one part, and a huge part of that narrative is about the inhuman butchery from other players in the tragedy. No-one's minimising that, or dismissing it.

Nobody here, perhaps. But that part of the original point is that it is being used by certain nationalist politicians to propagandize the story of the Troubles away from their own unsavoury track records and onto this one incident.

In the same way that you think the TERRIBLE THINGS are not part of this story, I think they are, precisely because they are being used to reframe the narrative in such a grossly disproportionate way, while the families of the other civilian victims - no less tragic although politically less important - are left to wonder how the political process has come to Martin McGuinness telling the world what justice is.

And if, despite my unequivocal condemnation of the treatment of the Bloody Sunday victims, my stance is yeahbutnobut, so be it.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:27 AM on June 16, 2010


So what would you have, MuffinMan, that Sinn Fein activists are unable to comment on anything that the British govt has done in Ireland, because of what their organisation and/or they did? That they can never comment about the history of Ireland without firstly recognising anything and everything "their side" has done.

In addition to appearing to trivialise this important moment, denying the right of people to mourn their friends and fellow citizens, and celebrate a small justice, you are demonstrating quite clearly the us versus them, scoreboard mentality that has been a constant opponent to the peace process - the irony being that you're accusing others of it.
posted by smoke at 4:23 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Muffinman, I broadly agree with what you're saying and understand where you're coming from, but today's not the day.

Thanks.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 4:23 PM on June 16, 2010


The audience in Stroke City (Derry/Londonderry or Londonderry/Derry) certainly seemed to appreciate Cameron's words, with some exceptions later on. It was a good speech. For a Tory.
posted by imperium at 4:35 PM on June 16, 2010


Robert Fisk: The innocent became the guilty, the guilty innocent.
posted by adamvasco at 2:31 AM on June 20, 2010


Were Bloody Sunday soldiers involved in 'Ballymurphy massacre'? In the wake of the Saville report, relatives of 11 people killed in Belfast by the army in 1971 are now calling for an inquiry into their deaths
posted by homunculus at 10:34 AM on June 20, 2010


OTM wrapup (gripping, comprehensive, valuable for non-UK observers).
posted by mwhybark at 6:58 PM on June 20, 2010


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