Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Saville Report clears Bloody Sunday civil rights protesters

It took 38 years, but the innocent civilians who were shot dead by the British Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday, while taking part in a peaceful civil rights protest,  have finally had their good names cleared.

 Shortly after the horrific events of January 30th, 1972, the British government of the day set up an inquiry, presided over by Lord Widgery.  Far from being a genuine inquiry, however, it was a whitewash.  Worse, it was full of weasel words and innuendo which cast doubt on the innocence of those who were butchered on the day, implying that many of them were armed, or had been in the presence of those who were.

Yesterday the Saville Report, which began investigations in 1998, finally concluded that those who were killed in cold blood were unarmed, and that the army had fired on them without warning.  It should be borne in mind that the people on the march were demonstrating for civil rights and fair treatment in a society in which there was widespread discrimination, prejudice, and gerrymandering.

The civil rights protests of that time were peaceful and progressive, but the actions of the British Army on that day ensured that the IRA would have a plentiful stream of eager recruits for years to come, and that Northern Ireland - already on a tipping point after the provocations of Paisley and the Bombay Street pograms - lurched into a cycle of wholesale destruction, sectarianism, bombings, shootings, hatred and suspicion that lasted over a quarter of a century.

You have to wonder how different things might have been had successive unionist governments, and those of the "protestant" majority in that State, been more open to the simple idea of civil rights and equality for their "catholic" countrymen/women?   If they had included them, instead of unleashing a wave of State brutality against them?

By the same token, you have to wonder how a more measured response to the 1916 Rising in Dublin (by a relatively small number of people) by the British Government of the day might have facilitated a similarly measured transition to independence (or even diminshed the desire for same) for some, or all, of the island we live on - rather than creating two nasty little statelets equally backward in their own respective ways?

It would be nice to see prosecutions come out of today's report.  If they do, it would be a sign that the powers-that-be are at least learning something.

 Let's not get our hopes up, though.

Saville Report full text here


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14 comments:

Anna said...

This week in the IT Eamon Mc Cann emphasised the most Shocking thing was it was state sanctioned: NI Protestants who remember evil atrocities against them can say ‘ But look at Darkley and the Kingsmills massacre’ ( to name just 2) .
However we could never expect compassion and fair play from NI’s warped green and orange paramilitaries- but this Was different: It was perpetrated by those who were officially Our Government, through Our Official army - and we as citizens of that country deserved their protection.
He also noted many horrible atrocities took place on deserted roads in dead of night- but this was in view of the world’s media. I think the same article mentions the chief Para witness saying, his superior officers and other men had declared the day Before that they would be going out for some killing.
When the enquiry began I read a comment from an English journalist. This person ( I can’t remember whether male or female-) may have been quite well known in 1972 and already done some stories on the north. The journalist certainly was frequently briefed by army sources so was in with the Para forces in Derry and asking for some advice on the next days march. I gather this journalist had been used to wander freely about NI parades/ demo flashpoints. The journalist was told in Very Decisive tones by the army to stick Very close to them on the day- and Not Depart from the army side of the barricade. And yet this was supposed to be a parade, like any other.
That ominous warning certainly confirmed the word of the chief Para witness.
Just as sad as the 14 who died ( as E Mc C noted) was the betrayal of trust of the NI Catholic community: Catholics who had no time for the IRA beforehand found it harder to condemn them after seeing the way their own Government had behaved in Derry: a lot of blood shed could have been spared if it had not happened.
I was a lucky northerner who was never much touched by the troubles- but I often met people who had been viciously bereaved by paramilitaries of all colours, and at times the army.
The Good Friday Agreement was signed I think in May 1998, 12 years ago. ( though the vicious Omagh bomb followed in Aug 1998). 12 years of peace is a long time for NI.
This report marks a solemn day for the bereaved of Bloody Sunday, another historic milestone in the peace process and a milestone in strengthening Anglo Irish relations.

Anonymous said...

GM

Your post starts off well but then falls into the cosy falsehood of casting the British State as basically benevolent but incompetent while casting those who opposed it as bestial and self centred.

We may some day get to the point where people can say plainly and simply that Empires are a bad thing, and bad things come out of them. The British Empire was a cancer on humanity, and no amount of steam engines or machine spun cotton can offset the suffering it inflicted on humanity over hundreds of years in all corners of the globe.

One of the few good things that came out of the troubles was the fact that for once many British people saw that they were on the wrong side of the argument, and in a questioning spirit questioned much of the 'history' they had accepted up to that point.

That phase has now passed and they now cheer on their 'heroes' as they go about doing the same thing in Afghanistan as they've been doing for centuries.

Ireland doesn't have much, but at least it can say it fought and fought and fought again. It freed itself or least the bulk of itself from the tyranny that was British rule and more importantly it inspired others to do the same.

Max, London

Anonymous said...

Well said GM. As for your point about 1916, emm, if only? What a different nation it could have been?

Dakota

Anonymous said...

Then of course there are all the conspiracy theories (who doesn't love a good conspiracy!) that say the whole troubles period was orchestrated by right wing elements in both republicanism and the UK establishment to prevent a socialist revolution in both countries. When you look at the accused indiviuals it certainly does offer a temptingly tasty explanation, remembering that there were certainly plenty of right leaning republican politicians back then, some short in stature but tall in cunning, who were caught up in the whole affair. The Roman Catholic Church was definitely uber anti-soviet and opposed nearly every social reform such as the mother and child scheme. It was the height of the cold war and the soviets had adopted a more propaganda based approach, after the chilling reality of the Cuban Crisis. Once the IRA got involved, that was the end of any truly leftish political involvement such as was found in the peaceful civil rights movement. Just what *were* elite hardened psycho soldiers doing there that sunday to break up a peaceful march? Just what *was* an opportunistic napoleon complex politician with no principles whatsoever doing colluding with left wing revolutionary style provonistas and supplying them with arms? Actually I don't think any of this really happened, it just fits too well in an attempt to uncomplicate a complicated period, but it would make a fascinating bestseller :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Max, IMO nothing wrong with GMs Piece. So many people so many critics eh?

Ireland unfortunately can never criticise the Brits again, we had a culture which defiled 150,000 - at least, probably near on a million - we had an economic boom which did nothing tangible to address poverty. We have a political class which would sell its mother for power. We have a nation where its not how you live its where you live. We have a nation where its not what you know its who you know. Which makes a difference and gets things done. A political culture which reaks of right wing economics cloaked in sudo left wing clap trap. In my opinion this is the height of dishonesty and makes me sick. Nobody seems to give a toss its always business as usual.

I tell you this Ireland is a hole where anyone with even the slightest possibility of difference is hounded and eventually destroyed, if they dont get out. Give me the United Kingdom or the good old United States any time. Then again anywhere else for that matter. Small country small minds.

Anybody reading this who dreams of better things then follow that dream and give yourself a chance and the hell out of this hole.

Oh and the weather is crap..Hey ho...

Dakota

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, Anna. The fact that this was cynical, premeditated State-sponsored murder, is the big point. Taking what the B-Specials did and turning the dial up to 100.

Dakota, I was going to say that the brightest and best tend to flee the country, until I remembered Max. Only joking Max ;-)

I know all about colonialism and imperialism and all the rest, but what we have is past history, is done, and the British influence we've had for the old 800 years is as much a part of us all as anything else.

Likewise, that inconvenient constituency of people up north who don't subscribe to particular definitions of Irishness are there for good. So this is what we have and what we have to get on with - call it overcoming the imperialist/ruling class tactic of "divide and rule" if you like.

Which is why the blog tends to waver toward supporting commonality than cultivating difference. What's more, we all have more in common on "these islands" than not, though there are some on both sides who would deny that reality vehemently.

I've no more time for the flag-waving "Gotcha" brigade waving off "their boys" to kill Johnny Foreigner than I do our own brand of narrow patriots who brought us Omagh and countless other atrocities.

All the rhetoric about imperialism - often uttered by people for whom it's but a parroted catchphrase - detracts from what "our own" ruling class/Golden Circle are doing. But we're on the one road, eh?

Anonymous said...

GM, I once had a very enjoyable conversation with old unionist man, from Belfast living in London. A very nice guy and great sense of humour. He said he would trust a wild dog before he would trust anyone from the republic. I told him I shared his sense of dubiousness, having been burned myself once - and me born and brought up here, something I am shamed by. Anyway I agreed with him and he opened up and told me he was shafted twice by two business men from Dublin on two separate occasions. What I'm getting at is, if you want to get things done in Ire (Rep) at a certain level then you have to be within the golden circle. If you are not, then eventually you will get your comeuppance. Dublin is unique in that regard. I genuinely believe its one, if not the most corrupt cities in the western hemishphere. Its more akin to a latin american city with a thin veneer of respectability - given to it I have to say by the Brits.

I'LL repeat - and I know its not popular but someone has to have the courage to say it - if you are of good nature and try to think objectively and like to get things done, then get out of Dublin. Ireland in my opinion is only worth living in if you are retired and you want to take advantage of a tax shelter (non stelth taxes are still quite low). Living in Dublin is a complete NO NO. It has no redeeming features what so ever and is populated by negative nasty individuals. If you want to enjoy life then get out of the trap.

Dakota

anna said...

To Dakota I’ve Never seen such Dishonesty either: NI may have few selling points but people ( protestant And catholic) often Pride themselves on their honesty: Once I left a house in Belfast where I’d only lived a few weeks - I just didn’t like it. Went to the landlord who ran a little old-fashioned grocery store. I didn’t come up with any excuses , just said I’d moved out. He immediately opened the till, and gave me my full deposit back.
In Belfast, also, Dubliner Elaine made off with 900 euros I made in 2 badly paid jobs.: money given her to deliver to a new landlord for me. I never saw the money again , lost the flat and had to save up a deposit for another place.
In my first 9 yr spell in Dun L I had 3 main addresses- ended up taking TWO of these landlords to the Tenancy Board.
I’m Now back in Dublin One yr, for a no of reasons I had 5 addressees in 1 year : I now have 3 claims in with the tenancy board ( twice didn’t get deposit back, another time was kicked out and overcharged).
I’ve been in my current home since March, the new landlord’s fine- but the one before that (Lyn) was the 2nd one ( in a year) to refuse to give a deposit back.
Actually I had Only just prepared the form to send off - when I arrived home yesterday to a Tenancy Board generated claim against me from Lyn: the poor woman wants 4000 Euro from me.
Unpaid rent- for the rest of this year. I’d moved in - in desperation- in Dec to her small cramped ‘coronation st‘ house , with 3 other people already there .
In places house was Ok, a large new living room was extended into most of the small back yard for instance. But in many other ways it was unsuitable for 4. My tiny bedroom had no real furniture ( it has once been a home office) - just shelves and a bed- for 500 a month.
However Lyn made me sign a 1 yr Lease to rent a Room in shared house( I have Never seen this anywhere else) ,: it was also full of ‘rules’ such as no drinking hot drinks in your bedroom or eating there …etc.
I gave her a months notice in early March. My room was empty 1 month ( no wonder at that price- yet Lyn is so grasping she doesn’t even realise there are lots of Shiny new apartment rooms Empty for less money). My Old flatmates said room was re let since May- so I asked for my deposit back.- and was told to get lost
Oh well, Lyn pre-empted me on getting to the tenancy board- so that saved me the 25 Euro fee.
She makes 24,000 on that house p.a., ( my take home pay is 26,000) and runs a business as well. Business must be bad- as she’s hoping to make a cool 4000 out of me- for nothing. NO - in 30 yrs of renting and living in NI, Guernsey ( USA briefly) and England I have Never had experiences like these. WWUGI?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that Anna. Unfortunately there a far to many sharks in Dublin, at every level. As I said to GM having lived else where myself I can categorically say Dublin is unique. Its all under the radar though until something blows up in your face. There seems to be a culture of, if I dont show this person that I'm a big guy then they will do it to me. Its something I could nor never will understand. Its really not a place conducive to enjoying your life on any meaningful level. I hope your in a much better place now though Anna.

Dakota

Ella said...

@ Anna, that's real bad. It would be nice to be able to say you were just unlucky, but you probably were not, that's the way things are done here. The whole goddam country is on the make, it's no wonder that dishonest politicans get voted in all the time in this dump, dishonest people will vote for dishonest politicians.

Anonymous said...

The head of the British Civil Service gave David Cameron the official government response to the Saville Inquiry. Seemingly it was cautious and diplomatic in character. Mr Cameron tore it up and wrote his own genuine and emotional response.

Things have changed, thank goodness!!!

anna said...

I am V glad to see that lst post…where did you read that ? Cameron WAS V gracious- But I think ever since John Major took over around 1990 there has been more trust by Irish north and south in UK prime ministers. I didn’t mean to rave about dishonesty ( tho it is a Striking feature here) , as this post is on a solemn subject …but the post was also on the traumas North and south that partition brought.
We were all 1 nation ( under the Brits- not under a groove ) till 1922, we should have had broadly similar national characteristics. So Why such dishonesty here- while in the north honesty and honest people are genuinely admired?
Because no one was in charge here : John Mc Gahern ( born mid 30’s) said in the early years the country was in Shock at being independent. A new nation of some of the poorest, most poorly educated people in Europe ( only got free secondary education in 1967): of course ordinary people were weak and docile.
Social policy in the north moved closer to the rest of Europe ( tho the UK is still well behind some other large EU countries) in fairer taxation, high standards expected of public officials, more money for public housing, free healthcare, more money spent on education, roads etc.
Here a small rich educated elite cared far less about raising the living standard of all the ordinary Joe O’Soaps. Even with great Irish labour leaders in the early C20, the Irish perplexingly believed Catholic policy that socialism was evil: the vacuum left by departure of the brits was filled by :
Vile catholic church leaders + docile supplicating Catholic TDs + Money grabbing TDs + a rich class who could Never get enough.
ROI developed very different taxation and legal systems to the North, and had very weak enforcement and little personnel to get after wrongdoers- many political leaders mollycoddled the rich - in fact the Revenue still seems determined to GIFT them as much of Our tax revenue as possible.
All this lead to the rise of a Vile greedy Gombeen class: Yes there is dishonesty among ordinary people (Elaine’s mum & dad were a builder and book-keeper- average parents, where did they get her ) But it’s FAR more common among the rich: MY 1st 2 landlords here were millionaires & Lyn owns her own financial services business. ROI has Far more people in the Super rich class- AND in the underclass: NI has less in each- and more people in the middle.- also many surveys show social progression is better there.
If Partition HADN’T happened ordinary people in ROI would have been More fairly treated by government . Yes this country Had triumphs - but many needless hard times too.
2016 should be marked by the end of Gombeenism ( because us Joe O‘Soaps Are worth it) .
My Belfast friend Chris ( when I told him of Lyn’s claim) said the Russians had the right idea when they put them up against the wall. I’ll content my self with voting., blogging, and some rabble rousing marches. And then , years later , when they say’ What did You do in the War against Gombeenism ?’ I can tell them that: Don’t we all want a good century to repay those who suffered in the last one; violent misery in the north and economic misery down here?

Denis said...

Hi guys. Interesting reading. I was born and raised in a republican area. Just across the border in the north. I'm a catholic. I saw soldiers come in and search houses. Saw bombs etc. I spent 18 years watching what happened.

Then I joined the British Army myself. I served 17 years and left 2 years ago tomorrow just after a tour of afghanistan. I also served 4 years in northern Ireland. (Oh and I just moved back to the north from the republic last year (VRT on my second-hand car being the final straw), as GM may recall.

So you could say I have an unusual perspective on things.

I'm not going to second guess all the hearsay from when I was less than a year old. But I will say a few points to illuminate things if I may:

1. Anyone who has ever been in a place where shots are being fired (probably most of the readers have not, but I have) will tell you that it's virtually impossible to tell where they are coming from unless you see the muzzle-flash. So what? Lots of confusion on the day in question. Hardly surprising that a disaster happened.

2. Riots, marches, whatever. When it all kicks off, total and utter chaos is what happens. Soldiers are trained to attempt to deal with it, but as no person can have collection of all the facts at any single time, imperfect decisions will be made.

3. Falklands war 1982. If you want a weapon that will march 90 miles in winter across an island and bayonet people in the head until they are told to stop - use the parachute regiment. If you want to police a city in the United Kingdom, don't use the Parachute Regiment. While I accept that individual soldiers are responsible for their target selection and engagement (the Nuremberg Defence no longer allowed), ultimately the blame for Bloody Sunday lies with the politicians as David Cameron acknowledged.

4. Afghanistan. Where do you want tyranny? Over there or over here? normal afghans (life expectancy 43) hate the taliban. Our mission is to fix and destroy the taliban there while making life tolerable for the natives. Again, it's imperfect, but don't think for a second that this is some kind of imperial junket. The taliban are real bastards. When I was there they hanged a woman and her 8 year old son for 'collaboration' (taking food from a soldier). And threw a baby on a fire as punishment to a family (we medevac'd the baby). Soldiers are dying in afghanistan to keep tyranny and terror over there at least, destroy it at best.

So what? I agree with GM on the unionist government. If they'd played it fair from the start, none of this would have happened. But looking at their successors today, not much has changed. They all look pretty limited in the smarts department to me. And the shinners are a joke too.

But I'll tell you one thing about the army. Despite their imperfect record, they did learn their lessons. Meanwhile the provos were blowing up men, women and children in places like omagh right up until the end.

Max criticises the British public for cheering their 'heroes' in afghanistan? Maybe, Max, you want to pause, and ponder that this summer as you traverse the london underground in 30+ degrees that there are soldiers patrolling in 50+ degrees, feeling a lot less smug than you, and risking getting their legs, arms, testicles and maybe lives taken away from them in a bomb that winds up meant for them, because they've prevented it from being meant for you.

Idealism is all very well, but your freedom to say what you like wasn't granted Max, it was fought for. And it's still being fought for.

anna said...

Denis that’s a v interesting perspective…..
The Afghanistan war is brutal for native people- but life was even more horrific under the Taliban; there it look as though intervention of foreign troops will some day make it better for them.
The Iraq war sounds like a big money spinner for USA corporations, a living hell for the 1,000,000 Iraqis who died- and something Blair should Never have supported.
Still it is appalling that in the 21st century there are Irish people who think every time British troops go into a country they must be brutalising the natives and have the superior Irish not demonstrated to them that empire building is evil etc…modern British people or army are not responsible for ( or usually not reproducing ) the excesses of the British empire….
@Dakota- thanks for concern- I’m not Ever in a bad place! I am frequently Dismayed by the efforts of Gombeen chancers to shaft me- I’m also amused by them.
The reason I’m fighting back ( through tenancy board ) is on Principle, I am not badly off financially, but the cheek of them (!) …..
Look I am Already giving 2,600 p.a. to the Broke & Distressed Bankers fund… so don’t have any cash for the Indigent Landlords Charity…If they think I’m soft that’s their 1st and last fatal error with me- I’m Very Cross, not the Red Cross.
Those who are being Really Shafted are the poor unfortunates who will die on waiting lists- like people did in last recession. ..In the ‘Boom’ years Ireland’s health service got Even worse and had Less Money- what does that tell you as to Where and to Whom our leaders allocate public funds?
All thanks to a greedy Gombeen class who are not authentically Irish - A vile breed of toads who multiplied in a vacuum of real leadership after 1922 ; Back to the real salt of the earth Irish people .