Saville Commission Corrects Part of the Record

There has been much relief, both from Fleet Street and victim’s families, that a British government commission, headed by Lord Saville, finally released an honest account of the 1972 “Bloody Sunday” massacre in Derry, during which members of Britain’s elite First Parachute Regiment killed 14 Catholic civilians. The commission cost British taxpayers a whopping £200 million, forced a public apology from British Prime Minister David Cameron, and successfully destroyed the ludicrous “findings” of the Widgery Tribunal, a contemporaneous report that vindicated the army.

One of the most acerbic commenters on the Troubles has always been Irish Independent columnist Kevin Myers (whose fantastic memoir of his years working for RTE in Belfast, Watching the Door, was published in the United States last year by Soft Skull Press) recently wrote that only “an idiot, psychopath or militaristic bigot [would] think that anything other than mass murder occurred on Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972.” Indeed. It has long been acknowledged that the Official IRA (the “stickies,” not the Provos) fired a high velocity sniper round at the Paras—the so-called drainpipe bullet—though whether or not this precipitated the brutal response from the British Army or was a reaction to the unit's mad charge toward civilian demonstrators has long been in dispute. The Saville commission places the shot after the Paras locked and loaded for "battle," viewing the incident as wholly independent of the British army shootings.

But Myers is also right that while those Republicans killed on Bloody Sunday deserve vindication—they were not armed, but peaceful protesters demonstrating against internment—there is something sickening about these murders-cum-Sinn Fein politicians (Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, in particular) blubbering and mugging for BBC cameras about the long overdue correction of the historical record. As Myers writes, with mild indignation, “Not a word from you murdering IRA bastards: not a fucking word —do you understand?”

Lord Tebbit, advisor to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, is similarly annoyed. When an IRA bomb exploded at the 1984 Tory party conference in Brighton, Tebbit’s wife was paralyzed by flying shrapnel and five others killed. Tebbit told the Telegraph that “If first-class victims in Londonderry are entitled to an inquiry to see whether there was indeed a plot which caused the shootings or whether it was a cock-up, which is what it appears to be, then why not the victims of Brighton?”

British historian Max Hastings observes in The Daily Mail that, for nakedly partisan reasons, “the long catalogue of Republican atrocities against the British and Irish peoples goes unexplored” and reminds us that “Of all those who perished in the Troubles, just 10 per cent were killed by the security forces; 30 per cent by Protestant militants; 60 per cent by the IRA.” As readers of Eamon Collins' brilliant book, of Peter Taylor's history of the Provos, of The Secret History of the IRA, of Sean O'Callaghan's memoir know, all of this is true, but to bring Sinn Fein and various factions of Prod revanchists to the peace table investigations were closed, "paramilitaries" (scumbags like Patrick Magee and Johnny Adair) were released.

And what of (Catholic) Sergeant Peter Gilgunn and (Protestant) Constable David Montgomery, the two policemen killed in Derry the day before Bloody Sunday, in an operation that was almost certainly approved by the vile current deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuiness? Will the British government now investigate the Enniskillen bombing, in which 12 Protestants were massacred by the IRA while observing Poppy Day? Perhaps David Cameron could unilaterally start the investigation by interviewing First Minister McGuiness, head of the IRA’s Northern Command at the time of the massacre, next time he pops in at Number 10.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • abcdefg||

  • &||

    Fool me twice...

  • Old Mexican||

    Hey, folks, wanna see something controversial? Click here.

    That looked like one of those MS Messenger viruses . . .

  • Spoonman.||

    What the titwaffles is wrong with you?

  • DADIODADDY||

    titwaffles? WTF r titwaffles?

  • Old Mexican||

    “an idiot, psychopath or militaristic bigot to think that anything other than mass murder occurred on Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972.”

    He is so on the money regarding that Wikileak! . . . Oh, 1972 . . . oh.

  • Dello||

    The IRA kills innocent people, making them either terrorists or freedom fighters. The British military kills innocent people, making them either terrorists or an imperialistic, occupying military.

    Seems to me that the Brits don't really have the high ground on this...

  • ||

    Chances are if there were not Bloody Sunday there would not have been a mad dash to join the Provos and perhaps then the Troubles would have not been the Troubles. Bloody Sunday was the match that lit it all. The best recruiting drive for the IRA ever.The start is a good place to look for the truth. This does not excuse any murder for the next 30 years but murder of unarmed civil rights marchers by the state's military must be examined apart from all that followed.

  • ||

    Jim Lowney|6.17.10 @ 7:25PM|#
    "Chances are if there were not Bloody Sunday there would not have been a mad dash to join the Provos..."

    Some "chances":
    "The history of Northern Ireland can be traced back to the 17th century, when the English finally succeeded in subduing the island after successfully putting down a number of rebellions."
    http://www.infoplease.com/spot/northireland1.html
    I'd say the stupidity has a much longer history.

  • Shannon Love||

    The modern IRA was trained and partially funded by the KGB. It was no coincidence that the IRA imploded shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. Provoking over response by the police and military is a core part of the traditional communist strategy. To that end, they do everything possible to endanger civilians by constantly sniping and bombing in civilian guise until the soldiers and police cannot tell who is a non-combatent and who is a combatant.

    The soldiers in the First Parachute Regiment weren't the Waffen SS. They were men exposed in the bottom of a bowl who had to presume they were surrounded by an enemy who might lethally attack from the shadows, the surrounding buildings or disguised as civilians. Owing to the IRA tactics, they never knew if faced just rocks and bottles or sniper fire and molotov cocktails.

    How did we get to the point where we blame uniformed soldiers operating in the open for failing to respond perfectly with laser like precision to every attack by those who break every rule of civilized warfare? If the IRA had not been such viscous, amoral scum, the British soldiers wouldn't have been so trigger happy.

  • ||

    This.

  • ||

    What she said.

    I lost whatever residual sympathy I had for that cause when the IRA assassinated Louis Mountbatten, an actual hero of World War II (Dieppe notwithstanding), without whom the friggin' IRA would be in some Gestapo dungeon. Oh, and the IRA murdered two kids and an old woman when they did it, too.

  • ||

    What you and Shannan said. The IRA also set the blue print for the PLO, FARC and every other murdering terrorist organization of the last quarter of the 20th Century. They are scum. Unless and until Jerry Adams and his ilk are called to account, I could git two shits about whatever overreaction the British paratroopers were guilty of.

  • TXLimey||

    +1

  • ||

    Well said!

  • ||

    Shannon Love|6.17.10 @ 8:03PM|#
    "The modern IRA was trained and partially funded by the KGB...."

    Anecdotal, since I can't cite the source ("Postwar"; Judt?).
    I have read the Basque 'liberationists' were also at least partially funded by the Soviets.

  • ||

    And we forget the time before Bloody Sunday when the Nationalist community greeted British soldiers with tea as their protection? The movement in the North was inspired by the civil rights movement in the States before Bloody Sunday. Second class citizens were seeking equal rights. Then government soldiers shot down dead unarmed protesters marching for civil rights...and all went bad from there. I am not defending the IRA post-1972 or even before. (Provos or Stickies) Innocent citizens of Derry were shot down during peaceful protest for their rights. That was the start of it all, turning it into The Troubles. It didn't have to happen if the British gov had taken a different road and the Paras didn't fire and kill 14 innocents.

  • ||

    If you want the real libertarian take on Bloody Sunday think Kent State; federal soldiers shooting dead unarmed protesters. The Provo IRA hardly existed at the time. The "Stickies" were a leftover from the Irish Civil War and the 50's. There was no real Republican armed movement before Bloody Sunday. The British Paras killing the unarmed civil rights marchers on Bloody Sunday gave the Irish armed cause real fire. Nothing less would have. So, if all the events of the Troubles are to be looked at, Bloody Sunday is a perfect place to start.

  • ||

    That is true. And as Shannan Love points out, the tactic was to get the authorities to overreact. The British may have overreacted, but the IRA did everything it could to provoke that overreaction. It was exactly what they wanted for the reasons you describe. They were a joke before Bloody Sunday. So Jerry Adams and company can spare the world their crocodile tears for the victims.

  • Paul Power||

    This article misses the point of the inquiry. The terrorist activities of the IRA and others were treated as criminal acts by the authorities. Investigations were made by the police and those responsible sought in the normal manner. When found and convicted, the guilty went to jail.
    None of this happened in the case of Bloody Sunday, or the lesser criminal acts of the same soldiers prior to it (mentioned by Kevin Myers in the column quoted). Instead we got the Widgery whitewash, and a civilian honor for their commander, now blamed by Saville for the whole mess (imagine Lt Calley getting the Congessional Gold Medal for an analogy) . This places the events of Bloody Sunday in category of its own.

  • ||

    If first-class victims in Londonderry are entitled to an inquiry to see whether there was indeed a plot which caused the shootings or whether it was a cock-up, which is what it appears to be, then why not the victims of Brighton?

    A valid point, but not presented in a helpful or constructive fashion. Yes, that deserves an inquiry, too. But this moment is about Bloody Sunday. Queue up like a good brit and wait your turn.

  • Paul Power||

    "why not the victims of Brighton?" Because they had one. The bomber was caught, tried and sent to jail.

    As I wrote, this whole article has it all wrong. All Saville has done is place Bloody Sunday back in the same category it should have been in all along: a major criminal act to be investigated and the perpetrators tried and punished by the law. Even now, unless there are prosecutions, it has a status below that of events like the Brighton bombing, because the normal law and order procedures have yet to be followed.

  • ||

    A good point, Paul, but the regulars here know that state actors are never held accountable for this sort of thing.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    What a pointless apology.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement