Saville choked on the breadth of its terms of reference…

This one has been on my list of things to blog for the last couple of days… It relates to a BBC Radio 4 programme that went out on Thursday night… You can get it on the iPlayer or better take the podcast… I was particularly interested in this quote from Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, one of the barristers who appeared before the inquiry, who believes it was flawed from the start:

He argues that Lord Saville misinterpreted his remit. “He thought his primary function was to go down the long road of examining in great detail the individual killings. It was an absurd way of going about the inquiry. The real essence should have been to say: why did it happen, how did it happen?” Some solicitors and barristers have told The Report Lord Saville’s background as a commercial lawyer made him the wrong person for the job. One described the inquiry as a “PhD gone wrong.”

And now it is over the line of the 2005 Enquiries Act and the comprehensive truth burying package of the St Andrews Agreement (leaving the Policing Board as one of the few bodies that can legitimately probe the past), there is little to no chance of this can of worms being reliably sorted for fault or blame. No doubt there will be people who seek to penetrate those eleven years of gathering, sifting and analysing evidence in order to apportion blame. But Lord Saville has the luxury of a miles and miles of documentation and the unwillingness of the IRA to testify to fudge his conclusions…

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  • igor

    No matter what he says or does he is doomed.

    Even if he tries to be definitive just what reliance can any of us place on our memories of truly shocking events almost 40 years ago? What we ‘remember;’ has been honed and conditioned over many years by stories told and heard, TV programmes, interviews. Even if we genuinely believe it true and have no reason to evade, are we reliable on the fine detail?

  • wild turkey

    ‘Lord Saville’s background as a commercial lawyer ‘

    Uh, how much has the learned Lords enquiry cost?

    Yes. we know that solicitor firms and self-employed and self-regulated baristers have made millions, and for what? Is it for the simple and self serving motivation that solicitors and baristers can make millions on the back of the suffering, pain, confusion and loss of individuals they do not give a flying fuck about. If they did give a fuck, their work, or some of it, would have been pro bono.

    The only people who have benefited from this have been those in, and associated with, the legal profession. when will we start to realise that greatest impediment to conflict resolution; be the conflict in the sphere of political, economic, financial, private or family life, are the parasitical scum in horsehair wigs? In former times, the law library might have been viewed as a legitimate target. fortunately and thank god, society has moved on from that violence. even if the learned profession has not.

    The only ones to benefit from the violent indifference and waste these greedy bastard chimps visit upon us are not only themselves but their privledged children who are often groomed to replicate the same self-serving profession. Allegedly, ten out of ten barristers support the 11+. Now why is that?

    We all know Shakespeare wrote
    ‘The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.’

    But it is also written
    “All the extravagance and incompetence of our present Government is due, in the main, to lawyers, and, in part at least, to good ones. They are responsible for nine-tenths of the useless and vicious laws that now clutter the statute-books, and for all the evils that go with the vain attempt to enforce them. Every Federal judge is a lawyer. So are most Congressmen. Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizens has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we’d be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.”

    H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), “Breathing Space”, The Baltimore Evening Sun, 1924 Aug 4. Reprinted in A Carnival of Buncombe

  • Dave

    “He thought his primary function was to go down the long road of examining in great detail the individual killings. It was an absurd way of going about the inquiry.”

    Examining the murders as individual acts rather than ignoring the detail and regarding them as a collective act would inevitably contradict the establishments’ whitewash that the victims were armed attackers and that the army acted in self-defence. For example, the young man who was killed by a bullet that entered his body via his anus and exited through his trachea could only have received that injury if he was on his hands and knees, crawling away from his murderer. Indeed, you can imagine the soldier taking careful aim and declaring “Bull’s-eye!” when he hit his target. These were coldblooded murders committed by individuals.

  • ulsterfan

    If the Inquiry does not give us the answer we want then we can ask for another one.
    That means half the population will not be satisfied.

    Wild Turkey

    I see you are a fan of the legal profession.
    I am reminded that following the Nixon Scandal of Watergate some of his staff were indicted on serious charges and all of them except one were lawyers.
    Perhaps they have always been greedy for power, money and retaining privilege.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I forecast before this all started that the enquiry would find that there were guns used on both sides and that innocent people did die that day, some probably accidentally and some intentionally.

    I still think that that will be the outcome and that spending £200 million to find it will not advance the people of NI down the road to Peace, it may give some closure to the 20 or so families circles involved. Could the money not have been invested in a living memorial such as a hospital or industrial park?.

  • granni trixie

    As well as justifying the inquiry because the families who were wronged wanted it,lets not forget too that it is justified because the facts needed to be drawn out as unionist politicans were refusing (and some still refuse) to acknowledge that innocent people were killed on Bloody Sunday which the state tried to cover up.

    Blom-Cooper is probably right however in his analysis as to why the Inquiry has exceeded expectations as regards length of time and financial cost.

  • joeCanuck

    With all due respect to the esteemed Knight, he is in a state of denial (British soldiers do not commit war crimes, do they?)
    There is a prima facie case that war crimes, deliberate unprovoked murder of civilians, were committed that day. At least some of the soldiers involved are certainly guilty. All of those deployed cannot be condemned. Some may not have fired their weapons, others may have panicked when the firing started and due to inadequate leadership, opened fire themselves. The guilty ones cannot be properly identified to allow war crime charges to be laid, which they should be (no statute of limitations), unless each murder is examined in detail.

  • igor

    Can we press war crimes charges against IRA members too …and their leaders?

  • joeCanuck

    Don’t see why not, Igor, if the evidence is there. And it certainly was for some and they were tried and convicted of murder in many cases.

  • igor

    I look forward to seeing the British Government ardently pursue it Joe.

  • eamonn mccann

    The ruling of the High Court in London in the case of Khunder al-Sweady and others throws light on the political thinking behind criticisms of the Saville Tribunal.

    Mr. al-Sweady is one of six Iraqis who claim that soldiers of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment tortured and murdered a number of civilians in southern Iraq in May 2004. On October 6th, three judges accused the Ministry of Defence (MoD) (as well as the Royal Military Police and the Treasury Solicitors) of deliberately withholding evidence and of dishonesty with regard to the evidence which they did present.

    Under current plans for publication of the Bloody Sunday report, MoD officials will be allowed to go through the text after it has been delivered to the Northern Ireland Office but before the public, including the Bloody Sunday families, are allowed to see it, so that they can recommend the removal of passages which they reckon might contravene the rights of witnesses under Article Two of the European Human Rights Convention or which might compromise British national security.

    Woodward would then decide whether to accept or reject the recommended cuts.

    In the al-Sweady case, applications were made by the MoD last May to have evidence which “related to the permissible limits of the techniques of tactical questioning of captured individuals by military interrogators” ruled out on grounds that exposure would damage national security. At that point, the court accepted the integrity of the Defence Minister, Bob Ainsworth, who had signed the relevant Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificates.

    The High Court has now said that the MoD’s intention in making the PII applications had been to thwart the court by concealing evidence. it added: “Until such time as the Ministry had demonstrated that it had taken steps to ensure that false assertions were never again made in a [PII) certificate and schedule, it would, in the court’s view, be incumbent on the courts to approach the content of any such documents from the Ministry with very considerable caution.”

    The al-Sweady case demonstrates that there are few lengths to which the British ruling class won’t go to hide evidence of its army’s criminality. This is what they are at when they seek to pollute the atmosphere in which Saville’s conclusions are made public.

    Mr. al-Sweady, Hussein Fadel Abass, Atiyah Sayid Abdelreza, Hussein Jabbari Ali, Mahdi Jassim Abdullah and Ahmad Jabbar Ahmood claim that that, following a gun-battle on May 14th/15th 2005 known as “the Battle of Danny Boy”, around 20 Iraqis, including farmers caught in crossfire who had sought cover in adjacent fields, were taken at gunpoint by soldiers to the nearby Camp Abu Naji where they were hooded and had their hands tied, were kicked and jumped on until bones were smashed, in some cases had their eyes gouged out or their genitals pulped. A number were then shot or hanged. The six say they are the survivors.

    The determination of senior British politicians and commentators to damage Saville’s credibility in advance of his report is similar in intent to the political and civil service misbehaviour in the al-Sweady case which the High Court has deemed disgraceful. The purpose in both instances is to conceal or obscure the truth.

    (A summary of the al-Sweady judgement can be found at http://www.lawreports.co.uk/WLRD/2009/QBD/al-sweady.htm)

  • joeCanuck

    Eamon, if that is what will happen, it will be truly shocking. To have painstaking heard all those witnesses at great expense of treasure, it will be shameful beyond belief to issue a redacted report. But, as you note, the British Establishment are renowned for taking care of their own so it perhaps won’t be too surprising. Of course, as the families and the world will know, a redacted report condemns by itself.

  • Rory Carr

    Frustrated Democrat’s choice of words to describe the slaughter in Derry that day,

    “…innocent people did die that day, some probably accidentally and some intentionally.”

    made me quite nostalgic for the BBC news bulletins of the 70’s and 80’s where Catholics somehow always contrived to carelessly “die during an exchange of gunfire” and one was left with the feeling that somehow it must have been their fault, something that Catholics did, probably a result of that renowned Catholic fecklessness, a passive act and certainly not in any way connected to troops or police or Loyalist assassins pumping them full of bullets.

    Army and police personnel and Protestant civilains on the other hand always managed to get themselves either “killed” or “murdered” by evil outside agencies, usually Republican, unless they happened to be Protestant civilians who had been killed or murdered by army or police, in which case they too usually managed simply to “die” – probably, one imagined, as a result of some temporary lapse into the Catholic practice of fecklessness and thus all their own fault.

    Oh! the radios that I have hurled through windows or kicked to destruction on listening to these bulletins; again and again with the same refrain over the years. At first I thought I was imagining it or that my own prejudices were causing me to mishear; but as I began to listen carefully and ask others to listen alongside me and confirm the BBC practice in reporting these deaths there came to be no doubt whatsoever – as far as the BBC was concerned Northern Irish Catholic civilians have (or at least had) an unhealthy habit of simply dying around British Army and RUC personnel.

    An allergy perhaps?

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘some probably accidentally and some intentionally.’

    Probably accidentally? Intentionally? Theres a shorter word for what went on that day.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    I’m not sure in the minds of some that Catholics are important enough to have the murder label attached.

    >>I forecast before this all started that the enquiry would find that there were guns used on both sides…<<

    In Susan McKays book ‘Northern Protestants’ the people she intervied had a variety of ‘forecasts’ also. The sub-text was that they(the 14) got what they deserved, some even claiming it was all staged to make the British look bad and the dead bodies were exiting ambulances right as rain round the corner.

    God luv Northern prods and their forecasts!

  • Skintown Lad

    “do not fire back for the moment unless you identify a positive target”

    Is it surprising that northern prods on the whole do not accept that Bloody Sunday was a seek and destroy mission premeditated and aimed at innocent civilians? Is it surprising that they are prepared to consider the complexities of the context in which it happened, rather than jump to the conclusion that an army who would defend them against terrorism just killed people for the hell of it? I don’t think so.

    The contradiction in the more extreme of northern prods’ view is that the Troubles was not a war. There was no provision for collateral damage in that strange forum that was the Troubles. But yet the northern prods were being attacked as if it was a war, with the collateral damage excuse being rolled out by Sinn Fein every time a prod was blown to bits while walking peaceably up his main street.

    Do those on this board who defend the IRA’s actions consider that Bloody Sunday was murder, or an act of war gone wrong? Do you apply the same test to Enniskillen to La Mon?

    There is a double standard on both sides. At the heart of the conflicting views on Bloody Sunday is the conflicting view of the Troubles itself.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Skintown

    Your comparison of apples and oranges in an attempt to get to the much used nonsense that ‘one side is as bad as the other’ really doesn’t make any sense. I have never ever read any defence of the above mentioned atrocities from Republicans. So considering that both your comparison and premise is flawed, how does this reality fit with the narrative you would have us follow.

    btw. Your opening quote should have led you to the rather obvious conclusion that cold blooded murder was carried out by highly trained combat troops. ‘Collateral damage’ really doesn’t cut it no matter how well you dress it up.

  • Skintown Lad

    “I have never ever read any defence of the above mentioned atrocities from Republicans.”

    Are you sure? I have heard Republicans talk about atrocities like La Mon using words to the effect of “it is an unfortunate fact that in wars innocent people get killed”. In a different vein, there is the nonsense that the Brits set off the bomb at Enniskillen accidently with some weird electronic wizardry. This is not whataboutery, by the way, it is an attempt to explain the context of the northern prods’ view. In doing so, for the sake of impartiality, I have highlighted the inherent contradiction in that view.

    You describe this as an attempt to compare apples and oranges. Am I to take it that the reason I am comparing apples and oranges is because only one side’s gunmen were well trained? And that completely shifts the moral reckoning does it?

    My opening quote explains why northern prods do not jump to the conclusion that it was cold blooded murder and that perhaps the situation was a little more complicated than that.

  • joeCanuck

    why northern prods do not jump to the conclusion that it was cold blooded murder and that perhaps the situation was a little more complicated than that.

    Don’t be silly, skintown lad. Most if not all of the killings were, quite simply, unabashed murder.
    As for you speaking for northern prods, I know a lot who think that murder was afoot that day.

  • Skintown Lad

    “As for you speaking for northern prods, I know a lot who think that murder was afoot that day.”

    I was responding to Prionsa Eoghann’s generalisation of the northern prod view. Of course I accept that it is a generalisation applied to a very wide spectrum of views.

    The unwavering conviction with which you state that “most, if not all” of the people killed on that day were unabashedly murdered and that it is “silly” to consider otherwise, is a perfect illustration of why Saville’s report was doomed from the beginning.

    For the soldiers to have committed murder that day one has to show that they deliberately (at least) caused grevious bodily harm without believing that they themselves were about to be similarly harmed.

    My own view (since everyone else is pre-judging the conclusion of the inquiry) is that it is likely some of the soldiers thought they were being fired on. That explains the “don’t fire back”. Some other of the soldiers probably thought “well they obviously think we’re being fired on and I’m pretty scared/excited and I don’t really care if I hit one of these people who’ve been firing rocks and petrol bombs at me for weeks now”. I think the latter state of mind probably just about constitutes murder (provided that person actually hit someone). I question whether it can be described as cold blooded murder, in the sense that I’m not sure there was a deliberate intention on the part of the soldiers to go out that day and kill a few innocent people.

  • joeCanuck

    Skintown Lad,
    I already expressed very early in this thread that not all soldiers who were on duty are guilty and that others who did fire may have been badly led and did think that they were under fire. But there was murder, cold blooded indeed, by some.

  • Skintown Lad

    Re-stating the fact of your unwavering conviction does not get us very far, Joe. On what do you base your view? You seem to have a very definite idea of what was going on inside some of the soldiers’ heads.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Skintown

    >>“I have never ever read any defence of the above mentioned atrocities from Republicans.”

    Are you sure?< <

    Positive!

    >>by the way, it is an attempt to explain the context of the northern prods’ view.< <

    All you have done is offer flawed premises to justify the unforgivable in my view.

    The apples and oranges analogy at it's base level was highlighting the innapropriateness of comparing a fucked up IRA operation where a murderous instantaneous mistake was made. A cold-blooded sectarian murder by persons unknown at La Mon and, the actions of a highly trained combat force under controlled leadership who went on a killing spree for a lengthy period of time in Derry. I would also point out that the reactions to these incidents tell their own stories from whatever community, hence we are not speaking about nationalists people excusing La Mon or God forbid thinking that those people deserved it. On the other hand we have plenty of imput from 'Northern prods justifying/excusing/supporting the murderous actions of the BA.

    >>My opening quote explains why northern prods do not jump to the conclusion that it was cold blooded murder and that perhaps the situation was a little more complicated than that.< <

    God help us Skintown but this is straw clutching at it's worst! Are you seriously suggesting that the professional reputation of the British army should be considered even though it directly contradicts film footage and the testimony of hundreds of people that were there? Naivety or calculated ignorance?

    >>I don’t really care if I hit one of these people who’ve been firing rocks and petrol bombs at me for weeks now”< <

    >>I question whether it can be described as cold blooded murder…< <

    Would this line of thinking justify killing a few Asian kids in bradford, or a few Orangemen after the Whiterock riot, or even a few Rangers fans in manchester? This is where your attempts at obfuscation are going. Apologies if this is not your intention as it is cetainly coming across this way now.

    >>You seem to have a very definite idea of what was going on inside some of the soldiers’ heads.<<

    Mens Rea isn’t always needed to prove murder Skintown, evidence usually suffices. However just you content yourself in the knowledge that(God forbid) one of your loved ones gets murdered in such a fashion that the person who did it didn’t set out to do it so it wasn’t murder………….Aye right!

  • Skintown Lad

    Prionsa Eoghann, you have selected parts of my post and extracted them without their vital qualifications. In particular, rather absurdly you have chosen not to quote the bit where I say I am of the view that it probably constitutes murder.

    I am NOT seeking to justify it, I am seeking to explain why the context in which it happened (i.e a riot, at which there were alleged to have been shots fired at the soldiers) means that some northern prods do not jump to the conclusion that soldiers deliberately set out that day to murder innocent people.

    Regarding IRA/Sinn Fein’s justification for civilian murders, you are mistaken if you think that they do not justify civilian deaths by saying that it is collateral to the war as with all wars. How do they explain the blowing apart of a 15 year-old boat boy in Mullaghmore? Perhaps it was an “instantaneous mistake”?

    (As an aside, evidence of mens rea is required for murder and neither do you need to “set out to do it”)

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Skintown

    >>I am NOT seeking to justify it…< <

    But then you do;

    >>..the context in which it happened (i.e a riot, at which there were alleged to have been shots fired at the soldiers)…< <

    >>some northern prods do not jump to the conclusion that soldiers deliberately set out that day to murder innocent people.<<

    Point of order. I have never mentioned about northern prods in relation to what they thought about the soldiers intentions that day. I mentioned the scandalously shocking views held of the event and it’s aftermath.

    Re your last paragraph, I take it my explanation sufficed over the apples and oranges scenario, considering that you are now going way way off tack.

    As Dave posted earlier about one of the murdered being shot through the arse whilst on hands and knees. I really don’t think we need any more evidence of a guilty mind unless you wish to contend that whicher soldier it was may have thought his intended victim had an RPG aiming at him from his ahole. We do not need the soldier to admit he had a guilty mind before or during, evidence that he did will suffice without a reasonable defence. Imagine that if conviction was based on the guilty admitting their guilty minds themselves, the gaols would be empty.

  • Skintown Lad

    “Point of order. I have never mentioned about northern prods in relation to what they thought about the soldiers intentions that day. I mentioned the scandalously shocking views held of the event and it’s aftermath.”

    Perhaps we are at crossed-purposes, to an extent. I wasn’t responding to your original post exactly. I agree that the view “they deserved it” is shocking, though thankfully in my experience not as widely held as you seemed to be implying.

    I was responding to the feeling of incredulity that anyone could even consider that Bloody Sunday was anything other than premeditated and cold-blooded murder. I intended to explain the views of those who are reluctant to jump straight to that conclusion. I think the view arises from two very different and separate bases:

    (1) The circumstances pertaining to the day’s events were such, i.e a riot and reports of shots fired at soldiers, that there is more uncertainty over what had happened than if, for example, a soldier had walked into a pub and started shooting at the people inside. The conclusion could well be the same, i.e murder, but the circumstances of Bloody Sunday were such that there is more to consider before you can reach that conclusion: hence the Inquiry.

    (2) The second base is in my view far less cogent but it is this: The people killed on Bloody Sunday were innocent. However, many innocent Protestants were being and continued to be killed at that time and the explanation they heard from Sinn Fein/IRA was that this was an unfortunate characteristic of any war, euphemistically referrred to as collateral damage. It is tempting then, though wrong, for Protestants to conclude with a shrug of the shoulders that if this was a war then innocent Catholics are likely to be killed too.

    You seem to deny that Sinn Fein/IRA justified the killings of innocents as an unfortunate characteristic of a war but I don’t see how you can maintain that, hence my example of the bombing of Mountbatten along with his 15 year-old boat hand. That was not going way “way way off tack” – it is highly relevant to limb two above and your claim that the IRA only killed innocent people through “instantaneous mistake”, which is clearly nonsense.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Skintown

    >>I agree that the view “they deserved it” is shocking, though thankfully in my experience not as widely held as you seemed to be implying.<<

    Perhaps, I had read views that shocked me on line especially on the deeply disturbing ATW. I did not believe that nice normal Prods/Unionists could hold such views until reading Susan mcKay’s book.

    (1) Not sure if I rank amongst those who believe that it was all a set up and murder was afoot, despite some evidence to the contrary. However once it kicked off the result was the same.

    (2) You seem intent to hang me on a petard not of my own creation whilst still trying to justify some Prod opinion. A cruel version of two wrongs do indeed make a right. I used the instantaneous mistake to highlight my apples and oranges point. I know fine well that the IRA participated in cold blooded murder on several occassions and offer no defence. I am however correct to point out that you seeking an explanation from me on this is way way off tack from the subject at hand. Unless of course your efforts to somehow justify some Prod opinion brings you to the belief that people killed in Derry equate to IRA operations. I do hope not.

  • Skintown Lad

    (2) I do not try to justify this “Prod opinion”. I expressly said it was wrong and referred to it as a “double standard”. It is not my belief.