Too little, too late..?

SPOTLIGHT starts on BBC1 NI in two minutes (now online for a week). On the show, the former head of the British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson will say he believes innocent people were killed on Bloody Sunday.

  • páid

    And as a follow up, General Jackson states that to the best of his knowledge

    Ursus defecatus in silva

  • heck

    he will then follow up with his startling belief that the pope is catholic (Roman catholic for all you Ulster prods) and the bear shits in the woods.

    I might even come to the conclusion that the british government colluded with loyalist killers!!

  • francesco

    what a brave man!

  • Rapunsel

    Despite being widely trailed, this was the least interesting part of this programme , which overall was disappointing and petered out at the end. The interviews with the squaddies and the family members of the UDR members were illuminating and moving. General Jackson said he believed innocent people were killed and then that he would not comment further in advance of the Saville report, he was hardly in a position to say otherwise and I cannot imagine that he will offer an apology unles of the form that he did not believe the people killed to be innocent at the time but now that they are etc

  • Katinka

    This was a dreadful programme. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to be about the army’s experience of NI during the troubles as it withdrew from Op Banner or a hatchet job on the army. I felt the latter was the predominant theme, especially when Jackson was asked if he would apologise for innocent people being killed on bloody Sunday. He was not in command, so why should he have been asked such a question. His answer was diplomatic but the question should not have been asked. The programme was an opportunity missed, the people who put it together hadn’t a clue.

  • smcgiff


    You’re being harsh. The programme tried to put across the hardship the army had to endure, but also that it was not a benign force.

  • the Emerald Pimpernel


    I believe it is a well aceepted fact that any member of her majestys armed forces is under a personal obligation not to follow orders that he believes are illegal. Surely shooting innocent teen agers is illegal? oops wait they were taigs after all so never mind!

  • Katinka

    Perhaps SMcG I am being harsh but I know the army is not a benign force, how can it be? The function of the army is to defend the state by force of arms – even with one hand tied behind its back as in NI. However, there are two sides to Op Banner. On the one hand you had what the army had to face in performing its duties. On the other you had what it was like to live in NI. This again can be subdivided into those who came to NI on four month tours, and those who came for a full two year tour. Did the programme makers ever consider that a posting to NI could be a desirable one? If they had their programme would have been very different.

  • smcgiff

    ‘The function of the army is to defend the state by force of arms’

    Correct, but were the innocent protestors in Derry not part of that state to be defended? And the largest regiment in the British army did not have an unblemished record. It was right and correct to point this out.

    ‘Did the programme makers ever consider that a posting to NI could be a desirable one?’

    I don’t ever remember a programme maker investigating if a posting to Vietnam was desirable, although an admission of such by some soldier would undoubtedly be interesting.

    Maybe some soldiers liked the posting to Northern Ireland, but I can’t imagine they would have been in the majority. The impression I got from the programme was that it’s the working class that go to fight not out of a sense of duty, but because of economic necessity and tradition (same thing) I felt sorry for the squaddies that had to go to Northern Ireland. That doesn’t mean there weren’t bad apples licensed to carry guns among them or those that carried issued the orders were gentlemen.

  • Jackson should be in the dock for war crimes commited against the people of Derry.

  • Katinka

    I do not want to get involved in a dispute about the rights and wrongs of bloody Sunday. Nevertheless put yourself in the situation of the soldiers. Insofar as they were concerned, the marchers were not ‘innocent’ because the march was illegal. The soldiers expected trouble, and as Jackson said there were ‘incoming rounds’. We know more with the benefit of hindsight so lets wait for Saville. The programme was about more than General Jackson.

    It is perfectly fair to point out that the largest regiment in the Army did not have an unblemished record, but what was not pointed out was that it went from being a cheaply and inadequately trained force to one trained to pretty much the same standards as the regulars. The programme glossed over this by saying glibly that it was amalgamated with the Royal Irish. Before that happened the Government had recognised that you can’t have proper soldiers ‘on the cheap’.

    SMcG you are quite right about the impression given by the programme. Soldiers on 4 month tours could have a pretty hard time, but for those on 2 year tours the reality was very different. Many soldiers and families did stay in barracks as much as possible, but others made full use of the social, sporting, recreational and shopping facilities offered by the province. Almost all, however, had nothing but praise for the one thing unique to NI – the education their children received, and the dedication of their teachers. It was vastly better than anything in the rest of the UK or in stations abroad. Some day the history of the army in the troubles will be written, that history was not one of unremitting patrolling, there was very much more to it. That is why I think this programme was an opportunity missed.

  • topdeckomnibus

    Re Katinka

    I believe it is a well aceepted fact that any member of her majestys armed forces is under a personal obligation not to follow orders that he believes are illegal. Surely shooting innocent teen agers is illegal? oops wait they were taigs after all so never mind!

    Posted by the Emerald Pimpernel on May 30, 2007 @ 12:49 PM

    In 1969 I was a corporal in BAOR and served under a former 22 SAS Sergeant major who had refused unlawful orders (allegedly to kill … not involving Ireland). He made us aware of the obligation.

    I am still confused by ideas as I understand them from the FRU (or claimed FRU) direction which seem to imply that the members thought Maggie Thatcher could sanction murder ?

    I think it was a Cambridge Detective sergeant (on Stevens Inquiry) who said of Colonel Kerr(?) FRU that they had no concept of the rule of law.

    I am not a lawyer but increasingly I interpret “Public interest” as “Govt intrigue”.

    In my history I have tried to adhere to the old sergeant major’s ethic not to dodge the increment of duty you might contribute. Which is why I still bump on about unlawful police no go areas and Airey Neave.

  • Cahal

    Wish I hadn’t watched that.

    Resotick’s mother may have identified the root problem when she asked why Paisley rejected Sunningdale all those years ago.

  • Katinka

    topdeckomnibus your old sgt-major is quite correct. A soldier is required not to obey an illegal order – this is a principle established at the Nurnberg trials after WW2. However, a soldier has to know that the order was illegal when it was given…I imagine this is something the Saville enquiry will address. There is no point in using hindsight to say innocent people were killed therefore the soldiers are guilty of murder.
    As for ‘public interest’, this is a bit like ‘conduct prejudicial to good order & military discipline’ which no doubt you have heard before!

  • the Emerald Pimpernel

    Isn’t the definition of murder predicated on the idea that the people murdered were innocent therefore your post is irrelevant

  • darth rumsfeld

    I think we have to listen carefully to Jackson’s comments. He conceded “innocent people were shot”-which is undoubtedly true. That does not necessarily mean the same thing as “innocent people were killed”-which I happen to believe.

    We have to wait for Saville’s conclusions, but I hope he will recognise that there was a concerted effort by members of the IRA at that time to conceal the extent of their activities on that day. In that they are probably not unique, but as the main promoter of the Inquiry, they have a very high standard of transparency to reach, and they have patently not done so.