Eamonn McCann who has covered every aspect of Bloody Sunday from that day to this, foreshadows publication of the Saville report on March 22. Whether the date will be met or a further delay will be caused for the government to proof read it for human rights, security, getting the page numbers right, the general election etc etc remains to be seen. Eamonn now admits he was wrong at the time to ascribe the motive for the 1 Para operation to an attempt save Brian Faulkners government. But he continues to explain Lord Savilles tortuously long exercise thus:
The tribunal was tasked to look for the truth not only about Bloody Sunday as a single episode but about each individual killing and wounding, of which there were 27. The evidence might lead to a finding of unlawful killing in one instance, of self-defence in another. The only way of determining which fell into which category was to study the evidence given at the time, question surviving eyewitnesses and summon what forensic evidence remained.
Is it right that Saville was bound to take this approach? Louis Blom Cooper QC a lawyer with a strong human rights practice disputes it with an opinion not universally appreciated in Derry
Was it necessary to target the individual soldiers and inflict on them individually the most serious criticism as distinct from a collective responsibility having regard to the ambit of an inquiry into an event 30 years ago, with the prospect of a lengthy investigation and commensurately high cost?
Given the 27 year time lapse from the event to the start of the inquiry, with its risk of failing memories and the dearth of forensic evidence, Blom Coopers point seems plausible. A failure to attribute specific causes to the 14 deaths would be beyond anti-climax in the circumstances. Hopefully Saville will explain all whenever the time comes.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London