Bracing ourselves for the Bloody Sunday verdict

The Guardian appears to have been leaked unlawful killing as the essential verdict of the Bloody Sunday inquiry, a story which is not specifically denied. Tuesday is building up to be a major event in Derry and perhaps elsewhere, inevitably amplified by the news channels. The question of what is in the public interest is agonising. A gap of nearly forty years doesn’t make any easier. I have no idea where the public interest lies. I’m content to wait for the arguments. While “moving on” seems facile, insulting even, what matters most surely is how we move on. The Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Alasdair Fraser is between a rock and hard place. It’s to be hoped there will not be a long delay before he reaches decisions.

It ought to be possible to avoid treating  Saville as a cue for renewed sectarian struggle.  Nor should both sides be allowed to cast the British establishment as the scapegoat for the whole of the troubles. Whatever happened on the day, the wider truth is that responsibility must be shared for the lamentable failures of a generation. I have a feeling that most people know this in their hearts. The  reaction on Tuesday must allow that reality to come through.

There is a huge difference between today’s establishment and the rulers of 39 years ago. Then, even though a Unionist government was to cling to office for a few weeks more, the real decisions were taken by a small group of senior British politicians, civil servants and army officers. Today’s establishment includes those who were then waging armed insurrection. Can they hold together or will they lapse back straight back into their old factions, rebels, counter rebels, remote and evasive British? Martin McGuiness Mark Durkan, Gregory Campbell have to take on the responsibilities of restraint.

David Cameron has to chart the immediate course ahead. The tone he adopts will be crucial.  Because of the regular rhythm of losses in Afghanistan, it is natural that he idealises today’s army.  About 39 years ago he must be sober and objective. There must be no hint of my army right or wrong. Wooton Bassett must be asked to understand. The contrast speaks for itself.

From the Guardian story

Lord Saville’s 12-year inquiry into the deaths, the longest public inquiry in British legal history, will conclude with a report published next Tuesday, putting severe pressure on the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland to prosecute soldiers

David Cameron in Afghanistan

I want to put you front and centre of our national life again. I think it is vital. There is huge respect and support for what the military does,” he said.

“I want you to help me create a new atmosphere in our country, an atmosphere where we back and revere and support our military.”

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