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.”

  • andnowwhat

    Hello Mr Walker. I wonder how different the establishment is today. IMO Saville is as much about the lies that the MOD and goverment spread as anything.
    Every generation likes to think that it is more sophisticated as the last but look at how Blair cheated the country about Iraq, how the British goverment freely supplies arms to regimes such as Indonesia and manipulates the polulation with “terrorist” threats to emasculate our rights.

    I can see no difference in the establishment save for a little more savvy

  • Canny See It Sur

    People talk about leaving the past behind and moving on with their lives in the expectation that people who had loved ones murdered or shot in their prime should just forget all about it.

    I wonder if those people would call for the same forgive and forget attitude to crimes committed by the catholic church?

    The question is whether a crime is still a crime and worthy of punishment after 40 years. In other scenarios across the country, including crimes of murder, the time scale is irrelevant so why should that not be the case in this situation. Especially given these are crimes committed by the state.

  • Manfarang

    This verdict will be of great interest to Mr. Conor Purcell, an Australian born in Ireland. However by virtue of the fact that he is in jail in Thailand because of his involvement in the redshirt protest he is unlikely to become aware of it.

  • It’s odd that this particular Guardian story is given so much prominence, given that essentially the same story was published in the Irish Daily Mail on June 6, the Telegraph on the 7th and rehashed in the Derry Journal and various others between then and now.

    The Guardian article mentions Trimble at the top of the story saying soldiers could end up in the dock, but towards the bottom points out the difficulties in prosecution – it does seem very unlikely, aside possibly from perjury. So why give Trimble’s view so much prominence?

    If Saville’s findings are passed to the Public Prosecution Service, can anyone really imagine it proceeding with prosecutions? Tom Griffin suggested – not entirely unreasonably – that perhaps this is why the new Attorney General has no powers of supervision over the Public Prosecution Service, something Larkin has complained about.

  • Oracle

    It’s all a charade and a shocking waste of resources, it wouldn’t matter what the Saville report contained Nationalists won’t be swayed into any other train of thought by it as they are steadfast of the opinion that it was State organized political murder!

    Unionists won’t be impressed by it as most of them are indifferent to the events of Bloody Sunday, on the range of grounds from they got what they deserved, to there was a gun battle with the IRA and the soldiers got confused, Saville will not change that belief held in the Unionist communities in any way shape or form!

    The families of the soldiers won’t be impressed by the threat of loved ones going to jail for something that happened nearly 4forty years ago when they were carrying out orders for Queen and Country.
    The British media will be able to fill pages galore the Sun on the retired heroes facing imprisonment, the Daily Mail on faulty communication equipment,the Times with misunderstood orders, and the Guardian with the new safeguards blah blah blah.

    I won’t be impressed by it due to the unbelievable waste of tax payer’s money, money that could and should have went to the elderly of our community, for new crèches, education and health.
    The idea that already very wealthy layers and their comrades are earning life changing sums of money from other people’s grief is more shameful that Bloody Sunday itself.

    As for the reports of possible prosecutions not one person will serve one day in any jail!

  • cattorules

    The soldiers are probably guilty. But it would be a travesty if the soldiers were to be proscuted now when every single other killer from the troubles from Shankhill Butchers to IRA Bombers has been effectively pardoned. If SF go for blood this could endanger the whole peace process. It is a tribute to the superior media skills of the republicans, over that of the unionists and the British government, that everyone rembers Boody Sunday. Much less well rembered are Bloody Friday or the La Mons Incendary bombing. Why no Bloody Friday Inquiry?

  • Skintown Lad

    i’m a unionist and i think if there is a verdict of unlawful killing the soldiers involved should be tried. i don’t see how the passage of time diminishes their responsibility. what would perhaps diminish their responsibility a little (but not totally) is the environment of extreme danger in which they acted that day. for that, the blame should be placed at the door of the republican command, including martin mcguinness if he is found to have contributed to the awful events that unfolded. my generation have suffered badly from the actions of a few hot-heads on both sides that day.

  • Brian Walker

    Why was Trimble given so much prominence in the story, Gonzo? Perhaps because the annoucement of the inquiry was being recalled and Trimble’s reservations had a lawyers’ authority and weren’t based on mere bigotry?
    The timing,Is it really so odd? I guess is just part of a normal build up to a big event. Different papers, different days. David McKittrick’s in the Indy today takes a broader perpective.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dark-past-bright-future-the-legacy-of-bloody-sunday-1997237.html

    He even manages tot look ahead to the verdict in UK City of culture without seeming banal.

  • Mayoman

    “Whatever happened on the day, the wider truth is that responsibility must be shared for the lamentable failures of a generation.”

    Brian, does ths apologia apply just to the killers that day, or to all of the killers from all sides?

  • Oh look! the director of public prosecutions is quitting. That was quick!

    Anyway Brian, I know what you’re saying about build-up, but the article added little that was new, although it tried (not very successfully) to be more conclusive than speculative. I’m just curious as to why it created more stir than the articles earlier this week.

    And since Trimble’s views seem entirely guesswork, I’m not sure that there’s any real legal authority visible. Especially since that’s what the Guardian suggests further down the same piece.

  • jtwo

    Because Henry is close to Lord Trimble who is probably his source. It also gives Trimble, (now a Tory remember) a chance to start floating the line that Blair was well warned this was a terrible idea.

    Henry was pretty poor on Nolan.

  • joeCanuck

    I wonder can any lawyer out there (real one, not the barrackroom type) explain the legal distinction between unlawful killing and murder, if there is any.

  • Dewi

    The presence or absence of malice aforethought Joe?

  • Tom

    Unlawful killing includes murder and manslaughter, and I think, some miscellaneous other ones like death by dangerous driving.

  • Turgon

    joeCanuck,
    I am not a lawyer but my understanding was that unlawful killing is a broader concept which includes manslaughter and infanticide for example.

    In addition I think that one can only be found guilty of murder after a trial: otherwise it is an unlawful killing.

    For example the man who killed the people in Cumbria being dead cannot be tried and as such will never be legally guilty of murder. However, his victims were clearly unlawfully killed and he clearly did the killing.

  • joeCanuck

    I’ve done a little research. From wiki (I know, I know):

    In English law unlawful killing is a verdict that can be returned by an inquest in England and Wales. The verdict means that a death was caused by another person, without lawful excuse and in breach of the criminal law, in other words homicide. This includes murder, manslaughter, infanticide and causing death by dangerous driving. It is important that the inquest does not name any individual person as responsible.(added emphasis).

    That would seem to preclude anyone being charged. The article goes on to say that such a verdict would normally result in a police investigation to try to determine the person(s) responsible. So, if an individual soldier could be tied unequivocally to a specific death, he could be charged with murder or manslaughter. That won’t be possible.

    It would be a pity anyway if the only ones charged were the squaddies. It is those in command who deserve trial all the way to the top in N.I.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    Driftwood

    I can’t wait until Wednesday. Your smart alec, bigoted and narrow minded opinion will be crushed. The British army are the second biggest terrorist organisation in the world. Second to the Israeli Defence Force.

  • Dec

    Driftwood

    If your only contribution to the debate is to smear the dead (including children)from the comfort of your bedroom, why don’t you log off and watch the world cup or C-Beebies.

  • AR

    “People talk about leaving the past behind and moving on with their lives in the expectation that people who had loved ones murdered or shot in their prime should just forget all about it.”

    You know full well that the formula is to call for truth when it suits you and call for moving on and new dawns when it doesn’t. One of many noxious concotions from peace process labs, inc.

    Anyway, just be glad this giant totem of NI’s whinge culture seems to be coming to an actual fucking conclusion. Roll on publication!

  • Manfarang

    The Inquiry will present findings, a verdict is reached by a court.
    In any resulting court proceedings no doubt the defence of superior orders would be raised.Remember the 1968 massare at My Lai in Vietnam and the court martial of William Calley.

  • boris1

    I think you’ll find that the biggest terrorist organization in the world is actually the Catholic Church, and the vermin that live under its paedophile shadow.

    The opinion is not bigoted, its a simple statement of fact.

    The Vatican is a state. Its policies result in the obscene lingering death of many thousands. Children, as well as adults, die on a daily basis as a direct result of Papal instruction.

    The Pope sits decked in gold and jewels while children starve to death as a direct result of his fascist dogma.

  • boris1

    I think you’ll find that the biggest terrorist organization in the world is actually the Catholic Church, and the vermin that live under its paedophile shadow.

    The opinion is not bigoted, its a simple statement of fact.

    The Vatican is a state. Its policies result in the obscene lingering death of many thousands. Children, as well as adults, die on a daily basis as a direct result of Papal instruction.

    The Pope sits decked in gold and jewels while children starve to death as a direct result of his fascist dogma

  • Battle of the Bogside

    The Vatican is a state. Its policies result in the obscene lingering death of many thousands. Children, as well as adults, die on a daily basis as a direct result of Papal instruction.

    The Pope sits decked in gold and jewels while children starve to death as a direct result of his fascist dogma

    The British state and its policies result in the obscene lingering death of many thousands. Children, as well as adults, die on a daily basis as a direct result of British government instruction.

    The British Queen sits decked in gold and jewels while children starve to death as a direct result of British state fascist dogma

  • Battle of the Bogside

    The Vatican is a state. Its policies result in the obscene lingering death of many thousands. Children, as well as adults, die on a daily basis as a direct result of Papal instruction.

    The Pope sits decked in gold and jewels while children starve to death as a direct result of his fascist dogma

    The British state and its policies result in the obscene lingering death of many thousands. Children, as well as adults, die on a daily basis as a direct result of British government instruction.

    The British Queen sits decked in gold and jewels while children starve to death as a direct result of British state fascist dogma

  • Kevin Moran

    Yea let’s start with prosecuting the soldiers. Then we can move on to both governments, SFIRA, the unionists, the nationalists, prods, taigs, web bloggers and posters and that Tom Cobley fellow*. A few billion quid should wrap things up.

    I mean the paras landed in the Bog of Eden where everything in the garden was rosey and the locals only wanted to garland them with flowers. But Doctor Evil, aka John Bull, sent them to trash Utopia.

    How must we search for the ‘truth’? Sadly my Code of Honour prevents me from giving any details.

    *add to the list as you desire

  • sam

    What I can’t understand about Bloody Sunday is how the British army while surrounded for hours by thousands of rioters trying to kill them managed to pick out fourteen totally innocent people and shoot them. It’s uncanny. Can anyone suggest how this could have happened?

  • joeCanuck

    I guess the silly season has started.

  • joeCanuck

    That was in response to Boris 1 and BotB’s reply. Don’t know how my comment came before theirs.

  • joeCanuck

    What I can’t understand is what it is that you don’t understand.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    The British army were not surrounded for hours. They were not surrounded at all. The were lying in wait, behind walls, at high vantage points. I don’t recall any of those murdered having weapons, nor did the terrorist British army present any evidence to suggest this opinion. Five of the unarmed men were shot in the back while trying to escape. One man had his hands in the air and was shot in the armpit.

    Roll on Tuesday. I predict a silence from Driftwood, Turgon and all the proBrit apologists of state terrorism.

  • SaxonLoyal

    So if the verdict aqquits the soldiers of any serious wrongdoing, will the republican propaganda machine, sorry, media leave it at that and finally allow the £400 million or so go back into the hands of people who need it? Those who are out of work due to the recession for example. £400 million could pay 15,000 nurses, nearly 5,000 doctors and 11,000 policemen for a year. The people who keep the enquiry going are a disgrace.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    The people who keep the enquiry going are a disgrace

    I agree the MOD are a disgrace. They should just admit that they committed a terrorist offence in Derry on Bloody Sunday.

    The £200 million (not £400 million) should be taken from their budget. Would you agree SaxonLoyal?

  • Battle of the Bogside

    It was hardly utopia. Catholics were discriminated against, they could not get state housing unlike their Protestant fellow Irish men. Catholic families lived sometimes sixteen to a house. Extended families all lived together in forced squalor. If the unionist bigots who governed this state had been fair, the march would not have taken place. The fact that a suppressing force such as the terrorist Paras were present shows intent on behalf of both the terrorist Stormont and British governments.

  • Cynic

    Mick

    This is getting tiresome as well as borderline illegal. The Trolls seem to have spent the winter breeding

  • Battle of the Bogside

    If you can’t hack the heat, get out of the kitchen!

  • Granni Trixie

    I genuinely hope that the Saville Enquiry gives something to the families that they could not have achieved by other means. What I am getting at is that (it seems to me) what was needed was an acknowledgment that a wrong was done in shooting people engaged in a protest (nonviolent).

    I do not trust anything DT says. So if he is in with a
    pre-emtive strike, I am suspicious as why he is interferring. No doubt something will emerge from Saville which makes his motive clearer. Seems to me that he is using people such as Henry Mcdonald (+thought his book on DT lacked insight).

  • sliabhdubh

    Bloody sunday was only one day in the history of the British state when they brought death and misery to Ireland,The Ballymurphy Massacre vitims like the Derry victims need their names cleared and closure brought to their relatives,all the British had to do was say sorry,we committed a crime,and all those millions would have been saved,As they are an arrigant lot they would rather spend billions than to admit they were wrong.They can even share the blame for Gaza they left the Palistines in the lurch,whats new.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Oddly a very similar piece I posted was “moderated” but clearly closure for the families is more important than the feelings of republican and unionist persons looking after their tribal interest.
    Regardless of whether there were people at fault..up to and including criminally at fault….there has to be an acknowledgement that there were actually VICTIMS.

    As we have seen justice delayed is justice denied.
    And frankly Im not a big believer in putting anyone in the dock almost 40 years later.
    Like I say it would be impossible for anyone to get Justice 40 years later….including the person/s in the dock.
    Theres obviouslya lot of “Special Report” and “Spotlight Special” posturing next week……the usual rentaquotes but to be honest Ill be a glad to be a long way away from UTV Live, BBCNI, Newsnight and all the rest next week.

  • RepublicanStones

    There is more chance of a Roy Orbison comeback tour than there is of this report satisfying anyone. Will the report be black marker free? Doubt it…

  • MonkdeWallydeHonk

    Dec

    You seem surprised at this drivel from Driftwood – I don’t know why. Cowardly anonymous smearing of innocent people is par for the course with him.

    He was a big defender of the so-called “community groups” that were a front for payoffs to UDA “leaders” not to engage in violence – i.e effectively stick to drug dealing, prostitution and racketeering within their own “loyalist” community.

    He likes to portray a NI where we all live happily ever after under UK conservative rule with no discrimination at all.

    Unfortunately when this type of thread comes up, his true nature is plain for all to see and should highlight his so-called open minded attitudes for what they are.

  • padraig

    ‘Bracing ourselves’??

    Gasp shock horror..

    No not something bad? About the Prince Charles own Regiment?

    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  • Alias

    SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS

    1. There would have been no deaths in Londonderry on 30 January if those who organised the illegal march had not thereby created a highly dangerous situation in which a clash between demonstrators and the security forces was almost inevitable.

    2. The decision to contain the march within the Bogside and Creggan had been opposed by the Chief Superintendent of Police in Londonderry but was fully justified by events and was successfully carried out.

    3. If the Army had persisted in its “low key” attitude and had not launched a large scale operation to arrest hooligans the day might have passed off without serious incident.

    4. The intention of the senior Army officers to use 1 Para as an arrest force and not for other offensive purposes was sincere.

    5. An arrest operation carried out in Battalion strength in circumstances in which the troops were likely to come under fire involved hazard to civilians in the area which Commander 8 Brigade may have under-estimated.

    6. The order to launch the arrest operation was given by Commander 8 Brigade. The tactical details were properly left to CO 1 Para who did not exceed his orders. In view of the experience of the unit in operations of this kind it was not necessary for CO 1 Para to give orders in greater detail than he did.

    7. When the vehicles and soldiers of Support Company appeared in Rossville Street they came under fire. Arrests were made; but in a very short time the arrest operation took second place and the soldiers turned to engage their assailants. There is no reason to suppose that the soldiers would have opened fire if they had not been fired upon first.

    8. Soldiers who identified armed gunmen fired upon them in accordance with the standing orders in the Yellow Card. Each soldier was his own judge of whether he had identified a gunman. Their training made them aggressive and quick in decision and some showed more restraint in opening fire than others. At one end of the scale some soldiers showed a high degree of responsibility; at the other, notably in Glenfada Park, firing bordered on the reckless. These distinctions reflect differences in the character and temperament of the soldiers concerned.

    9. The standing orders contained in the Yellow Card are satisfactory. Any further restrictions on opening fire would inhibit the soldier from taking proper steps for his own safety and that of his comrades and unduly hamper the engagement of gunmen.

    10. None of the deceased or wounded is proved to have been shot whilst handling a firearm or bomb. Some are wholly acquitted of complicity in such action; but there is a strong suspicion that some others had been firing weapons or handling bombs in the course of the afternoon and that yet others had been closely supporting them.

    11. There was no general breakdown in discipline. For the most part the soldiers acted as they did because they thought their orders required it. No order and no training can ensure that a soldier will always act wisely, as well as bravely and with initiative. The individual soldier ought not to have to bear the burden of deciding whether to open fire in confusion such as prevailed on 30 January. In the conditions prevailing in Northern Ireland, however, this is often inescapable.

    The reason the Saville inquiry is needed is because the text quoted above is the State’s official record of what transpired on 30th January 1972. The findings of a tribunal hold the status of fact, forming the official record of what occurred and – despite the mitigating influence of transient public record – the historical record.

    When Widgery said the above, the British state said it. The UK government does not have the legal power to set aside the findings of Widgery inquiry, so any apology it could haved issued in place of a new inquiry would be of no legal consequence. The offical record as determined by Widgery would stand. It would also outlive the folklore.

    How could the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday have any respect for a state that has such a statement as part of its official record? If Saville removes the slur that Widgery placed on the dead then that will be welcome and long overdue.

  • madraj55

    BG I seem to recall seeing Trimble’s response to Blair’s statement setting up the SI in ’98. The reaction to this was cries of ‘Shame’ came from all sides of the house. What chance of the DUP learing anything from that? Very little i suspect. They’ve already stated they will reject Saville before it even comes out.

  • madraj55

    I don’t think manslaughter should necessarily be included as ‘unlawful’ if there is no malicious intent. The killers of those who died while retreating were clearly targeted in the back and not mistsken for someone else. The assurances allegedly given by Ford to the Paras that they needn’t worry about prosecution, must have had the assent of the MOD So Ford could not give any such guarantee.

  • madraj55

    Turgon. If as claimed in leaks, Saville singles out some of the killings as ‘unlawful’ it must mean the others are judgedby him as manslaughter, since the likely verdict is the victims were all innocent, all 14 were unlawfully killed, it’s just that the process was left legally incomplete by the lack of a trial, so Saville will need to make clear what he recommends should happen to the soldiers he accuses of the unlawful cases.