“Is it not the primary duty of states, for all their imperfections, to provide external protection and internal security for their citizens?”

A good attempt by the Guardian’s Michael White to look beyond the publication of the Saville Inquiry report and to ask, with some historical context, what happens next

So Bloody Sunday needs to be placed in context, hard though it must be for those whose lives were utterly changed by it and have found it impossible to move on without first obtaining redress.

Should prosecutions be launched 30 years after the event? If viable evidence can be mustered from the millions of words of long-ago recollection, that is the logic of Blair’s mandate to Saville and the report’s conclusion. There is no immunity under Saville rules for anyone committing perjury.

But prosecution will surely only trigger tit-for-tat demands for justice against known republican killers on the grounds that – as McDonald reports – some of the Troubles dead seem to be “more equal than others”.

We will have to talk it through in the weeks and months ahead, give it a final airing. But I suspect the wise answer may be to let it go after that, once we know – at £191m let’s hope we do – what actually happened and why.

Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, BBC NI political editor, Mark Devenport, reminds us that what Saville has to say about “what actually happened” will not be restricted to the actions of the paratroopers on that day

On Tuesday the Deputy First Minister will have to concentrate entirely on Bloody Sunday. There will be considerable interest not only in what the 5500 page report says about the activities of the Paras, and whether any soldiers might face prosecution, but also how it deals with the allegations surrounding Martin McGuinness himself.

According to the Inquiry Counsel the Tribunal will have to decide:
“a. whether there is a period of about 20 minutes for which Mr McGuinness cannot account; and, if so
b. whether this is innocently explained by Mr McGuinness’ inability, after more than 30 years, to provide a precise account of his movements; or
c. whether Mr McGuinness was in fact involved in paramilitary activity during that time.
The Tribunal will also wish to consider whether Mr McGuinness was involved in any attack on the security forces at any time during the day, other than the shooting towards the Walls at 5.30 – 6pm which he admits having ordered.”

The day after the Inquiry publishes its report Mr McGuinness is due to travel to Liverpool, where the team behind the Derry-Londonderry City of Culture bid for 2013 are due to make their final bid to the judging team. Perhaps the First Minister will go too, or perhaps that will depend on what the Saville report says.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    Ah come on now Pete, you can do better than sixty words. Anyone can copy and paste. Your article gets a big F for fail.

  • I found that White piece dreadful. Not so much for the attempts to contextualise it historically and internationally in principle (although events during a full-scale civil war versus a march in times that were much less than that make one wonder how apt the comparisons are), but for his comments about the situation in the north, in which he seems to equate the marchers with the provisionals. Don’t think much more of the section quoted from Davenport.

  • joeCanuck

    Yep, Martin McGuinness is responsible for Bloody Sunday. I knew he’d get caught for something eventually but this is a tad surprising.

  • Pete Baker

    Wise up, Joe. That’s not what Mark Devenport is, nor am I, saying.

  • Pete Baker


    “in which he seems to equate the marchers with the provisionals”

    He does nothing of the sort.

    I think you need to re-read Michael White’s article.

    Devenport’s primarily quoting from the Inquiry Counsel to the Saville Tribunal.

  • Alias

    “But prosecution will surely only trigger tit-for-tat demands for justice against known republican killers…”

    I hope it does. Folks will inevitably ask “Why should Paras be prosecuted for murder when the members of the murder gangs are not?” Arguing that if immunity is granted to one group then it should also be granted indiscriminately to all groups might have a ring of fairness about it but it is a profoundly morally depraved nonetheless. Nobody should be granted immunity for the crime of murder – no matter how useful they are to the State that protects them.

  • I appreciate Davenport is primarily quoting, but he is following the wrong agenda in the focus on the deputy first minister,

    As for White.

    “It has defended itself as the British government did after Bloody Sunday, buttressed by the conviction that they both acted to defend law and order – as perceived by the majority – against the forces of disorder, subversion and worse. Read a book like Kevin Toolis’s Rebel Hearts if you want an unsentimental view of the Provos.”

    What has a view of the Provos, sentimental or otherwise, got to do with the Paras shooting innocent civilians on Bloody Sunday? That is what I meant. And I stand by it.

  • Cynic

    Why stop at Saville? Who ordered Claudy? La Mon? Jean McConville? Who killed 5 of the Hunger Strikers by keeping details of an aceptable deal from them?

    I believe in the rule of law. Those who committed crime should be investigated tried and punished ….. all of them.

  • Cynic

    Why stop at Saville? Who ordered Claudy? La Mon? Jean McConville? Who killed 5 of the Hunger Strikers by keeping details of an aceptable deal from them?

    I believe in the rule of law. Those who committed crime should be investigated tried and punished ….. all of them.

  • Alias

    There won’t be any prosecutions of the soldiers, and I think we both know that. Apart from the outrage it would provoke to contrast sectarian murder gang members being rewarded with public office, old soldiers being put on trial would have the ring of a war crimes tribunal about it and no state will taint itself with that image…

  • Pete Baker


    You are seriously mis-reading what Michael White is saying.

    The activities of the Provos, and the murder of UK troops in that year, provide a context for the reaction “against the forces of disorder, subversion and worse.”

    You don’t have to agree with that reaction to recognise it for what it is.

    Note that one of the historical comparisons offered is the Peterloo Massacre.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The significance of Bloody Sunday for most Republicans and Nationalists is that it confirmed their belief that Britain did not have the moral authority to govern Northern Ireland, something the GFA has at least partly put right.

    When Cameron stands up in the house of commons to no doubt prefix his remarks by telling everyone that British troops are the best in the world he will be adding insult to injury. Of course he might suprise everybody and declare the posthumously the disgraceful actions of the the then Tory prime minister and Lord Widgery in perverting the course of justice – but I somehow doubt it – though the evidence is clear.

    Heath :”It has to be remembered that we are in Northern Ireland fighting not only a military war but a propaganda war”.

    Another memo from the secretary to the Widgery inquiry promised that the chairman would “pile up the case against the deceased”.

  • Pete,

    I am certainly disagreeing with your interpretation of what White says. Whether that means I am seriously misreading it is a matter of opinion. As for the Peterloo comparison. I don’t see him referring to any need to remember how dangerous early C19th social reformers were in the context of the massacres.

  • Dixie3057

    Methinks Garibaldy reads what he wants to read out of it.

  • Why stop at Saville? Who ordered Claudy? La Mon? Jean McConville? Who killed 5 of the Hunger Strikers by keeping details of an aceptable deal from them?

    I believe in the rule of law. Those who committed crime should be investigated tried and punished ….. all of them. …. Cynic says: 11 June 2010 at 11:14 pm

    The rule of law is hardly ever justice in political field, Cynic, it is just a lucrative business for smart wise asses, milking and bilking the ignorants in the system, pitting the psychologically flawed and psychopathic against each other whilst granting oneself immunity and impunity as a return and reward for the mask that is freedom in democracy.

    If you can’t investigate and try all of them …… move on and forget the crazy past, [if you have both the balls and the brains for that common sense move, which is probably presuming far too much of the primitive male] and provide some real novel leadership into the Future.

    You know it makes sense … although history is forever presenting the present with nonsense to follow and prosecute as a wisdom for fools.

    So what does Stormont say? Is there a leader in that mad house, or is it just a motley collection of delusional patients in need of professional help and guidance?

  • anon

    The state != the IRA

    The IRA has no duty to reveal information about anything. The state does.

    Unless everyone is happy for the state to kill with impunity? Who’s next?

  • Elliot Mitcham

    Ah yes, the old ‘state has a higher obligation’ spiel.

    No it doesn’t, not as far as murder is concerned.

    As for the IRA it not only has an obligation to fess up, as we all do, even if we won’t, it also has an obligation to not exist.

  • Peter Fyfe

    I am suprised you have no problem equating a paratrooper with an IRA volunteer.

  • anon

    No, the state really does have higher obligations; the IRA isn ‘t in theory required to “provide internal security for its citizens”.

    By all means investigate the IRA. IT’s highly unlikely at this point you’d get anything good enough for court. But that doesn’t excuse the state.

  • Peter Fyfe

    Whyte may be implying that the actions of the provisionals earlier in the year impacted on the thinking of the paratroopers that day. Does a soldiers flawed thinking mean murder is ok?

    The fact he goes out of his way to make Bloody Sunday seem insignificant in respect to other atrocities before trying to link the victims with the IRA, if not in reality but in the minds of the soldiers, makes it a quite distasteful read.

    Without arguing over the interpretation of his links and what he means by them how did Bloody Sunday serve to defend law and order against the forces of disorder? Surely history would suggest it only served the disorder already existing at the time? The biggest conundrum I am faced with when reading this paragraph is how to you uphold the forces of law and order by killing innocent people? Are you not breaking the law by this act? Who was this internal ‘security’ in aid of if not those British citizens marching that day?

    The fact half this thread is devoted to what M McG did for half an hour can not help but make you laugh after the initial whitewash in Mr Whyte’s article. Surely if he has done something wrong he was just providing internal security for the people of Derry and the Marchers. Who would we be to question a man that so clearly was on that fine line between being a good soldier and a mad man?

  • Elliot Mitcham

    You are twisting my words, I said ‘not as far as murder is concerned’. The obligation not to murder is incumbent on everyone.

    I also fail to see how what I said can be construed as an attempt to justify state violence agaisnt unarmed protestors.

  • Anon

    No, I’m not. The state has a higher responsibility, period. Everyone has the same resoponsibility towards murder in a moral sense. But in a practical sense, armed groups are less worried about it and are not, in general, accountable to the people they’ve shot. The satte is supposed to have a monopoly of force. If it starts abusing that, it’s a fuckload more worrying than any number of small groups with guns.

    You seek to defend the state;’s actions by starting to talk about the IRA. I’d prefer you stuck to the point.

  • Elliot Mitcham

    I started no talk about the IRA, I simply refuted a point you made, about the IRA.

    I defend no-one, it is you who say that someone should be held to a lesser acount simply because of the fact that they don’t care and aren’t civil servants.

  • Brian/Biff1 .

    Justice ,and democracy are the obvious losers.
    Those who resort to hiding behind whataboutery have nothing whatsoever to offer to a balanced debate about State sponsored murder .

    A case of Lie down with dogs ,and arise scratching at fleas .Methinks .

    Brian / Biff1 .

  • anon

    Yup. The state claims a monopoly of force, and there is no right to bear arms here. It therefore is held to a higher standard. If you want to invert that, then go ahead. It remains true.

    And the army are not “civil servants” and are not treated as such.

  • Elliot Mitcham

    Right, no hair splitting and hiding behind social contract, tell me how this ‘higher standard’ justifies murder.

  • Anon

    When did I say that? I simply said that when the state kills, it’s a bigger problem than when extra state actors kill.

  • Elliot Mitcham

    Whether killing is more or less of a problem depends entirely on motive and results, desired or actual.

    One set of killings known to the perpatrators as a cock up before the day they occured was out is, in my view, a lesser problem than a set of killings carried out as part of a concerted campaign of violence in order to overthrow the democratically constituted state.

    That said; murder is murder and regardless of who did it and all measures as may be required should be employed to bring the perpatrator(s) to justice.