Has Saville laid the ghosts of Bloody Sunday to rest?

Something about this day reminded me of the Victorian journalist, Charles Mackay who noted in 1841:

Men, it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

My own take on it is over at Comment is Free… In short, if it is to assert it’s legitimate authority over its people the democratic state must hold to a higher standard of truth than those trying to over throw it by military means… Even if it means that many thousands of relatives will be left to nurse their own grief in private…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Henry94

    The state didn’t feel the need to hold itself to a higher standard of anything. It was the hard work over many years of the families and their supporters that made it happen.

    The state did everything it could to bury the truth and in reality only agreed to the inquiry as part of a peace deal with those who were trying to overthrow them. So as long as the conflict continued it drew no such distinction between itself and its enemies.

    But despite that caveat it was a fine outcome in the end and a line drawn.

  • old school

    Who put up the big screen in Derry to coincide with Cameron’s speech?
    Whoever it was knew Cameron was about to make a landmark speech that included an apology.
    OItherwise it would not have been put up.
    One big P.R stunt for the Peace Process that sucked in the entire media, to give the impression that there has been a gulf placed between Britains past and it’s present.
    Well here’s one who hasn’t been fooled.
    40 years after Bloody sunday, internment is back in place, albeit without the cackhandness approach and more media savvy overseers.
    A guy was jailed this week for placing a tricolour on a friends coffin.
    Today was one big choreographed circus.
    “Damn your concessions, England. We want our Country back.”

  • slug

    I think that both the families, and the UK government should be given credit for what is a great day and a great event of uncovering the truth and facing up to a very difficult truth for many of us.

  • slug

    That is a pretty negative thought on a day of healing.

    This was an important statement from the PM and I for one welcome it. Its important to say sorry when you are wrong and its hard to do but important to do in an up front way.

    Its important that the terrible wound of bloody sunday be confronted rather then left and I for one am very glad that it has been.

    Its also important to place bloody sunday in the wider contect and remember all the victims, as one of the relatives so wisely pointed out today.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed Henry. That’s why it is important for citizens always to hold the state to account, whether it suits a narrow interest or not!

  • old school

    I knew Bloody sunday was wrong decades ago.
    I didn’t need Cameron to point it out to me.
    Sorry for the negativity, but the O.P did ask a question.
    No difference will be made to mindsets.
    Injustices are still taking place in the present tense despite the media love in today.

  • alan56

    We should never be against holding the state to account. It is one of the tennants of democracy that we have (protected by law) that right. This is beyond narrow sectarian interests. Democracy was the winner today.

  • Henry94

    In that sense Saville just told us what we already knew. But it told everybody else too. The alternative Bloody Sunday which many have clung to for all these years is gone. The secret funerals, the victims as terrorists. All those lies have been nailed.

    All that’s left is the unionist claiming Saville was a waste of money. Then again for many British people the union is a waste of money so they can’t get too far with that line.

  • “hold to a higher standard of truth”

    That’s a recipe for injustice, a licence to kill with impunity. All you need is a flag of impunity.

  • Have to concur with old school – was today a shock to anyone? Interesting choice of phrase, though. Many people who believe in ghosts claim that their appearance is associated with extremes of emotion.
    Btw – if you weren’t depressed by what is on some of the other threads, ffs don’t read my post below.
    One thing stood out apart from a pretty good performance by Cameron (given their separate histories, I somehow doubt a Labour leader could have carried it off in the same way). The thing that struck me was the coverage of the families’ speeches, which was much more moving than most of the choreographed red-flag days of the peace process. There was no subtle timing, no polished speeches with gentle inflections for the right ears to pick up. Nor spin doctors casting shapes across the stages. Just some middle-aged and older men and women who had lived in the shadow of Bloody Sunday, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, for the duration of pretty much all of the troubles and the peace process. I wondered what the Paras themselves thought if they watched it on TV. I’d say most are considerably different men to the boys they were on Bloody Sunday. They have also lived their adult lives in the shadow of what happened that day. I can’t say that doesn’t make some or all of them less culpable for what happened but it highlighted an dimension of this story that is still missing. We aren’t that far into a healing process if we still must accord anonymity to key actors in the dramas that absorbed so many people.
    Despite a lot of the positive noises about today and healing etc, it still took 195m and 38 years to get here. HMG can hardly be called a willing contributor to the inquiry since much of the cost arose from attempts to stop the inquiry getting to the truth. Even at its conclusion, the individual soldiers still are actual ghosts, simply nameless automatons of the state. Those who spoke today in the Guildhall Square are family members of victims killed by those agents of the state who used up 38 years and 195m to be told what they already knew. Maybe it offers them an opportunity for closure. But laying ghosts to rest? Not everyone believes in them, even fewer see them.

  • Oracle

    Has Saville laid the ghosts of Bloody Sunday to rest?

    Aye until the solicitors open it up again in search of compensation

  • slug

    I think its important to see this not in a zero-sum way. It is good to have truth come out whether you are unionist or nationalist and I as a unionist welcome thie day – very much. The unionists who spoke about the many others who seek truth and the context of many others who died do make valid points too.. We have to take a little distance and try to think about the whole picture for all of us.

  • slug

    Speaking as a unionist I can agree with so much of what you say – the families were indeed amazing and I am very happy for them today. It is just such a shame that today was needed, and that they had to suffer at all and that it took so long.

  • Mick Fealty


    Just to cut and paste from the CIF piece:

    “…the wider, possibly more important question is, what do we do about our bloody past, and its longstanding social consequences? The Spanish agreed to bury it in the pacto del olvido, or pact of forgetting, which is now – 35 years after Franco’s death (and that of many of the victims) – now beginning to break up.

    No such agreement exists in Northern Ireland. And even once (or even if) the state has discharged its final duties to its citizens, many thousands will be left to nurse their own grief in private.”

    Just to note there’s a fair amount of reproach (not to mention amateur psychology) being aimed at Gregory Campbell today for not playing along with the consensus on this issue.

    I would contend that there is another difficult issue to unpack here about what we are generally encouraged to remember and what we are proactively encouraged to forget.

  • “The state didn’t feel the need to hold itself to a higher standard of anything. It was the hard work over many years of the families and their supporters that made it happen.”

    I know that it’s very unfashionable to think that we live in a democracy, but this line takes that one a bit far Henry. Elements of ‘the state’ undoubtedly didn’t want the enquiry. But other elements of the state did – and got what they wanted. That was, ultimately, the General Will.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    How could Cameron and Patterson be ‘stunned’ at the report’s conclusions? Did they not read any eye witness accounts?

    ..and Patterson seems to have gone out of his way to defend Widgery – not sure if it is party loyalty at play because Heath set it up?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    “Just to note there’s a fair amount of reproach (not to mention amateur psychology) being aimed at Gregory Campbell today for not playing along with the consensus on this issue.”

    Unionists as usual are left isolated and bitter as the government to whom they give their allegiance is belatedly brought round to the Nationalist viewpoint.

    It is ridiculous for Unionists to complain that are no enquires into events which were investigated by the Police at the time and which the IRA claimed repsonsilbity – the reason that a second enquiry was needed into Bloody Sunday was because the state and the soldiers lied/perverted the course of justice at the first one.

  • Cynic

    “We want our Country back.”

    I am quite happy.I have my country and I live here.

    It’s not England’s …its mine and I want it to stay in the UK and my view has more votes than yours.

  • Mick Fealty

    So I write regarding a specifically referenced singular, and you reply in the pluralised general. I know it’s a pretty common solecism within the MSM, but don’t you see a problem there Sammy?

  • The Raven

    You of course mean some Unionists, Sammy.

    Don’t you?

  • But does the Spainish experience not suggest that memory suppression is either a placebo (which has now worn off), or merely displacement (the pacto del olvido only works if you exclude 23-F, Basque separatism, state sanctioned killings etc)?

    I haven’t completely resolved how I feel about Saville yet. In many respects the ‘conflict’ has shifted to less violent, but no less vicious arenas. I liked the ghost metaphor for various reasons, though – the mind conjures up shapes to fit the things we can’t see (and they are often those things that frighten people most). Can you forget what you had to imagine as easily as dismissing what you saw?
    The Dutch Protestant theologian Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft suggested that Albert Speer lived in “a twilight between knowing and not knowing.” In reality, as Sereny has shown, Speer knew exactly what was going on and knew not to look too closely. But Visser ‘t Hooft has perhaps identified the idealised space to do it in. I think we all need to ‘know’ but we also actually need to ‘not know’ (i.e. just forget) at the same time and realise that to do so we must live in the twilight. Hence my ambiguity about Saville. Everyone knew what happened.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick, The Raven,

    All unionist politicans that I have heard expressing an opinion have engaged in whataboutery/deflection – not just the boul Gregory.

    ps Gregory would love Pete’s thread on Marty.

  • Alias

    Folks are being misled to believe that the events of 18th April 1972 (the publication of the Widgery Report) are what required justice rather than the events that occured on the 30th January 1972. This prestidigitation by the State and its supporters in the media creates the bogus impression that justice has now been done when in actuality nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody has been held to account by the State for murder of 14 of its civilians and the attempted murder or 13 others. This is blatant denial of justice shows that the State has not advanced one iota, but rather shows that it has dragged its own citizens down to its level wherein none of them now demand the justice that the State is continuing to deny them.

  • The Raven

    Well as long as you’re qualifying, for example, the remark in the context of Gregory and the 12,000 that voted for him, and not all unionists, I’d say that’s alright then. Can’t argue with that.

  • Concubhar

    The most disappointing – but not unexpected – aspect of an historic day was Gregory Campbell’s attempt to rain on the parade of the families. It was as if he thought that those who were unjustifiably killed by the Paras deserved their fate. All they were doing was marching on the Queens Highway! Unarmed! Gregory’s attitude appears to be that Uk Citizens in NI have lesser rights and can be shot by the British Army without any accountability. How Un- unionist is that!

  • Mick Fealty

    ‘As if’, but not quite. Campbell made some effort to point to the immediate context of the activities of the IRA just prior to the events of that terrible Sunday as a factor in the minds of the soldiers themselves.

    In itself, it is a fair point, but the larger point is it is in no one’s interest to have soldiers of any army go nuts like this within a large civilian population. And it is in everyone’s interest to have the truth told clearly and cleanly.

    However given the Bloody Sunday families will be some of the very few as opposed the very many, to get that little compensation after thirty years of the wilful wrecking of human life.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Shame on you Oracle! Don’t you realise that is was only ever about truth and justice.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    there are other ‘contexts’ too like the fact that the British did not have any moral legitimacy to govern in the eyes of many nationalists and their army was totally unacceptable to the people of Derry in trying to prop up and enforce Stormont policies.

    Unionist anger at the report is at least party explained by the ‘context’ it gives to the republican insurgency and the fact that many in Britian and elsewhere will now understand why many in Ireland decided to join it.

  • Joehas

    I disagree. Without wanting to understate or whitewash suffering caused by the murder of loved ones, the greatest injustice of Bloody Sunday has been the legacy of Widgery. Many people have suffered the loss of loved ones during the troubles, not everyone had to suffer the lies of a state inquiry telling them that their loved ones deserved to die.
    Repudiation of Widgery will do more to provide ‘closure’ (horribly overused American term, but apt here I think) to the injustice caused by bloody Sunday, than the prosecution of individual soldiers.

  • Oracle


    The clue is in the word “solicitors”

    There’s no chance in hell that they’ll miss out on a freebie…. NO CHANCE

  • sammaguire

    Small children don’t tend to have much of an interest in the news & current affairs yet my memories of January 30th 1972 as a child in Dublin are remarkably vivid.
    I can remember the anger of my parents and how upset they were. I can even remember it was snowing that afternoon.
    Delighted for the people of Derry especially the families that the truth is finally out. Found it very emotional yesterday watching the TV footage of the relatives yesterday.

  • Mick Fealty


    Your first is a political point (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6UhXivPyw4)… And your second is the same solecism as above…

  • I think you mean that the there’s no chance in hell they would have done it as a freebie.

  • I think Gregory Campbell is acutely aware of the ‘context’ of all of this and his remarks were finely calculated to irritate, they are not meant to provide some sort of ‘balance’. Why not just call a spade a spade – he was suggesting there was some justifications for the killings. The comment was meant as a jibe to the families. Why pretend otherwise?

  • Oracle


    we (well I am) are talking about the future compensation claims yet to be lodged…. no chance in hell the solicitors will let the familys NOT CLAIM….. when you have a Golden Goose you just let the bugger keep on laying.

  • Greenflag

    ‘but the larger point is it is in no one’s interest to have soldiers of any army go nuts like this within a large civilian population. ‘

    No one’s interest ? Hardly .

    When faced with 60,000 to 80,000 unarmed and peaceful demonstrators demanding voting rights and reform at Peterloo in the North of England in 1819 the authorities sent in the sabre lancers and killed 15 including four women and there were another 400 to 700 casualties .

    In whose interest were those killings ? Obviously those of the ruling British establishment of the time who were terrified of radical republicanism as British people demanded ‘more ‘ democracy and an end to the rotten boroughs etc etc . A generation later a probable greater slaughter of civilians by the British State authorities was avoided by the Chartists calling off their monster meeting .

    ‘And it is in everyone’s interest to have the truth told clearly and cleanly.’

    And in a timely manner -preferably not 38 years after the event .

    But then we Irish have come to expect -too little and too late in relation to our larger neighbour’s policies in Ireland throughout the ages .

    Bloody Sunday and the Peterloo massacre were both instances of the British State killing it’s own unarmed citizens . In their own way they were both key turning points in the politics of both islands . In Northern Ireland ‘Bloody Sunday ‘ more than any other killing galvanised Irish Nationalist support against the British authorities and led to a huge upsurge in the conflict.

  • Greenflag

    Campbell would have excused the Peterloo massacre on the grounds that the people of Northern England had no right to vote and were only trouble makers -had he been alive in the early 19th century .

    I get the distinct impression that’s probably where he’s still living sic in the early 19th century 🙁

  • Kevin

    I think this is an absolute joke oracle even mentioning this, this time is to reflect on what the ‘state’ has done, murdering innocent people. They then wait over 38 years before revealing the truth, the people last thoughts is to claim but they have the right to do so if they wish… money well spent to undercover the truth