Bloody Sunday and the legitimacy of the Republican insurgency

Political reaction to Saville has been largely predictable, Unionists indulging in whataboutery and deflection, the ill-informed British public shocked by the appalling savagery of our boys and Nationalist Ireland, already well acquainted with the horrible facts, delighted that they have been officially admitted.

What was a little less predictable was David Cameron, standing up in parliament and sounding like he was reading a press release from Connolly House and the incredible scenes in Derry where the watching crowds cheered when a family member told the world that the parachute regiment was now disgraced and should be stripped of their medals and at the same time, cheering the allegedly-Unionist-friendly Tory Prime Minister.

What is also less predictable is the long term political implications of the report. What we can say for certain say is that Unionists and Nationalists will continue to disagree over the significance of Bloody Sunday and particularly the role it played in both explaining and or justifying the armed insurrection which raged for decades.

Perhaps the greatest fear Unionism has of the political fallout from the Saville Report, as witnessed by the embarrassing kneejerk reaction of most of their political leaders, is that the Republican narrative of why Ulster was torn apart by violence – will gain greater currency in Ireland, Britain and internationally.

This may be particularly so in Britain, given the level of ignorance regarding the events of Bloody Sunday (with even the SOS for Northern Ireland, Mr Patterson, incredibly claiming that both himself and Mr Cameron were surprised to learn of the nature of what took place) and it is therefore possible that many in Britain will take a different view of those, namely the IRA, who massively intensified their insurgency against the British presence after Bloody Sunday.

That British presence had long been resented by Nationalists, North and South, because of the injustice and gerrymandering of partition overlaying a bitter historical relationship – and the decision to deploy British troops to implement both the security policy of the sectarian Stormont regime and to try and impose manners on the indigenous population is now recognised by everybody bar (most) Unionists as a grave mistake.

Post Saville, where David Cameron sounds like Gerry Adams, the insurgency leaders are in government and Widgery’s reckless bordering on the criminal report has been consigned to the rubbish bin, the (mainstream) Unionist narrative that the IRA campaign was simply a criminal adventure will be increasingly difficult to maintain.

So how much longer can Unionists, who after all introduced the concept that Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right remain in denial as to the causes of  ‘the Troubles’ and simply ignore the unpalatable facts regading the coercion that they used to form the state and the violence (as horribly illustrated in Saville report) , sectarianism and the threat of civil war that were employed to maintain it?

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