Roy Greenslade is both a supporter of Sinn Fein and writing in the Guardian, a fair minded and expert critic of his old profession. I mention this to anticipate an irrelevant smear. On the reporting of the Ballymurphy inquest, he’s absolutely right. A story that matches in horror the Birmingham pub bombs or the abuses in cause celebres such as Hillsborough or the murder of Stephen Lawrence is largely ignored because the initials “IRA” are involved. The old reflex is back at work ; they fear IRA propaganda. You think they would have learned something from the long saga of Bloody Sunday.
The gruesome “skull as an ashtray” claim, whether truth or fantasy, would normally be sensationally newsworthy but it’s the unfolding substantive account that really matters. Not even the evidence of General Sir Geoffrey Howlett that “most of not all of those killed by the Army were not IRA,” got a line in the nationals as far as I can see.
TV News did a little better but without making the connection between the inquest and the army limited amnesty campaign. A former paratroop CO took issue with Penny Mordaunt’s wish – so far frustrated – to include NI service in the proposed 10 year time limit on pursuing cases.
From Greenslade’s piece
For the inquest into the deaths of 10 people shot by British paratroopers in 1971, later known as the “Ballymurphy massacre”, has been under-reported by London-based mainstream media since it began more than five months ago.
But the failure of newspapers and news broadcasters to report on what was said by two former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland at the time of the deaths, was a breathtaking omission
Contrast this failure to report with the space given to politicians, such as Tory MPs Penny Mordaunt and Johnny Mercer, and former army chiefs, such as Lord Dannatt and Sir Mike Jackson, when protesting against the historical prosecution of British servicemen. Their views were headlined while the Ballymurphy inquest evidence has been all but buried.
In fairness, as with all long-running inquiries, it is expensive to staff the press bench day after day. However, the Press Association has been providing a service, enabling editors to receive copy on a regular basis, and BBC online has reported all the key evidence.
The Irish News has carried almost 70 pages about the inquest and its editor, Noel Doran, argues that “significant new information has emerged over the course of the inquest.” He says: “Senior officers have spoken for the first time about the incidents, and they’ve been cross-examined, too. New facts have come to light.”
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