UK Releases 'Bloody Sunday' Report 12 Years in the Making

Soldiers were found to have unlawfully killed civilians in Northern Ireland

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On Tuesday, the results of the long, $300 million investigation into the Bloody Sunday killings in Northern Ireland were published. The inquiry, led by Lord Saville of Newdigate, found that thirteen demonstrators--and a fourteenth, who later died of wounds--were unlawfully killed by British paratroopers on January 30, 1972. In short, Saville found that the shootings were neither provoked by the marchers nor, as had previously been alleged, provoked by shootings from armed nationalists. Saville also discounts the theory that the attacks were "premeditated."

Will this report finally provide closure? If the debate running up to its release is any indication, probably not.
  • 'Total Satisfaction' Impossible, argues Paul Bew in The Telegraph. "This is why [Lord Saville] has been so meticulous in his work in order to produce a massively detailed and complex report, almost as a protective shield against the inevitable criticism he will face." The pressing matter, he says, " lies in the ignored question: what exactly does nationalist Ireland want by way of atonement for Bloody Sunday?"
  • Inquiry Needed to Replace Older Coverup  "This has much to do with the evasions, condescension and shoddiness of the 1972 Widgery report, whose attempt to defuse the aftermath of the killings damaged the credibility of the British government in Ireland as much as the actions of the Paras did," writes Roy Foster at The Guardian. "Its sketchy and contradictory approach to evidence, and the heavily biased way it presented the victims, have since been forensically demonstrated; the idea of a cover-up at the time was amplified by the suppression of the Sunday Times Insight team's report."
  • Will the Soldiers Involved Be Prosecuted?  That's the "crunch issue," writes Deaglán de Bréadún in The Irish Times.
  • They Shouldn't Be  "How...would it serve the public interest to prosecute former soldiers or politicians so long after the event," asks Paul Bew, "not least when so many paramilitary killers were given early release from prison as part of the Good Friday Agreement?" The Spectator's David Blackburn is likewise against it, appalled that "the soldiers who beat both sets of paramilitaries to the negotiating table will be branded as criminals," and skeptical of the IRA's claims not to have provoked the violence. Pundit Iain Dale notes that the UK has "released hundreds of IRA terrorists, many guilty of the most appalling atrocities." Meanwhile, Jenny McCartney, in The Telegraph, points out that
In the course of his highly selective evidence to the Inquiry, Martin McGuinness admitted that the IRA had snipers in Derry capable of picking off British soldiers that day, though he says they did not fire. He also said he was second-in-command of the Derry IRA on Bloody Sunday, and officer commanding two weeks later. In that position, he regularly authorised cold-blooded murders: for example, when Noor Baz Khan, a 45-year-old caterer and father of five who served tea to the British Army, was shot dead by the Derry IRA in 1973, it would have been with McGuinness's approval. He is now deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, and a regular visitor to the White House. That is something worth remembering, as the world ponders the appropriate consequences for "unlawful killing" in the Derry of the 1970s.
  • I Was There--and No, They Shouldn't Be  General Sir Michael Rose, writing in The Daily Mail, is "absolutely certain" members of the IRA were firing first on the day of the killings. He finds it "ironic that the soldiers who brought peace to Northern Ireland are likely to be treated as criminals as a result of this inquiry, while former terrorists such as McGuinness and Adams--who did everything to prevent peace--are feted in their roles as ministers." He also worries about "the effect of the Saville Inquiry on the British soldiers fighting today in Afghanistan."
  • It's Called the Rule of Law: Yes, They Absolutely Should Be  Laurence White provides a rebuttal in The Belfast Telegraph.

There is no point in saying that the IRA or the UDA or any other terrorist organisation killed far more people and that atrocities such as happened at Omagh, Dublin, Droppin' Well, La Mon, Enniskillen etc etc were as bad or worse and why was there not an inquiry into them. Firstly every right thinking person accepts that those atrocities were vile and that anyone involved in causing those outrages should be brought to justice and jailed for a very, very long time. There is no need for inquiries into those events because everyone accepts that terrorists engage in terrorism... Bloody Sunday was completely different. Those who opened fire were legitimately in possession of weapons. They also had to follow rules. They were helping to impose law and order. And they were subject to the law.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.