Category: Archive

Editorial Bloody Sunday can of worms

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972 has delivered the death blow to any pretense that what happened that day in Derry was anything other than the cold-blooded slaughter of innocent people. Innocent, that is, of the allegations that spewed forth from the British press and the British-dominated press here in the U.S. — that the 14 dead were wanted terrorists against whom the parachute regiment had fired only in self defense. The facts that are emanating from the inquiry show that the 14 demonstrators shot dead were guilty of only one thing — attending an illegal march. For that they suffered the death penalty.

Last week, the Saville Inquiry threw out the original forensic evidence proffered in support of the allegations linking the 14 to terrorist acts, calling it "worthless." At the same time, veteran Derry civil rights activist and journalist Eamon McCann has revealed documents showing that within a short time of the shootings, the British government was being advised by its highest legal authority, the attorney general, that it had little hope of success in defending itself in court against claims for damages put in by the relatives of the dead. In other words, it had no case against those it had traduced one year before as terrorists and gunmen. As a result, all the claims were settled out of court.

The Bloody Sunday killings were part of a pattern of illegality that marked British policy in the North in the years 1970-1972. They included an illegal curfew and illegal methods of "in-depth" interrogation learned from the Soviet KGB.

It has taken more than 20 long years for the truth to come out. But the whole truth has not yet emerged. Revelations of official culpability will only be meaningful if someone is held responsible for giving the go ahead to these illegal acts. It will not be enough to pass the buck to ordinary soldiers or policemen. They only did what they did because higher, political authorities had cleared the way for them to do it. It is as if a crime has been committed but there is no criminal.

Some of those in power at the time are still alive. Lord Carrington, who was then secretary of state for Defense, and Edward Heath, who was then prime minister, oversaw these events. Carrington, in particular, was directly involved in the decision that led to the application of brutal methods of interrogation in August 1971 and the use of lethal force on Jan. 30 the following year. Yet both Carrington and Heath remain untouched by revelations that in any other democratic society would lead to calls for criminal proceedings against them.

If the new inquiry is to be worthwhile, they should be made to answer at the court of justice.

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