Domhnach na Fola – 38 Years of Hurt……
June 16, 2010

The events of Sunday January 3oth 1972 should and will forever be remembered.   

I was still at school, studying ‘A’ levels, and living at home with my parents. I don’t actually recall, but it was probably a typical Sunday for us, reading the papers, enjoying a roast lunch and settling down in front of the TV to watch edited highlights of one of the previous day’s big games  on ‘Star Soccer’.   

Meanwhile over the Irish Sea, in Derry, the tragic events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ were unfolding. 26  unarmed and innocent civilians were gunned down by British Paratroopers, confronting an unlawful but peaceful demonstration with a hail of gunfire.

The families and friends of the victims, indeed the whole community of Northern Ireland’s second city have lived with the painful consequences of these murderous actions for 38 years.  

The initial enquiry, from Lord Chief Justice Widgery 11 weeks after the event and proclaimed as the ‘official truth’, has now been shown to be anything but. In many ways the publication of this report, which whitewashed the actions of the British troops and in effect denied what local people and the media had seen with their own eyes, was almost certainly responsible for intensifying and prolonging the Troubles in Ireland.    

Twelve years ago, as a result of the Good Friday Agreement, then Prime Minister Tony Blair took the unprecedented step of setting up a second official enquiry, led by Lord Saville,  which was finally and momentously published yesterday.

It couldn’t have been more categorical and unambiguous in its findings, clearing all 26 victims (14 killed) of any actions that might have provoked the massacre and laying the blame firmly with the paratroopers.   

The report, 10 volumes and 5000 words long, took an amazing 12 years and £192,000,000 to produce, which begs belief when one considers the Nuremberg Trials at the end of the Second World War only lasted a year!

However, whilst there should be future questions about where that money went and whether lawyers have been profiteering at the tax payers’  expense,  sometimes the truth costs and it is far better that the people of Derry can have their ‘closure’ after all these years and  that the British Government can be seen to have acted honestly and honourably.

It was a humbling and emotional experience, listening to  David Cameron announce the Saville Report findings to the Commons, while simultaneously watching the reactions of the people in Derry. It seemed almost surreal that Cameron was apologising on behalf of the nation for something that had happened when he was only five years old!

Many of the innocent Bloody Sunday victims were my age. 1972 seems a lifetime ago , and when I consider what I have experienced and achieved in the intervening years it really brings home to me the full tragedy of the event. It is preposterous that it has taken this long for the truth to become officially recognised, but far better late than never.  

However this might not be the end. After all these years, will ‘closure’ be enough for the families and friends of the dead Bloody Sunday victims or will charges be brought against those who unlawfully killed them.