Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The truth about Bloody Sunday

As a child growing up in Dublin, I remember the atmosphere of horror and shock that followed the killings on Bloody Sunday. A national day of mourning was declared in the Republic, the IRA led a mob that burned down the British Embassy and the limited RTE television broadcasts reverted to a schedule normally only used on Good Friday in those days. Truth be told, it was one of only a few occasions when the 'Troubles' seemed to impinge on daily life down South: the other was the Dublin bombings. To many in the Republic, the six counties, far from being the missing part of the nation, seemed a remote and even unwelcome neighbour. Yet the North provided a daily backdrop of death to the seventies as the IRA became ever more vicious in their killing, only outdone by the gory awfulness of their loyalist counterparts. And Bloody Sunday was the prelude to that brutal decade that scarred so many in the North.

For those whose loved ones were killed on Bloody Sunday, the memories of that day have never gone away, even as the benefits of the Good Friday agreement are felt across Northern Ireland. Today's inquiry should finally give them the answers that they deserve, and which they were so cruelly denied in the Widgery whitewash. It is pretty damning stuff that fully vindicates the testimony of many eyewitnesses, including former Bishop Edward Daly. But it would be wholly wrong to conclude that there should then be prosecutions of the soldiers involved: in a Northern Ireland where once-brutal terrorists - including one said to have carried a machine-gun on Bloody Sunday - are respectable assembly members, and even ministers, there is nothing to be gained from trying to prosecute those soldiers who killed innocent people in Derry on that fateful day any more than there is merit in reprosecuting the many other horrors perpetrated in the bloody years that followed. David Cameron was absolutely right to deliver the apology he did in the Commons, as was Sir Mike Jackson - and it is unfortunate that this inquiry has taken so long to reach its conclusions - but Sinn Fein members who have been among the greatest beneficiaries of the post-peace amnesty should be the first to argue that having finally achieved the truth, it is in nobody's interests not to move on.

1 comment:

Paddy Canuck said...

Well-said, Conor. It was important for the truth to finally come out, but that said, it was a long time ago. Dragging Northern Ireland through finger-pointing trial upon trial can only divide a people only just learning to work together. I agree: move forward, move on.