I was among those in Guildhall Square in Derry yesterday afternoon and it was indeed a joyous occasion – the very sunshine seemed to join in the happy mood. First we watched David Cameron on the big screen, saying he was ‘sorry’ for what had happened and that the actions of the Parachute regiment were ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’. Then we watched the relatives of the victims’ families, grinning with relief, tearing up the disgraced Widgery report and declaring ‘We have overcome!’ And yet I found a number of questions niggling at my contentment. They just won’t go away so here they are. Maybe you can answer them – I can’t.
- Why do people keep talking about justice having finally been done? Fourteen innocent people were shot dead, thirty-eight years later, the British government admits they were innocent, and this is hailed as justice?
- The British government and army representatives are firm on the need NOT to prosecute the soldiers who killed the fourteen people. Yet such prosecution would be the only possible route to justice. Truth is one thing, justice something quite different.
- We’re told that one important reason why prosecutions should not be proceeded with is that this would demoralise British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Something wrong there, surely. To pursue justice would make life difficult for those who might have in mind doing the same kind of thing elsewhere in the world? Oh dear.
- Everybody in Derry, everybody in Ireland knew the truth of Bloody Sunday for the last thirty-eight years. Why then are so many of them excited that the British government, having tried every conceivable alternative, including a whitewash report in the 1970s, has finally admitted that truth? And does anyone think that Owen Paterson and David Cameron are genuinely ‘shocked’ by the findings and now feel genuinely remorseful? Did they believe the Paras were innocent until now?
- Given Saville’s findings, when (if ever) will someone ask Prince Charles what he thinks? He is, after all, Colonel-in-Chief of that regiment.
- On my way home, outside Dungiven, I noticed a grassy bank covered in little wooden posts and signs – like ‘Keep Off The Grass’ signs. I couldn’t read what each said but in front of them – and there must have been well over a hundred – a bigger sign said ‘Murdered by the British Army’. Unionists like Gregory Campbell speak of the many other forgotten victims. What are the chances he’d include these in his victims list?
- If the majority of Irish people are nationalists – that is, they want a united Ireland – is it not odd that no one has suggested the British army, including the Parachute regiment, shouldn’t have been in Ireland, let alone shooting Irish people?