I wonder who paid for the guns used by the man or men who shot dead over forty innocent Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand yesterday? And who paid for the bullet-proof vest he was said to be wearing? And for the camera attached to his helmet? Who taught him to shoot, who bought the car he drove to the mosques in, where did the money come from that put petrol in that car?
Further investigations will probably throw some light on these unknowns. But at the moment the answers aren’t there. This contrasts brutally with another group of people shot dead, not yesterday, but nearly fifty years ago on the streets of Derry.
Yesterday the frustration and disappointment of the Bloody Sunday families couldn’t have been more obvious. They had struggled through a sea of lies by British commanders in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. They had endured the scandalous whitewash of the Widgery Report, which blamed the innocents rather than the soldiers. They had pushed on, decade after decade, and felt consoled in 2010 when David Cameron spoke in the House of Commons, conceding that the deaths of their loved ones were the deaths of totally innocent people at the hands of British soldiers.
But yesterday they were told, apparently for legal reasons associated with testimony to the Savile Inquiry, that only one of the soldiers is to be prosecuted for killing their loved ones.
Derry and Christchurch have the common bond that innocent people were gunned down in broad daylight. The two occasions differ when we ask the questions posed in the opening paragraph.
Who paid for the guns used by the soldiers who shot dead fourteen innocent people in Derry in 1972? I did. You or your parents or grandparents did. Who paid for the uniforms they were wearing? I did. You did. Your parents or grandparents did. They didn’t have helmet cams back then, so no expense there. But we know that the British army trained the soldiers how shoot and I paid for that, you paid for that, your parents or grandparents paid for it. We paid for the army vehicles that brought them to the Bogside in 1972, we paid for the petrol put in those vehicle, we paid for the lot. We’re taxpayers. We paid so that these men could be trained to kill, and we paid when they used their lethal skills and paid-for weapons to kill our fellow-countrymen in broad daylight.
And now the families are told that, unfortunately, they’ll have to settle for an apology rather than a trial, the truth but no justice.
No wonder increasing numbers of nationalists, particularly middle-class nationalists, feel alienated from this state. In the immediate aftermath of Bloody Sunday, John Hume is quoted as saying “It’s a united Ireland now or nothing.” It’s getting harder to argue against that.