Wednesday, 16 June 2010

That Bloody Sunday....

There's only one story today. Plenty of news (Obama/BP, unemployment, the recession and spending, etc.) but the only real story is the Saville Report into the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972.

Many years ago I worked beside a man who was in Derry on Bloody Sunday, a member of the Paras. He was never very explicit, but it was clear that he believed that things went seriously wrong on that day. He shared barracks and a command structure with the participants, he knew a lot of the facts on the ground, and hinted at some of the things he knew. I do not think that the findings of the Saville Report will have come as any surprise to him.

The report has taken 12 years to complete, it is comprehensive in its scope and its verdict is damning of the Parachute Regiment.....
...unjustifed and injustifiable actions, soldiers out of control, disregarding orders, disregarding rules of engagement, shooting of unarmed and unthreatening civilians, shooting in the back, shoooting while wounded on the ground, shooting while running away and then soldiers lying to cover it all up....
The report could not be more condemnatory, but I would question if any of it is a real surprise. The immediate investigation by Lord Widgery was discredited long ago, and I think that we all knew at some level that the findings in yesterday's report were the most likely outcome. Those who remember the actions of the Paras in other spheres - Aden, Cyprus and other remnants of Empire - had clues to the nature of the beast. Everywhere they have been they have left behind a reputation for thuggery and unjustified, sometimes even random, violence. There was (maybe still is) a cancer in the culture of the regiment that made it totally unsuitable for the "gendarmrie" style operations required in a civilian setting.

There is compehensive cover of the report in the press and TV, giving all the background, facts and analysis. But the one piece that cought my eye was a  vivid eye-witness piece by Simon Winchester in the Guardian. As a journalist covering the event he was caught up in the shootings and his memories are sharp and revealing of how it felt in that place and on that day. Recommended.

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