Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Bloody Sunday

On January 30 1972, 14 people on a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland, were gunned down by British Paratroopers. Yesterday, 38 years later, Prime Minister David Cameron apologised unreservedly for the shocking, unprovoked killings.

The Saville Report, released after 12 years at a cost of almost £200 million, finally confirms what the marchers always knew - that the shootings were gratuitous and arbitrary. None of the marchers had done anything to prompt the gunfire.

Relatives and friends were utterly traumatised by the events of that day, and their pain was worsened by the earlier Widgery Report that concluded the marchers had been firing weapons and had provoked answering shots from the soldiers.

For 38 years they have been campaigning for justice, for an official admission that the marchers were blameless when the confused and panic-stricken Paratroopers opened fire randomly at the crowds.

Why did it take so long for the government to admit the truth? Why couldn't they just own up to it straightaway and try to heal the wounds before they turned into such a bitter and deep-rooted sense of grievance? What was to be gained by lying and prevaricating for so many years?

Even now, even after this exhaustive inquiry, those responsible for the carnage are still making excuses, still claiming that those in charge at the time made perfectly sensible and understandable decisions and that the bloody consequences were just an unfortunate tragedy.

I was both astonished and relieved to see the Prime Minister taking the blame fairly and squarely and apologising sincerely for what happened. I can only applaud him for his directness.


  1. I don't know why it takes Governments so long to make an apology. Took ours years to finally say sorry for the atrocities we commmited against aborigines. Thank goodness it's been done. It won't bring them back but at least it's some comfort and closure for their families. I suspect fear of litigation by admitting guilt might have something to do with it.

  2. Somebody sent me a subliminal message to "picnic" today.

    So that's what I did. I picked you.

    I agree with Baino. Governments suck.

    So does false advertising and people who lie, but I have a feeling you already know that or you wouldn't have put up this post today.

  3. Baino - Perhaps people might be less inclined to take legal action if those responsible admitted guilt and apologised straightaway. Going to court is one way to get an admission of liability.

    Shelly - A subliminal message, what fun. I wouldn't say governments suck, they do a lot of good things, but in this case the government was disgracefully dishonest.

  4. The Prime Minister apologising sincerely yesterday brought relief and closure to so many, Pity not everyone was around to hear it. thirty eight years; what a waste of lives, time and money!

  5. I saw the televised footage this morning of the relatives talking about their loved ones. It brought tears to my eyes... they must be sooo relieved today. But what an horrendous amount of time to have to wait

  6. Grannymar - As you say, a pity some people were no longer alive to hear the apology and see so many false accounts discredited.

    Distracted - They were very relieved, and I think quite astonished that the Prime Minister was finally admitting the truth.

  7. Inner cynic says that they wait so long hoping both the perpetrators and the families of the victims die off and won't bother them anymore.
    I applaud the truth. I watch the documentary made about this awful crime a few years ago. Riveting. I recommend.
    How many thousands died because of the anger at the dishonesty of Bloody Sunday? The victim list is far greater than those of the actual day itself.

  8. www - Possibly, but I tend to think not wanting to admit utter incompetence and stupidity, especially on the part of the government, is also a strong motive for denying the truth.

    And you're right, Bloody Sunday triggered off thousands more unnecessary deaths because the collective sense of grievance was left to fester for so long.

  9. Sadly, I recall reading about this in the international news of the time. I was a girl then, and took the article to school for discussion...

    I still do not understand how governments, created to do good things, can muck them up in extremis...I'm wondering whether U2 song Sunday, Bloody Sunday, references these events...

  10. e - The U2 song is indeed about that Bloody Sunday. Apparently Bono was always nervous about singing the song, afraid it would become a rallying cry leading to more violence.

  11. I didn't understand it when I was a child, as I've grown up I've realised that this is governments do - they do something horrific and apologise 40 years down the line.

  12. Scarlet - They hope everyone will have forgotten about it by then, or won't care any more, but often the memory and the grievance just get stronger.

    Governments also cover up on the basis that by the time the truth comes out there'll be a different government to take the flak.