The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 18th June 2010
THE LONG-AWAITED report of the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday — 30th January 1972 in Derry in the occupied north of Ireland — were met with relief and joy by the survivors and bereaved families of the massacre, in which a total of 13 innocent people were shot dead (another died later of gunshot wounds) by British soldiers and a similar number injured.
At last the lies of the whitewash Widgery Report, in which the victims were portrayed gunmen and bomb-throwers, was totally disproved.
Prime Minister Cameron had no choice but to deliver an immediate and unequivocal apology to the people of Derry — an apology they have been waiting for and fighting for over 38 years.
The findings of the 12-year Saville Inquiry put the blame for the massacre squarely on the shoulders of officers present on the ground that day and rank and file soldiers who lost their heads and shot down peaceful protesters, who were doing nothing more threatening than trying to run away from the shooting or trying to rescue others.
Particular criticism was levelled at the unidentified soldier who shot one victim in the back as he lay injured on the ground.
At least one of the officers, Major General Ford, had decided before that day as a matter of policy that it was correct to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy in respect of a group of young freedom fighters dubbed by the army as the Derry Young Hooligans. But this policy was not meant to be applied on that day of the march when committed fighters would be indistinguishable from peace marchers.
The first shots were fired by British soldiers of a machine gun platoon that had been posted high in a derelict building where they said they felt under threat.
Members of the Official IRA responded immediately with a short burst of rifle fire that hit only a drainpipe.
No soldier was ever hurt in anyway throughout the day.
The main bout of shooting lasted only 10 minutes. It was sparked after an arrest platoon had gone through barriers to arrest “rioters”. The officer in charge of this group, Lieutenant Colonel Wilford disobeyed his own senior officers by sending a support group of paratroopers with the arrest platoon and this support group was responsible for most of the shootings.
As they chased frightened marchers through narrow streets a young officer, Lieutenant N, fired a warning shot over the heads of the confused melee; the sound echoed back and forth leaving some troops, so they claim, under the impression they were under fire and they started shooting.
Even so, the Saville report does not accept they had justification to shoot unarmed people who were running away.
The question now arises of whether the soldiers involved should face charges of murder.
The families of the victims do want to see them in court and owning up to what they did — but not jailed. But that is unlikely to happen, give that Cameron will now want to declare the whole embarrassing issue over and done with.
But there are more serious loose ends that should be addressed — the lying and the cover-up after the event and the cruel travesty of Widgery. There are some very high authorities that have a lot to answer for.
The Saville inquiry did report suggestions that Bloody Sunday may have been a part of a wider British Government policy to confront the IRA or “teach a lesson” to the civil rights activists of the occupied north of Ireland — but ducked the question. Answering that was way beyond the remit of even this long and expensive inquiry. There are some questions that may never be answered.
Sinn Fein is still calling for a full independent international inquiry.
On Tuesday, as the Saville report was published the people of Derry came out to retrace the steps of the marchers all those years ago — finishing in the Guild Hall Square — the planned destination that the 1972 marchers never reached.
All was sunshine, joy and relief on Tuesday, peaceful and joyful as the march was headed by survivors and families of those who died and was clapped by crowds standing along the side.
At one stage the march crashed through a paper barrier carrying the official title page of the scurrilous Widgery report. Everyone cheered as it disintegrated into shreds of waste paper.
And in the crowd outside the Guildhall one marcher was holding aloft a Palestinian flag — another oppressed community that has been waiting a long, long time for its day of justice — that will come.