Political Promise

‘Unjustified’ and ‘Unjustifiable’

In Conor Campbell on June 19, 2010 at 8:41 am

By Conor Campbell

After a week in which two British spills had sent Americans into two very different moods, we witness one of the most historic moments in the history of Northern Ireland. On Tuesday the Prime Minister David Cameron announced the findings of the Saville report to the House of Commons and the rest of the world. Thus, on the 15th of June 2010, 38 years after this particular Bloody Sunday, David Cameron, a Conservative Prime Minister, apologised to the people of Derry and the Nationalist community for the unlawful killings of its people and the ‘unjustifiable’ actions of certain members of the armed forces.

The Saville investigation took 12 years to complete since Tony Blair first outlined his plans. It cost £191 million to complete; around half of that figure went towards lawyers. With the cost as high as it was, there was always bound to be individuals who would criticize the investigation, and claim the money would be best spent elsewhere, or enquire as to why one particular incident deserved special treatment. Throughout the troubles there were casualties on all sides, nationalist, unionist and the armed forces. Republicans were responsible for the Ormagh bombing and the horrific scenes caught on camera during March 1988 when Republicans dragged two plain clothes SAS soldiers from a car, beat them and then eventually shot them. These events removed any trace of moral high ground that they may have wished to cling on to.

You may ask, why was it decided to investigate this particular incident? Why was so much time and money invested?  Members of the Unionist community, such as the Democratic Unionist Parties Gregory Campbell, MP for East Derry, have attacked the cost and questioned if there is now a hierarchy of victims? He reminds us all of the attacks upon Unionist communities by Republicans which have yet to be properly investigated.  Mr Campbell may have some grievances, but the events of Bloody Sunday, 1972,  were not one terrorist group attacking members of another or a terrorist group attacking innocent members of the public. It was the members of the armed services opening fire upon a public for whom it was trained and deployed to protect. If the armed forces of the land are unable to rise above the lawlessness of the terrorist groups which are trying to bring the state down, then the whole system falls apart. There is no longer a measuring stick for which we can use to bring law and order to the country and rule with fairness. We are unable to preach what we practise and we regress to a situation were the country is governed under the same logic as Henry VIII when he said ‘do as I say, not as I do’

Most of my knowledge of the troubles in Northern Ireland is secondary, based on stories from family members and friends or collected from books, newspapers and journals. I lived in Northern Ireland until I was 5and I was very unaware of the world around me and when I moved back there from England in 2003 it was a far more peaceful place then the N Ireland of the 70’s. The evidence that I have gathered for my studies has clearly shown over the years that the armed forces, the British government and the Unionist community which held the power in Northern Ireland had an unofficial official policy of discrimination for many years against the Nationalist community. The relatives of those who were innocently shot down in Derry that tragic day were left with the stigma that their family members were terrorists. This report firstly removes that stigma completely from them and secondly, it is another positive step in ridding the country of any lingering tensions between the Nationalist community and the British Government.

The nationalist community is not trying to tarnish the reputation of the armed forces, and although it may share some beliefs with Republicans, it differs greatly on how to achieve these aims. The majority of Catholics in Northern Ireland may see themselves as Irish and look towards a United Ireland one day; nonetheless most of them believe the best way is through the ballet box, not the Armalite rifle. This investigation was less about criticizing the British army and more about clearing the name of the victims. It is to be hoped that in time both communities can celebrate this as a victory for justice rather than a victory for just the Nationalist community, and in turn lead to the two societies slowly amalgamating into one.

As for supporting England in the World Cup that is a different matter. However Wayne Rooney is actually Irish.

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