Political Promise

“This song is not a rebel song…

In Matthew Wheavil on July 2, 2010 at 6:07 am

By Matt Wheavil

Remarkable Month for Northern Ireland in Stormont

This song is Sunday Bloody Sunday.” It has been over 25 years since Bono hollered this very statement in Colorado just before U2 were to launch into an impassioned version of one of their most enduring songs. This month, Bono may have been incapacitated and unable to attend Glastonbury due to a severe spinal injury, but the political motive of his band’s 1983 classic has not stood still in June 2010.

This month has been remarkable month for Northern Ireland. We’re not merely celebrating an anniversary (anything but considering this week marks 40 years in the political life of Gerry Adams). No, we’re celebrating historical justice.

38 years since Bloody Sunday, one of the most dreadful days in our province’s history and very much a major catalyst for the violent troubles that were to ensue for the next quarter-century.

That day – 30th January 1972 – saw 13 victims shot dead in Londonderry by British soldiers and it took until the 15th June 2010 for relatives of those lost to receive vindication in the Saville inquiry, which cost £12 million and concluded something everyone already knew:

The firing by soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment caused the deaths of 13 people and injured a similar number, “none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury… We found no instances where it appeared to us that soldiers either were or might have been justified in firing.”

This conclusion brought something Britain rarely sees from their Prime Minister, an apology, which was broadcast live in Londonderry city centre, where victim’s brothers, mothers, Aunts and Uncles were watching attentively.

David Cameron meant every word, he had to: “What happened was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong… The Government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces. And for that, on behalf of our Government, indeed on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry.”

Upon hearing these words, having spent 38 years not expecting to hear them, least of all from a Tory Prime Minister, the centre of Derry erupted with joy. A sense of release was in the atmosphere as a group of women sang ‘We shall overcome.’

And all this was because Lord Widgery’s 1972 report had been submerged in lies, including “There is no reason to suppose that the soldiers would have opened fire if they had not been fired upon first.”

Many of the soldiers interviewed by Saville even contradicted what they had previously said for Widgery, themselves clearly eager to overturn one of the British Government’s darkest cover-ups.

What’s worrying is the possibility that this could be one of many fixed reports in an attempt by the British Government to sweep unsavoury facts under the carpet. Saville may have taken 12 years and £12 million but at least he has come to a satisfying conclusion, unlike the rather ineffective Iraq Enquiry that took place earlier this year.

What would Orwell say? History was re-written by Widgery and painstakingly restored by Saville. Strangely enough, in a column for the New York Times two weeks ago, Bono put it nicely:

“If there are any lessons for the world from this piece of Irish history … for Baghdad … for Kandahar … it’s this: things are quick to change for the worse and slow to change for the better, but they can. They really can. It takes years of false starts, heartbreaks and backslides and, most tragically, more killings. But visionaries and risk-takers and, let’s just say it, heroes on all sides can bring us back to the point where change becomes not only possible again, but inevitable.”

Before concluding though, it must be mentioned that Bloody Sunday’s 13 unjustifiable deaths were only a fraction of those lost on both sides of the community during the troubles in Northern Ireland. Many relatives of innocent victims, in the name of both Unionist and Nationalist causes, will never receive the vindication provided for those in Derry this month.

As the U2 song states, “There’s many lost but tell me, who has won?”

Not that we should take away what June 2010 has meant for the community in Derry and Northern Ireland as a whole. Finally, a sense of closure.

  1. Bono used this for his own aims and never represented or canvassed for justice for the victims of Blood Sunday. A Showman, who made good money out of this.

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