One did not have to be a genius to realise that the release of the Saville Report into the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ – 12 years in the making at a cost of over £190 million – would trigger a wave of republican and pro-IRA revisionism. Indeed today, 30th January 1972 has become year zero in the republican version of the history of what was vicious civil conflict in Northern Ireland.
Listening to Northern Irish republicans and their fellow travellers in the media today as they take advantage of the findings for their own ends, the less well informed in our society could be forgiven for thinking that Bloody Sunday was the start of the ‘Troubles’. People could be excused for believing that the IRA spontaneously emerged in response to a deadly and unprovoked assault on civil rights marchers In Londonderry by members of the Parachute Regiment, that left 13 dead and over 20 wounded. People could be forgiven for thinking that if only the Parachute Regiment soldiers had not opened fire in the tense and intimidating atmosphere of the growing Bogside riot, the violence of the subsequent 26 years would not have happened. It’s enough to make one sick.
Of course this distortion of history and lack of context of the nature of things in Northern Ireland in 1972 suits the republicans. It enables them to feed off the ignorance of others, fuel their own sense of injustice despite their own actions, play down the atrocities committed by the IRA and its splinter groups and seek to create what Lisburn Councillor, Ronnie Crawford, recently described as a hierarchy of victims. It is gut wrenching stuff that seeks to capitalise on the deaths of innocent people. The fact is, despite the wrongs committed by the Paras, there was a riot in progress and armed IRA terrorists were present, stirring violence out of what was supposed to be a peaceful civil rights march.
Let’s put Bloody Sunday into greater context. Three days before that fateful Sunday two young RUC policemen, Peter Gilgunn and David Montgomery, had been ambushed and shot dead in their patrol car on the Creggan Road by the Londonderry IRA – an attack almost certainly sanctioned by Martin McGuinness. A day later in Belfast a young off duty RUC officer, Raymond Carroll, was shot dead at a petrol station by the IRA. On Bloody Sunday itself, a British soldier who had been shot in Londonderry’s Bogside four months earlier by an IRA sniper during a riot, Maj. Robin Alers-Hankey, died of his injuries.
It was in this environment that the Paras arrived on the Bogside to man barricades during a lawful civil rights march, but then came under attack by rioters. Saville tells us that the Paras opened fire on the crowd, an action that was unjustified and unjustifiable. If Saville’s findings reflect reality, and there is no reason to suppose otherwise, there is no defence for the actions of some of the Paras on that day and I say that as someone who has served in uniform. There is no excuse for any deliberate killing of an unarmed civilian, but it is not hard to understand how the killings took place in light of the murderous actions that took place in the days leading up to Bloody Sunday and the violence on the day itself.
Bloody Sunday was not the start of the Troubles. It is a mere bookmark in their history. From the start of the Troubles in 1969, no less than 226 civilians, terrorists, policemen and soldiers had died in shootings, bombings and by their own evil hand in the commission of terrorism before Bloody Sunday.
30th January 1972 is not year zero. IRA terrorists and enablers such as Bernadette Devlin McAliskey should not be allowed to get away with such a cynical misrepresentation in their efforts to rewrite history to castigate the security forces, while airbrushing their own sickening catalogue of terror from the annals. It is beneath contempt for someone like her to call for Britain to be put in the dock for a handful of soldiers losing control on one terrifying afternoon, while acting as if her friends who waged a brutal reign of terrorism, racketeering and criminality resulting in the deaths of thousands over the course of three more decades, are saintly innocents.
As many commentators have reminded us, thousands died in Northern Ireland and across the UK and Europe as a result of republican and loyalist terrorism and the fight against it. The families of other innocent victims will not enjoy 12 year inquiries funded by millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to give them closure or exhonerate their dead. The apologists for terror should not be allowed to hijack Saville for their own ends and construct a revisionist version of history, but sadly this inquiry has handed them the opportunity on a plate and it seems no one has the courage or the will to stop them. It is not just opportunistic, it is the ultimate insult.
It is also worth noting the media bias and lack of objectivity particularly prominent in the Guardian. There is no hint of impartiality when it comes to Northern Ireland in the Guardian’s editorial creed. The republicans are the object of sympathy, the security forces are portrayed as brutal oppressors. As for the unionist majority that wishes Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, they are an oddity treated with disdain. This explains Paul Owen’s live updates earlier today where he had an exchange with Guardian’s man on the spot in 1972. As he explained:
Simon Winchester, who reported on Bloody Sunday for the Guardian in 1972 and has returned to write about the report today, has just been speaking to me on the phone from outside the Guildhall in Derry.
For the clearest example of the Guardian’s bias and lack of context, consider one of the questions Owen poses to Winchester at 3.01pm about the scenes in Londonderry today as the crowds gathered to hear the outome of the Saville inquiry:
The question is something of an insult to unionists. Anyone journalist worth his salt would know and faithfully report that these days there are not many protestants to be found in Londonderry – population over 85,000. An estimated 97% of Protestants have fled Londonderry during and since the Troubles, leaving only around 500 in the city, mainly in the Fountain area. Given that thousands of unionists have fled their homes in the city after suffering murders, beatings and sectarian intimidation at the hands of republican thugs, to ask if they are visible during a mass republican march to the Guildhall is either extreme idiocy or plain spiteful.