The recent decision by the Saville Tribunal to further delay the publication of its final report into the state murders on Bloody Sunday is nothing short of a shambles, despite of almost £200m legal costs since it got underway back in 1998, the report which had been planned to be released earlier this year is now thought to be published later next year.
For the relatives of those both murdered and injured, just like the wider populous in Derry if not Ireland, it is of course disappointing however there is an overall sense that, we have waited this long now that we can wait a little longer. The tribunal itself has sat for over 433 days in Derry and in London, hearing evidence from both soldiers and eye witnesses. (1)
It has been said that more than 920 witnesses were heard including the British Prime Minister back in 1972, Sir Edward Heath, police, IRA members and priests. The inquiry team interviewed and received written statements from about 2,500 Bloody Sunday marchers, witnesses and members of the 'security forces'. (2)
Of course there is a body of opinion that it is better to have the inquiry done properly than for those involved to make a complete hash of it. But leaving aside the crystal ball and without having to preempt an outcome, just what will be an acceptable outcome for the relatives and for the state itself?
That those involved in actually pulling the trigger to cut down innocent civilians on our streets be found guilty or that those who unleashed and directed such vermin on peaceful demonstrators be held to account?
The legal costs has been something incredible of course and unparallel to what has gone before it but what price can be put upon a life of your father, brother or uncle and the death of a city. Even after the recent report by the Eames/Bradley Consultative Group on the Past, who issued its insulting offer of £12,000 to ‘buy the silence’ of those families of all those killed during the ‘troubles’. John Kelly, whose brother was killed alongside 12 other civilians on Bloody Sunday, clearly stated that ”What they’re doing here - and I suspect this was instigated by the British Government - is making a one off payment to keep people quiet.
“As far as I’m concerned, they can stick their twelve grand up their arse!” and we could agree more. (3)
Following the Widgery Tribunal it is clear cut as to what the outcome would be. The British establishment later went on to honour and even decorate those involved from the highest to the lowest of ranks. Many of whom went on to have highly successful ‘careers’ in the imperialist forces as seen more recently with the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been noted that both countries have since suffered a similar fate, many times over, to that of Bloody Sunday in Derry.
Even though Saville himself has said he and his colleagues are determined to deal fairly, accurately and thoroughly with the issues before them, can we never achieve justice from such highly aggressive occupying force who even after creating countless Bloody Sundays, and even after conceding that there was no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq there wasn’t even an apology made to the suffering Iraqi civilians or to the general public who opposed to this war claiming its true agenda was for regime control and oil. No inquiry there for the countless innocent lives taken and which continues indiscriminately every day.
The former leader of the Official IRA in Derry on Bloody Sunday Johnny White, and founder of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, who was unable to give evidence to the Saville Inquiry for medical reasons, spoke through in an interview stating that Official IRA volunteers had acted in "good faith" when they took action by opening fire on British paratroopers in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday. (4)
He also stated that much of the cross-examination of IRA witnesses, both Official and Provisional, appeared to be "more an interrogation of republicans than an objective exercise in seeking the truth." (5)
From a republican socialist perspective, we, just like the people of Derry, continue to support and stand along side the relatives who have marched each and every year since that terrible day in their quest for justice. We will continue to do so no matter what the outcome of the Saville's final report will be.
So when we mark the anniversay of Bloody Sunday in Derry we have to remember the words of Johnny White when back in 2004, after evidence to the Saville hearings concluded, he rightly explained that none of the shots fired by the Officials on Bloody Sunday could be used as an explanation, much less justification, for any of the shots that killed and wounded unarmed civilians.
(1) Derry Journal
(2) Derry Journal
(3) Derry News
(4) Derry Journal
(5) Derry Journal