David Blackburn

A day that re-opens old wounds

A day that re-opens old wounds
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Building on a peace process of compromises, Tony Blair called the Bloody Sunday inquiry to placate nationalists in Northern Ireland. But I wonder if he ever intended its findings to be published? The Saville Report was only ever going to re-open old wounds.

With the greatest respect to Lord Saville, who is a distinguished lawyer, this report cannot dispense justice. Establishing the facts is impossible 30 years after the tragedy, and the punishment can only be collective. Yet the political dictates of peace mean that the British army must be blackened. The soldiers who beat both sets of paramilitaries to the negotiating table will be branded as criminals.

Whatever their impulse, British officers took a disastrous decision to disobey orders and open fire. Thereafter, the IRA heightened its already intensive terrorism and recruitment. That the IRA deliberately provoked violence against a peace march for its own gain is as plausible as the insistence that the British opened fire first.

General Sir Michael Rose, who witnessed the events, argues as much in the Mail; General Sir Mike Jackson, the second in command of 1 Para at the time, gave a similar appraisal in his memoir. Both are entitled to defend their soldiers, both acknowledge that their entreaties will antagonise nationalists and both are right that the Bloody Sunday Inquiry has revived a fading animosity.