David Blackburn

Lord Saville eviscerates the British army

Lord Saville eviscerates the British army
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David Cameron has just told the House of Commons: ‘There is no doubt, there is no equivalence. The events of the 20th January were in no way justified…You do not honour the British army by excusing the unjustifiable.’ He apologised for the atrocity and the Wigery report.

According to Lord Saville, there was no conspiracy or pre-meditation, but soldiers of Support Company 1 Para entered Bogside in Derry and opened fire without provocation from the victims or nationalist paramilitaries – though Martin McGuiness ‘was present, probably armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun’. Lord Saville concludes that the testimony of many soldiers was false. Cameron did not rule out independent criminal proceedings; arguing that there should be no equivalence between soldiers and terrorists.

Cameron said that a state should hold itself to account and he welcomed Lord Saville’s findings, before adding that Bloody Sunday did not represent the British army’s sole contribution in Northern Ireland, a point that Lord Savile also made. He concluded that the army’s campaign, and the death of more than 1,000 servicemen, was essential in securing peace in Northern Ireland.

As I wrote this morning, I contest that the facts of the tragedy can be established in full from this distance in time, and the politics of the peace process and the inquiry were always going to blacken the army. The Prime Minister was dignified, honest and statesmanlike; Harriet Harman and Paul Murphy followed his example. I hope and trust that the nationalist community respond in the same spirit of reconciliation; in this case, prosecution is a euphemism for vengence which will incite loyalists on both sides of the Irish Sea. Bloody Sunday should be consigned to history so that the Province can overcome its divisions for a peaceful future.