Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Consequences of the Saville Inquiry

I don't often step into the quagmire of Northern Ireland politics, but today's publication of the Saville Report will dominate the headlines. We don't yet know what it says, but all the speculation leads us to think that the soldiers involved in the shooting of thirteen republican protesters will be accused of unlawful killing.

There will be calls for them to be brought to justice, and understandably so. But what would that achieve? The only thing it would achieve is vengeance. The passage of time has rendered justice almost impossible to bring to those who were killed. The peace process has taught us that forgiveness is surely more important than vengeance. I am always in favour of justice, but it has to work both ways. We have released hundreds of IRA terrorists, many guilty of the most appalling atrocities and we have done it all in the name of the peace process and reconciliation. Should we, and the republican community, not view this in the same light?

And if not, should we not hold full inquiries into Lisburn, Omagh and Enniskillen? Should we not bring to justice those guilty of those atrocities?

I hope that the families of the thirteen who were killed will be satisfied with a verdict by the Saville Inquiry of 'unlawful killing'. And I would hope that republican politicians in Northern Ireland will see the sense of leaving it at that.

But I have my doubts.

The reaction of McGuinness and Adams - as well as loyalist politicians - today will tell us a lot about the real depth of reconciliation in Northern Ireland.


Mungojerry said...

The major culprit was whomsoever made the decision to ask the Paras to control the demonstration. The Paras are quite rightly trained as an aggressive quick response fighting force. They should never be put into a peace keeping role.

Ian Matthews said...

Perhaps what is needed is a quasi-judicial hearing for the soldiers, which establishes guilt but has no power of imprisonment. That would put the soldiers on the same level as those convicted of crimes during the troubles but now out of prison.

Mirtha Tidville said...

This has the potential to reignite all that was bad about NI politics..just when the dust had started to settle another Bliar hand granade explodes. It will test the maturity of the tolerance between sides that has started to show through in recent years.

Presecutions have to be out of the question though, and the Government needs to make that clear from the off. Firstly any alledged offences are now stale and evidence weaken by the passage of time.Secondly by prosecuting former soldiers, now old men, and not IRA terrorists who formed the other side of the coin would serve only to threaten the still sometimes fragile peace.

Such is the last thing Northern Ireland needs now.

Cameron needs to lay the PR aside and show real courage

Wan said...

Do you normally hold the British Army in so little respect that they should be given the same treatment as the IRA or the UVF or any of the the other members of the Alphbet soup of sectarian murder gangs?
Do you support the US position of giving the secuity contractors (Blackwater?) in Iraq immunity from prosecution for any crimes they commit?
Even if they were to be held to that pathetically low standard they would first need to spend a few years in jail first before being released early.
It should be remembered that the victims in this aren't the soldiers who might be prosecuted but the civil rights marchers who were killed and then in the Widgery report were described as terrorists (and by extension, deserved their fate).

Timothy Belmont said...

I know I am biased - as many of are one way or another - however I believe that the whole Enquiry has been a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money and that Tony Blair and others ought to pay for it.

Penfold said...

A futile exercise.

It has provided the IRA's apologists with credibilty and an excuse for further criticism of events and a chance of legal action.

Where is the unequivocal apology from the IRA, nowhere.

Timothy Howard said...

I don't normally comment on your blog, but I felt I had to!

Calling the protesters "republican" distracts readers from the fact that above all this was a civil rights march, not some quasi IRA activity.

While the recent history of Northern Ireland is littered with horrendous acts of barbarism on both sides, the events of Bloody Sunday are different from Enniskillen and other IRA atrocities, because Bloody Sunday saw British troops, agents of the State take part in a atrocity. We expect terrorist organisations to commit atrocities, we don't expect the United Kingdom to.

An inquiry into Bloody Sunday was justified (in future they should be not as lengthy or as costly) as unlike an inquiry into a terrorist act, hopefully the lessons learnt from Bloody Sunday can be that applied to future British engagements.

Unknown said...

"There will be calls for them to be brought to justice, and understandably so. But what would that achieve? The only thing it would achieve is vengeance. The passage of time has rendered justice almost impossible to bring to those who were killed."

How dare you? Vengeance? Prosecution will bring justice! Has the passing of time rendered justice impossible for the Nazi's who carried out war crimes? No. Has the passing of time rendered justice impossible for those affected by child abuse in the 60s, 70s an 80s? No. Murderers should be brought to justice no matter how long ago the crime is committed. If there were to be an inquiry into crimes against the MOD anywhere in the world you can be damn sure you and your colleagues would be calling for prosecutions. Your bias commentary makes your blog unreadable.

TheVoiceOfEquality said...

"The only thing it would achieve is vengeance". Not so im afraid,hurt familes for decades have been informed by the British state that their loved ones were committing crimes whilst they were shot. The reality is becoming clear that they were executed by the British State for no reason other than expressing their human right to protest. Hopefully truth will allow justice to be served,if it is found, i believe that Soldiers murdered civilians they must face a court and the possibility of facing a prison sentence. To quote Margaret Thatcher, "Murder is Murder".

Richard said...

Let's face it Iain, it's not that often that you step into the quagmire of politics ... as opposed to the soap opera. It's far above your pay grade, and it shows.

Steve in Chichester said...

As a serving soldier and one who served in NI in the 80's I was rather alarmed to hear Simon Hughes on the Daily Politics Show, compare the situation in Northern Ireland with the apartheid regime of South Africa. As he is a member of the Government I would like to know if this is an official position and if so is a statement to be made by the Minister of State for Defence either reinforcing his view or asking for his resignation.
Mr Hughes might like to consider the sacrifice currently being made by men and women around the world and to have a little more consideration when he makes such pejorative comparisons in alluding to them as little more than white supremacist thugs!

Houdini said...

McGuinness and Adams will make the most of it and wallow in self importance and self flagellation. They will use this as a means of furthering their aims of appearing acceptable and respectable. This is like the commie terrorist murdering scumbag Mandella being deified now, and the same could happen to Macguiness and Adams.

The soldiers will be castigated and this will be shown as a reason why republicans were justified.

Even here I see many many ignorant posts, from people who would call themselves reasonable; the problem being they don't know what they are talking about.

The people to blame are Blair and Brown for allowing this shameful piece of terrorist appeasement to go on for so long.

Darach MacDonald said...

What would prosecutions of the soldiers for 'unlawful killing' achieve? Well it might jolt commentators like Iain Dale from his smug assumption that all that flowed from that fateful day in 1972 – not least the huge boost in subsequent IRA recruitment and the descent into mayhem – was probably the fault of families and supporters of the innocent victims who were shot dead. The difference between this atrocity and those in Enniskillen and Omagh (the only mass death I recall in Lisburn was a republican hunger strike that took months) is that the perpetrators of the IRA atrocities were identified and condemned universally. The perpetrators of Bloody Sunday were agents of the Crown and they were exonnerated. It was the victims who were condemned by Widgery. Go figure that one, Iain.

Jabba the Cat said...

The whole inquiry is a £200,000,000 piss take.

It should never have been started as long as there was intent to let out terrorists from jail in the political amnesty in NI. It grates even further when we see these appeased terrorists sitting in the NI assembly and having their snouts deeply in our wallets in some of the biggest expenses abuses of late whilst giving the rest of us the finger.

The whole thing is a typical Labour lash up that has failed in all respects.

Tony_E said...


I read this piece in the Daily Mail from General Sir Micheal Rose who was present in Londonderry at the time. Although his position was that he was not at the scene as the shooting started, his recollections are very valid and give some balance to the coverage today on the BBC.

Iain Dale said...

Thanks for that really insightful comment. Hurl insults rather than engage in the debate. Typical of spiteful idiots like you, isn't it?

Cynic said...

Dont forget the maxim that politics is the continuation of war by other means.

SF are already whipping this up. Last weekend they erected a memorial of all 600 people 'murdered' by the Army. Now they and their associates in the legal professions will milk the Saville report for every ounce of electoral advantage and money they can get. Expect to see the soldiers in the dock by Christmas. Meantime they are working on a whole range of other manufactured 'massacres' for the same treatment.

In the meantime, last week saw a little reported incident in County Laois in the Republic. After an international investigation into counterfeit Euros led by Europol, Garda raided a bunker under a disused concrete factory there. This consisted of two shipping containers buried underground. In this they found a printing plant set up to churn out fake Euros. It is estimated that they were geared up to print €700m and some of the money had already been in circulation for 2 years. The notes were near perfect and they had hired in a master forger from Europe to help with the process. The plan allegedly was to sell most of the notes to the Russian Mafia at a deep discount to face value.

Among those allegedly under investigation is a member of PIRA who was on the run but had now been reintegrated into society courtesy of a special pardon granted by the Queen. Sean Woodward, our beloved former Secretary of State first denied this existed and then when it was produced in a court case admitted that actually it did.

Also allegedly under investigation are three senior members of Sinn Fein (yes Sinn Fein not PIRA). They are reportedly close to the Party Leadership.

When the bunker was raided and people arrested they had with them an AR18 Armalite rifle - yes one of those that de Chastelaine assured us had all been decommissioned. Whoops!! Where did that come from?

You might think that all this would cause something of a fuss. It sort of puts members expenses in the shade but hey this is Northern Ireland and nothing much has been said. Indeed, the BBC have been so busy they haven't even had time to cover the story and it only leaked out because Europol, who led the enquiry, have been quite open about what has happened have been trumpeting their success in breaking up one of the largest counterfeiting operations in Europe.

Why are we tolerating all of this in the UK?

Thorpe said...

After the Good Friday Agreement released hundreds of convicted terrorists, if there is even a suggestion (from official sources) that the soldiers face some form of prosecution, the Tories have lost my vote for life.

Had there not been the GFA, a different matter.

Thorpe said...

@ Mungojerry.

The decision to use the Paras was made by Army HQ in Lisburn. The Paras were based in Belfast and were experienced in dealing with mass marches and rioting, without going mad. The Royal Anglians in Londonderry weren't, for the sole reason that until that point, neither mass marches nor rioting were part of the Londonderry scene. Intelligence indicated that nationalists in Londonderry had actively sought opinion and expertise from nationalists in Belfast on how to cause as many problems as possible during the march, so a military decision to move the Paras across was taken. All this is well known to the Saville enquiry.

What actually happened that day was a total surprise to the military staff in Lisburn. I do not think that there was any official intent to let them run wild. In my opinion, the Paras got carried away, perhaps seeing themselves as untouchable. I have no doubt that they were shot at, and no doubt that they grossly over-reacted; my opinion, but a reasonable deduction I think.

Frugal Dougal said...

Well said, Iain! It was 36 years ago, and a lot of water's gone under the bridge now. Should the findings of the Saville enquiry be used for the puposes of vengeance, judicial or otherwise, I think a lot of Loyalists who believe they were asked to give up too much will find their voice.

The Grim Reaper said...

Is Iain an expert on this subject? Unlikely - if he is, he's doing a very good job of hiding it.

But that doesn't mean his opinion on the subject is of no worth. He asks plenty of legitimate questions here, and nothing wrong with that.

I'm going to refrain from further comment until I've read more about the report.

Anonymous said...

There are many comments that could be made; mine is, Bliar.

The enquiry was setup only a few months before the NI agreement. No need to have it, finished in 2005 dragged out until Lab out of power. Bliar, so if a few squadies are thrown to the wolves so what. I take it McGuinness will keep as quiet as possible, if squadies go on trial so does he!

Unknown said...

The only way to get closure on this will be to give the families of the dead compensation. Then hopefully no civil prosecutions of the soldiers will proceed.

jimtrot said...

What good would prosecuting the killers of innocent marchers do after all this time? Firstly, I was unaware that there was a time limit on justice. As for the crimes of the paramilitaries, these were dealt with under the Good Friday agreement, apart, that is from those perpetrated after that agreement, such as the Omagh atrocity which, I believe is still the subject of an active police investigation. These statements by Iain Dale amount to one of the worst exercises of tortured logic I've ever encountered. By his argument, no child killer, rapist or murderer who has been identified by DNA years after their crime was committed should face trial as such a process would only serve to obtain "veangence". What a load of waffle.

referring back to Dale's allusion to the crimes of the paramilitaries, or should I say, of the PIRA, since he didn't mention Loyalist atrocities, there is a qualitative difference between those and Bloody Sunday - namely that the latter was perpetrated by an arm of the State agains it's own citizens. Not only the soldiers should be put on trial but also those responsible for this atrocity at every level

Robin Kirk said...

What's important is that there exist a forum where everyone's story can be told: possibly a truth and reconciliation commission. While the Saville Inquiry appears sound and is certainly long overdue, Bloody Sunday is just one incident in a 30+ year war. Omagh, Enniskillen, the Shankill Butchers, the Bayardo -- all victims deserve truth and recognition. Creating a "hierarchy of victims" serves no one...

Nicholas said...

The report was dreamt up by Irish nationalists and New Labour in an attempt to white-wash those killed and smear the British Army. One of those killed was a member of the IRA's youth wing for goodness sake! What about the victims of the IRA, who were far more numerous? It's another case of anti-British standards.

Unknown said...


Jessop said...

Justice appears to consist of just one dimension. Over 1.000 members of the security services were murdered in the troubles.

As Mr Cameron said “The conclusions of this report are absolutely clear”.................... but are they correct? Why should this report be any more correct, after a gap of 38 years, than the earlier reports including Widgery were incorrect?

How can Saville be so unequivocally certain, of his conclusions after such a time lapse?

How can there possibly be talk of prosecutions, when IRA prisoners were released early under the Good Friday agreement.

What of Martin McGuiness, brigade commander, who it appears was carrying a Thomson machine gun that day. Perhaps if he and his ilk were not on the streets armed at that time then the army wouldn’t have been anywhere near the streets.

Forward said...

A few comments -

1. The soldiers have immunity from prosecution for what happened on the day, but they do not have immunity for perjury in their evidence to the Saville Enquiry. Those that lied to Saville should be prosecuted for that.

2. Asking for enquiries into Omagh ( RIRA, not PIRA), Brighton etc means that the PIRA strategy was right - ie in asking for equivalent treatment, you are then having parity btween PIRA and the British Army. You are bestowing legitimacy on the PIRA. Putting bombs in pubs etc was terrorism -everyone knows that,they were acting to type and can be judged accordingly. The Army are not supposed to be terrorists or criminals,but working within the law. If they acted illegaly, they were not acting as they should and thus needed to be exposed as such - it needed to be established whether it was individual or some other fault.
The PIRA were not elected representatives of anyone, but the UK govt is - so it needed to be established why their agents acted as they did, if it was lawful, and where the buck stopped.

3.If this happened in Britain rather than NI,(ie unarmed civilians being shot by the Army), we would not have waited so long for the truth.

4. Even after all these years, the average British person does not understand the distinction between Loyalist and Unionist, Republican and Nationalist - this has helped many people to carry on with the assumption that the marchers were terrorists.

5. While we do not need enquiries in to every event, we do need to get to some truths and answers. Where PIRA victims are buried, why paramilitaries of every hue picked out innocent people - answers to help people further down the road. Truth and Reconciliation? Would it work? I'm undecided - but I'd rather the truth than cover ups.

6. When will people learn from history and see that the Army and the British Govt played into the PIRA's hands? They barely existed when the troops went in to protect the Catholics, but their numbers swelled as Army conduct drove people into their arms.

7. As imperfect as it is, we are close to having a generation in NI and in Britain that are not being bombed pointlessly. People are dying of old age that would have been dragged out of their living rooms in front of their children and shot. We have a low level of violence, yes, but it is part of the recovery to tolerate this as we move forward.
If Saville cost £200m, and it gets us further down the road [ then compare it to the money thrown at the banks, or the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan.

If it means we are closer to settlement, then it is cheap at half the price.