We need all the truth about our dirty little war
The unionist response to the Saville Report into Bloody Sunday has been perturbing.
First Minister Robinson accepts the findings and mutters something about time for all murderers to come clean. Sir Reg Empey and Ken Magennis also grumble under their breath. If Jim Allister has issued any statements, I didn't notice.
No, in the media tsunami following Saville, the unionist leadership largely just took it on the chin. It’s as if it was all scripted; a set piece with each playing a pre-ordained role.
There is no issue to take with Saville's findings. The 14 people who died, however, weren't the only people to lose their lives in the Troubles. Nor, despite what you'd glean from the coverage, were they the first.
Why aren't unionist and nationalist politicians clamouring like champions of justice for other victims? What brilliant barristers will bother their honourable barney in finding out what exactly happened at La Mon, Enniskillen, McGurk’s, Bloody Friday, Loughinisland, Claudy?
Or those poor souls murdered one by one. Like the RUC officers picked off at their own front doors in front of their wives and children. Like the taxi drivers shot down lonely roads because they were Catholic or Protestant. Like the security guards shot because of their religion. Like the soldiers blown to Kingdom Come at Warrenpoint, Ballygawley ... Like all the Catholics murdered by the IRA.
Like my schoolfriends’ fathers — Catholic and Protestant —in the security forces. Like all the scores of weeping families I interviewed as a reporter doorstepping the families of the murdered during the Troubles.
Why aren't the full resources of the state given over to these murders? Where are the professional lobbyists for them? No. David Cameron coolly announces that there will be no more inquiries. While it was essential for healing after Bloody Sunday, they're not appropriate anywhere else because, er, because ... just because. No matter how much Cameron’s statement is lauded as ‘statesmanlike’, the injustice at the heart of it is profound and appalling. Keeping Stormont on the road may be the sole objective, but it’s a reckless strategy that leaves so many feeling forgotten, downgraded and belittled. A few lines in Lost Lives and a nod at your pain and forbearance now and again won’t have made Father’s Day any less sorely felt in many homes.
Now, it’s a fact: a hierarchy of victims being established. Some victims are entitled to redress and the rest — because they were murdered by paramilitaries and, sure, what's to say about those slayings — will have to make do with a HET enquiry armed with a file of yellowing press clippings and a wee pink highlighter.
Why haven't there been high-powered deputations to Dublin demanding a heavyweight inquiry into the alleged gunrunning of Charles J Haughey and Neil Blaney? Have unionists just come to the conclusion that too much truth for the post-ceasefire political establishment would be too hard to bear?
Playing catch-up as usual, the basic thrust of the unionist response has been to try and park Saville, mixed with pathetic attempts to embarrass their ministerial colleague Martin McGuinness — as if Machinegun Marty is easily embarrassed.
Rightly, Saville has raised many visceral dark responses about truth and justice during our dirty war. Responses which get little airtime on a media just as determined to keep it all nice and calm.
I’m not interested in a ‘truth and reconciliation commission’. Or anything that might, heaven forbid, be too expensive. But it would be a start if there were a mechanism where those who murdered people could come forward and admit what they did and say they were sorry.
Problem is, very few of them are. And very few have the guts to come forward now anymore than they did then.
Legalistic quibbles that only the wrongdoings of the British state need to be investigated just don’t wash with many here. It’s time to put real names to all those IRA/UDA/UVF statements claiming responsibility.
Just like the Paras in Derry, we no longer expect anybody to stand up and be counted or — heaven forbid again — to do any time but it would be nice to know. Let’s get a look at the widowmakers and orphanmakers and mutilators.
And let the pieces fall where they may.