Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Robert Fisk: The innocent became the guilty, the guilty innocent

Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Relatives of those shot dead on Bloody Sunday wave to crowds after reading a copy of the long-awaited Saville Inquiry report, outside the Guildhall
Relatives of those shot dead on Bloody Sunday wave to crowds after reading a copy of the long-awaited Saville Inquiry report, outside the Guildhall
Relatives of those shot dead on Bloody Sunday wave copies of the long awaited Saville Inquiry report in the air outside the Guildhall
Prime Minister David Cameron tells MPs in the House of Commons that the Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings found the actions of British soldiers was 'both unjustified and unjustifiable'
Crowds gather to hear the findings of the long-awaited Saville Inquiry report into Bloody Sunday, outside the Guildhall
People watch Prime Minister David Cameron on a giant screen making a statement to the House of Commons regarding the findings of the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, outside the Guildhall
Crowds gather to hear the findings of the long-awaited Saville Inquiry report into Bloody Sunday, outside the Guildhall
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
A relative of Bloody Sunday victim Jackie Duddy is comforted by Martin McGuinness as she marches from the Bogside area of Londonderry to the Guildhall to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
A young Fr Edward Daly (now Bishop Daly) carries a blood-soaked hankie as he leads a group of men trying desperately to carry John 'Jackie' Duddy to safety. Duddy (17) was the first fatality of Bloody Sunday after being shot from behind by paratroopers
Bloody Sunday. January 1972
Alana Burke who was eighteen when she was run over by an armoured personnel carrier on Bloody Sunday.
William McKinney, killed on Bloody Sunday.
Paddy Doherty, who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
The start of a grim day in Derry. Civil Rights marchers make their way through Creggan. They defied a Government ban and headed for Guildhall Square, but were stopped by the Army in William Street. 31/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery in his room at the Old Bailey as he looks through his report on the "Bloody Sunday" shootings
Michael McDaid who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
An injured man receiving attention on Bloody Sunday.
Bloody sunday in Derry 1972 when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march through the city.
Bloody Sunday 1972
JAMES WRAY IN HIS HOME IN THE BOGSIDE DERRY HOLDING THE COAT WITH BULLIET HOLES IN THAT HIS SON ALSO CALLED JAMES WRAY WAS KILLED ON BLOODY SUNDAY
Bloody Sunday. A number of civilians arrested by the Army are marched in a line, with their hands on their heads, through the Bogside. 31/1/1972
Hugh Gilmore who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. Funeral. Mrs Ita McKinney, 9 months pregnant cries behind the hearse carrying her husband James from St Mary's, Creggan. 2/2/1972.
Bloody Sunday. 30.1.1972
Bloody Sunday. Funerals. 2.2.1972
Bloody Sunday in Derry 1972 when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march through the city.
General Sir Robert Ford, Britain's Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland, pictured on July 3, 1972
Bloody Sunday when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march. PACEMAKER PRESS
Bloody Sunday: Up to 20 soldiers still face being formally questioned by police for alleged murder, attempted murder or criminal injury during the notorious incident
30th January 1972: An armed soldier and a protestor on Bloody Sunday when British Paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians on a civil rights march.
A scene showing British paratroopers near Glenfada Park in Derry where Bloody Sunday took place.
A scene showing a British paratrooper near Glenfada Park in Derry where Bloody Sunday took place.
A man receiving attention during Bloody Sunday.
Soldiers taking cover behind their sandbagged armoured cars during Bloody Sunday
St Mary's Church, on the Creggan Estate, during the Requiem Mass for the 13 who died on 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry.
Jim Wray who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
William McKinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Kevin McElhinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Paul Doherty in front of an image of his dying father Patrick Doherty who was shot on Bloody Sunday.
Hugh Gilmore (third left) seen clutching his stomach as he is shot during Bloody Sunday.
Lt Col Derek Wilford, the former commander of the members of the Parachute Regiment involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings
Bloody sunday in Derry 1972 when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march
Bloody Sunday - when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights marc. PACEMAKER PRESS
PACEMAKER BELFAST - FLASHBACK - Bloody sunday in Derry 1972 when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march through the city.PICTURE CREDIT PACEMAKER PRESS
John Young who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Gerald Donaghey who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Gerard McKinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Patrick Doherty who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Michael Kelly who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
An injured man receives treatment on Bloody Sunday. Survivor and campaigner Johnny Duddy has died aged 87
Lord Saville
A Republican mural is seen on the side of a house in the Bogside are of Derry, the scene of the 'Bloody Sunday' shootings. 2005
Scenes from 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry, Northern Ireland
A man receiving attention during the shooting incident in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, which became known as Bloody Sunday, January 31, 1972.
Fr Daly waving a bloody handkerchief as he and several others carry the fatally wounded Jackie Duddy, 17, past British soldiers on January 30, 1972, known as Bloody Sunday. Picture by Stanley Matchett
The Bloody Sunday Anniversary. Among the marchers were Native Americans who attended the event because of their sympathy with Irish Nationalists. 30/1/85.
IRA gunmen in Derry during a Bloody Sunday commemoration. Pacemaker Press Intl. 29 Jan. 1978
IRA gunmen in Derry during a Bloody Sunday commemoration. Pacemaker Press Intl. 29 Jan. 1978
Bloody Sunday Commemoration. IRA Gunman displays M60 Machine Gun on streets of Derry. Pacemaker Press Intl.29 Jan. 1978.
Commemoration of Bloody Sunday march in Derry. Gerry Adams and Martin Maguiness are pictured. Pacemaker Press Intl. 30/1/83.
A youth is arrested at gunpoint by a Paratrooper in Derry on Bloody Sunday Picture by Fred Hoare

We knew the First Battalion, the Parachute Regiment. "Tough" was the word we reporters used if the soldiers were beating up rioters.

Brutal was the word we should have used. But sometime towards the end of 1971, I think we all realised that the Parachute Regiment was being prepared for some pretty nasty confrontations. They were the hard men, the reserve battalion at Palace Barracks, Holywood, a boring seaside town on the south side of Belfast Lough, a unit that spent most of its time waiting for trouble.



Shortly before Bloody Sunday, I'd seen them confronting a crowd of angry Protestants just off the Shankill Road. The "Prods" had blocked the street, set fire to some tyres; they were protesting at the lack of security. So the local British battalion in the Ardoyne called up the reserves and the first thing we saw was an Army "Pig" – a big armored vehicle with a wide-bodied snout over the engine – come roaring round the corner, knocking a youth clean off the road on to the pavement. It drove straight into the burning tyres and the paratroopers jumped out of the back with wooden cudgels and got to work on the street lads.



There were howls of rage and curses from the Brits and eventually the Prods cleared off and the soldiers of 1 Para stood in the street looking bored. Then a door opened and out came a man in his fifties. A Belfast Protestant, hair greying, he sort of hobbled on to the street as if he'd been hurt badly years ago and he walked right up to a group of Paras and plunged his hand into his pocket. He brought out an old Army red beret with a metal badge of parachute wings fixed to it and a tatty old regimental tie.



The soldiers watched him, bemused. Then he began to tear the beret to pieces, right there in front of the soldiers, and ripped up the tie. The man was shouting 'Bastards, bastards," over and over again at them and he dropped the ruined beret and tie at his feet and stomped on them. The soldiers laughed. And the man kept shouting "bastards" and he was crying and then he shouted at the soldiers: "I was at Arnhem."



What had happened to the Parachute Regiment? A week before Bloody Sunday, John Hume, the MP for Foyle, encountered a far more disturbing demonstration of power by the same regiment. There was a nationalist demonstration on the beaches of north Derry and the Paras had turned up and beaten the demonstrators and a Para officer walked up to Hume and – in a very English public school accent – threatened him. "I realised something new was happening," Hume was to tell me years later. "Some decision had been taken by the military. I was very worried about this. These were very hard men. There was no way of negotiating with them."



Could we have guessed what this meant? Or the libels that British journalism was to commit against the dead of Bloody Sunday in the coming weeks? As usual – and for Derry, read Fallujah or Gaza or any Afghan village where civilians get in the way – the innocent became the guilty and the guilty became the innocent. "Bordering on the reckless" – Widgery's whining description of the British Army rabble that fatally shot 14 Catholics in the Bogside – was the only real half-truth to emerge from his disgracefully short and lazy report.



They are old now, those soldiers, the same age in 1972 as those they killed in Derry. I was on The Times – the glorious, pre-Murdoch Times – and I was not in Derry on the day. But for years I went there as I go back, still, to the scene of Middle East massacres. In 1997, home from Beirut, I was again prowling around Derry. Was anything left? In the wall of a ground-floor apartment in Glenfada Flats, I found two bullet holes from Bloody Sunday, two gashes in the cheap stucco and cement to remind the Catholics of the Bogside of the power of a self-loading rifle.



"There's another hole round the corner in Chamberlain Street," a young man told me. "Would you like to see it?" Cruelly, I told him I'd seen enough bullet holes in the Middle East and the Balkans these past 22 years. "But do people know about Bloody Sunday in Beirut?" the man asked. No, I said. Not a soul there knew – or cared – what happened here. So all the man said was: "Jesus Christ!" It is a name much invoked on the Derry memorials.



The most dramatic of these is a simple granite cross erected to the memory of the 14 "murdered by British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday 30 January 1972". Beside it, back in 1979, someone had scribbled a note: "All we need is the truth to help heal the wounds."



Did we get it yesterday? Was it enough? Certainly it is more than the Palestinians will ever get for the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre. Or the people of Qana who were demanding an inquiry in 1996 after Israeli shells slaughtered 101 civilians sheltering in the UN compound. The UN's official report into the massacre implied that it was deliberate.



Lord Widgery was not so brave. Of 500 eyewitness testimonies given to him, he bothered to read only 15. Was he merely idle? Or was he a weak, morally enfeebled man, more fearful of condemning his country's armed forces than he was of concealing the truth?



Or did we British journalists have something to answer for in our slavish adherence to the notion of the British Army's integrity? I don't think we cared about the Irish – either the Catholic or the Protestant variety. I don't think we cared about Ireland. I don't think the British Army cared. At last, I suppose, the Saville report has answered that scribbled note I found outside the Glenfada flats 13 years ago.



But at least the people of Derry care about others who have died unjustly. In 2003, as the Americans occupied Iraq, American paratroopers opened fire on a crowd of protesting Iraqis in the city of Fallujah. They killed 14, claiming they were shot at. Subsequent inquiries suggested this was a lie. A few days later, in Baghdad, I took a call from an old friend in Derry. He wanted to lead a delegation of Bloody Sunday relatives to Fallujah, he said, to show their sorrow for the dead Iraqis. I don't think the Americans cared about the Iraqis. But the Irish of Bloody Sunday cared.

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