Even after 50 years, Britain has not allowed the full truth about Bloody Sunday to be told. This is the effect of the charges brought against Soldier F being abandoned.
The Derry massacre contradicts the standard narrative of the Troubles.
Almost all the atrocities which pockmark our past can be ascribed to people purporting to represent one community inflicting pain on people from the other community. But Bloody Sunday wasn’t like that, wasn’t commissioned or perpetrated by anybody from any side in Northern Ireland. The men who brought a death-storm to the Bogside on the day were uniformed to represent the British State.
Nowhere in the thousands of political and military documents released to the inquiry under Lord Saville can evidence be found of any unionist politician or political body being consulted or informed in advance of paratroopers being drafted into Derry to police a civil rights parade, much less what they had planned when they reached Rossville Street.
A number of unionist figures responded to the killings at the time with unconcern, or even open glee. They should have been ashamed of themselves back then. Their successors should look back now with a bit more grace. But, again, no evidence has emerged to suggest that any such thing is about to happen.
Unionist people who feel a duty to stand behind the men who pulled the triggers are taking blame for something they played no part in.
Those who maintain, even now, that the victims of Bloody Sunday somehow brought it on themselves are slandering their neighbours to exculpate an institution that couldn’t care less about them or about their sense of identity. The defining response of the British ruling class to the flying of a Soldier F flag is likely a snigger of contempt for whomever climbed a lamppost to erect it.
No surprise. The ferocious loyalty shown by so many in Northern Ireland to the British armed forces over the years has never been reciprocated, nor will it be. It’s not how military matters pan out. The British would cancel the unionists’ sense of belonging in Britain in the morning if it suited their interests.
Every army in the world has decent people in its ranks. But it isn’t decency which is expected of them. It’s not what they are for. In military perspective it is a weakness. Those who aspire to be seen as the roughest and toughest must perforce eschew decency. This is where the paras come from.
The fact that they had gotten away - or thought that they had - with the massacre in Ballymurphy the previous August will have emboldened them in Derry. The fact that they had gotten away - or thought that they had – in Derry will have given them a swagger of invulnerability when they found themselves on the Shankill the following September and took aim and shot Robert Johnston and Richard McKinney dead, innocent men who’d meant no harm to any human being.
That’s one thing we can say for the paras – they are not sectarian; they’d kill anybody.
Members of the families of the Bloody Sunday dead spoke yesterday of their determination to keep on fighting for the truth. But in fact we already have the truth, We knew the truth before the smoke had cleared from Rossville Street and Glenfada Park. What the people are entitled to now is to have the full truth acknowledged, and, from the political and military leaders of the time, a confession of sin and a firm purpose of amendment.
This is what Bloody Sunday Campaigners will be marching for when they again trace the route of the original march on January 30 next year.