Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A day Britain can be proud of

In the midst of all the negativity, there is a lot to be proud of when a country - at its highest level - is capable of making amends for recent mistakes.

After over 10 years of relentless work, including thousands of statements from soldiers, civilians, photographers and police officers, the Saville report concluded that the British Army was guilty of shooting unarmed and innocent civilians on January 30, 1972 in Londonderry, a day that became known as "Bloody Sunday".

Critics may argue that the government's apology doesn't go far enough, or that - after almost forty years - it may be too little too late.

On the other side, supporters of the British army maintain that soldiers in Northern Ireland were subjected to the most severe provocation and that the events had to be seen within the context of a what was effectively a "shooting war".

But in the midst of all the negativity, there is a lot to be proud of when a country - at its highest level - is capable, not only of seeking the truth, but also of saying "sorry" and making amends for recent mistakes.

Several European countries grappled with political violence in the 1970s and 1980s, yet most governments are still a long way away from recognising their share of responsibility.

Which is actually what should set democracy off from the ideology of violence and terrorism: the ability to say that we don't need to go down the same barbaric route if we want to achieve a political goal.

That Britain managed to do so is something to be saluted rather than nitpicked.

It is important though that a line in the sand is drawn with the Saville report.

Those calling for prosecutions forget that this would only reopen wounds and kickstart a new round of grievances and finger-pointing. And that's without counting the devastating impact of having soldiers in prison 40 years after an event, while convicted multiple murderers and terrorists enjoy their freedom.

There's no way the peace process can gain anything from it.


Bob Piper said...

Sorry, Claude, but the "shooting war" reference you highlight takes us to a link which doesn't seem to mention a shooting war. In fact, prior to Bloody Sunday" there was hardly an IRA campaign at all. Internment 5 months earlier was the first blunder which fired up PIRA, and bloody sunday accelerated it massively. as for the "most serious provocation" I'll see if you think that is adequate next time Israel shoots Palestinian kids for throwing stones.

The crime of the British Government was compounded by the lies and deception of the Widgery cover-up which stigmatised the very people the soldiers had shot. I don't want prosecutions or to reopen wounds, but the inscription I read on a hut in Auschwitz last week said... The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.

If you think these apologies for murders followed by slander which have ruined the lives of the relatives for 38 whole years is a proud day for democracy, I am staggered. As the great man once wrote, "Bury the rag deep in your face, now is the time for your tears".

Jackart said...

Kinda My thoughts exactly.

In this and in all wars, we win eventually by being better people than our enemies by obeying scrupulously the RULE OF LAW. Whilst it may make the tactical battle easier, abuses of the law make the strategic one much harder.

However now Republican Terrorists are out of the Maze, it's not time to put old soldiers away.

Paul said...

Good post this Claude agree 100% (although your title could be misinterpreted. I served in NI in my youth and as to the 'shooting war' well I saw it firsthand. Along with the petrol bombing, spitting, IED and brick throwing war. All that said though I actually like Northern Ireland and its people. It is quite right that a democracy should step up to the plate and admit wrong doing. This was a modern British city and our soldiers killed 14 people with no connections to the 'ra on that day.

That said we admit to it and rightly so. But MM refused to answer questions on one occasion at this inquiry! For that reason alone there should be no prosecutions of the soldiers involved and it could be argued that Saville should have suspended the inquiry until MM did. Of course we know that there will never be public inquiries into the Enniskillen, Omagh, Birmingham bombings etc as well. For that reason we should draw a line under this. Besides it would be quite wrong to utilise the deaths of innocent civilians to further a cause. There is a real danger that a mythology attached to the innocent 14 Catholics killed on bloody Sunday grants them higher status to the 400 Catholics killed by the IRA along with thousands of others.

Stan Moss said...

Does it worry you Claude that you're firmly in the Tory camp on this?

claude said...

But I'm not, Stan. Not at all.

All I'm saying is that Northern Ireland now should move on and that the "game" of dragging all parts back to a destructive past is going nowhere.

For every person shouting that "justice has been done" there will be another shouting the exact opposite.