Thursday, 10 June 2010

Bloody Sunday - report imminent

The Guardian 10th June states that it has "learned" that killings on so-called Bloody Sunday (30th January 1972) in Northern Ireland are to be ruled unlawful.  Whether this proves to be the case remains to be seen.  The Saville Inquiry has run on for 12 years and has cost some £200m.  The report is to be released to the public on Tuesday 15th June at 3.30 pm.  It is likely to be a very lengthy report and the estimable Joshua Rozenberg has already labelled the Inquiry as a "failure of the judicial process" - see here.

As we await the report, it is worth recalling that many hundreds of people died in Northern Ireland as a result of violence originating from all sides of the sectarian divide and a list of single incidents in which 5 or more people were killed is available here.

Background to the Inquiry:  There is no doubt that the original inquiry held by Lord Widgery CJ was not sufficiently thorough and satisfied nobody who was truly interested in an objective finding of the true facts. The 1972 Widgery Report has not stood the test of time.  Prime Minister Blair was persuaded to set up a further inquiry which he announced on 30th January 1998.  (This was at a time when the first Blair government was embarking on new peace initiatives in Northern Ireland - see Good Friday agreement of 10th April 1998).  Announcing the Saville Inquiry, Blair stated that it was "expedient" that a Tribunal be established for inquiring into a matter of urgent public importance".  The Tribunal was set up to run under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 and the tribunal comprised Lord Saville of Newdigate (Chairman), The Hon. Mr. William L. Hoyt (a Canadian Judge) and The Hon. Mr John L. Toohey (an Australian Judge who replaced the New Zealand Judge Sir Edward Somers in 2000).  It cannot have been in the mind of Blair that the inquiry would take as long as 12 years and run up such enormous costs.

Addendum - 14th June 2010:   The Daily Mail 12th June 2010 - article which looks at the Saville Inquiry from the viewpoint of a journalist who attended it in the year 2002-3.  The author argues that much of the testimony was conflicting and that it is very difficult for people to remember exactly what they observed if asked to testify many years later.  He also makes the point that, whatever the outcome of the inquiry, few are going to be satisfied.  A further valid observation is that Bloody Sunday was one of many horrific events spawned by the sectarian violence connected with Northern Ireland.  The author sees Saville as "one-directional justice" in that the inquiry was mandated to investigate just the one event.

The Daily Telegraph also carried considerable coverage about Bloody Sunday - see "The Bloody Sunday Inquiry: Was it Worth it?" The article is by the eminent historian Lord Paul Bew.  His article concludes by asking how would it now serve the public interest to prosecute former soldiers so long after the event - not least when many paramilitary killers were given early release as part of the Good Friday agreement?

1 comment:

  1. I hope the report will be worth it - it has cost £190.3 million so far!