This is a strange post. I have always known that I would write about Bloody Sunday. And I thought it would be a long post but actually it wont be long.
Reasons…we are all familiar with the story. And I was not in Derry. I was at home watching TV on a cold Sunday when the News broke. And it kinda continued breaking during the day.
I was 19 years old. Old enough to remember better than I seem to. All I remember is what I saw on TV news. The footage…that very familiar footage. The interviews. John Hume telling the truth. The Para officer telling lies. The journalists telling us what the Government, Police and Army Press office told them to say.
We knew it was lies. Especially the Paras because I had seen them in Ballymurphy less than six months before.
It was Murder.
But I hold the journalists in total contempt. They had the briefings from official sources. They had interviewed people. They made a judgement that the Army were more credible, especially to “British” audiences.
But the journalists were there. There is a point where a reporter is a witness to a crime. There is a point where a reporter is a goddam liar.
The Widgery Report exonerated the Paras. The Saville Report (38 years later) exonerated the murdered and bereaved in Derry.
The reporters who are still alive suddenly remember that they did not take sides. They merely reported “facts” as they were told. In 2022, look out for weasel words telling us that we are somehow mistaken. They will tell us their reports were more nuanced, more balanced than I remember.
Ballymurphy (August 1971), McGurks Bar (December 1971) and Bloody Sunday (January 1972)…three events that would change my life. Other events within a year would change me more. An arc of events in 1971/72.
I remember at work, Protestant co-workers seemed embarrassed but I might be imagining that. Jeannette who was maybe 25 years old was angry about the British Embassy being burned and trying to bait me and said “what do THEY own up here? ” and unusually brave, I said “The Six Counties”….and the office fell silent.
So we had a Tory Government (1972-1974), Labour (1974-1979), Tory (1979-1997), Labour (1997-2010) and in 2012, it was Tory David Cameron who finally exonerated the people of Derry…and by extension the nationalist people. To be fair, he was forthright. It was his finest hour.
On this 50th Anniversary, there will be public Remembrance. And private Remembering. Once again journalists will descend on Derry and interview survivors.
The story of the Troubles is that people like me were “Nobodies” and we became “Somebodies”.. That is what has happened.
Reconciliation? I do not “do” Reconciliation”. If I was convinced that it could not all happen again, I would extend my hand. But as Colum Eastwood in the British Parliament demands an apology from the Parachute Regiment, he is heckled by Sammy Wilson (DUP). And Johnny Mercer (the Tory MP), the ex military man does his outraged speech complaining about Colum’s “childish witterings”.
So no, I do not do Reconciliation.
Look at the DUP. Did they care then? Do they care now? See…..I don’t mind that they don’t care. And likewise Doug Union of People Beattie and his UUP will spout something about “we must learn”.
And those great champions of LetsGetAlongerism? Do you remember where they led the campaign for Justice? No the people of the Bogside (or Ballymurphy or New Lodge) were never the people that Alliance politicians encountered at coffee mornings. Nor for that matter were Protestant farmers in border areas or the victims at Kingsmill or Tebane the kinda people, Alliance met on the golf course.
No point in upsetting the apple cart when there are places on quangos to be filled.
Sinn Féin….well you can’t complain about Justice and then perpetrate Claudy and Bloody Friday later in the year…or Kingsmill and Tebane and La Mon or the Shankill Bomb.
In this case….and do not say it is a partisan point…SDLP can claim the high moral ground.
But tonight……the thing that gets me most….is that I cannnot actually remember much.
For the record, there were 13 other deaths as a result of the Troubles in January 1972. And hopefully I will post about them too. The Decade of Half Centenaries is much more important than the Decade of Centenaries. The difference is that people still mourn for events in 1972.