(by Ruth Dudley Edwards, Daily Mail)
Yesterday morning, a senior member of the IRA Army Council arrived at the Guildhall in Derry to watch the beginning of an enquiry into the conduct of the British Army's Parachute Regiment on 30 January 1972. 'This is a great day for the people of Derry,' said Martin McGuinness, 'a great day for the relatives, who are now, I think, so full of hope that at long last truth and justice will prevail.'_________________________
McGuinness has spent his adult life in an organisation that murdered around 1,800 people, of whom 400 were Catholics. He has in his time authorised countless atrocities, including the Birmingham and Guildford bombings, the murder of Lord Mountbatten, the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during a Conservative party conference and as recently as 1997, in order to speed up Sinn Fein's entry into talks, the killing of two community policemen.
The Saville enquiry has been set up to investigate how and why paras killed 14 unarmed men in McGuinness's home town. McGuinness has pursued them with unremitting vindictiveness, although in Derry, during the last thirty years, terrorists (mostly working for him) have murdered 246 people, including 68 members of the British army. Yet he is feted as a peace-maker while the paras face international vilification.
For the next eighteen months, at a cost to the British taxpayer expected to top £100 million, Lord Saville's tribunal will try to find out what happened on what became known as Bloody Sunday. The republican propaganda machine will be at work night and day disseminating throughout the world every morsel of evidence that reflects on the paras, the RUC or any other institution of the British state.
And don't be misled by pious bleating from people like Bertie Ahern and John Hume about how the enquiry will assuage bitterness and so help the peace process. The republican leadership has made its position clear. In a leader in its official newspaper this week, Bloody Sunday is described as the day 'when the British Government sent its troops to execute the Civil Rights Movement and shoot nationalists off their own streets, Bloody Sunday has been the epitome of British injustice in Ireland.' If the politicians are exonerated, it was made clear, the findings will not be accepted and we will be back to square one.
This is the Alice-in-Wonderland world our government's policy of appeasing terrorists has brought us to.
Of course I am not justifying what happened that day in Derry. The deaths of those 14 unarmed men was a dreadful tragedy. Though I believe what happened was a cock-up rather than a conspiracy, at the very least, some soldiers panicked and fired randomly into the crowd. Yet as General Sir Mike Jackson - who was present that day as adjutant to the battalion commander - reminds us: 'most of the city was a so-called no go area and there was almost nightly rioting on the interface between the no-go area and the city centre.'
And who was responsible for that? Why Martin McGuinness, who was then head of the IRA in Derry and whose duties included directing his rank-and-file supporters to throw stones and bottles and petrol bombs and his gunmen to kill. The previous Thursday three IRA gunmen had murdered two policemen in Derry. It was hardly surprising that the paras were expecting that the crowds in the illegal civil rights protest march would contain snipers.
Still, the British army failed that day in Derry and it is right that the government should admit that it did: the state must always maintain the highest standards. New evidence showed that the investigation carried out by Lord Widgery after the shootings was wholly inadequate. But all Tony Blair had to do was to admit that the army had got it wrong, regret that it was now too late to do anything about it and express his sympathy to the relatives.
Instead, desperate to bribe the IRA into maintaining their ceasefire and giving up their guns, he gave us this Pandora's box. He must already be bitterly regretting his foolishness. But the republicans have taken double standards to a level of genius. As they demand that the paras appear in Derry for questioning they are refusing to help the Omagh enquiry. The British and Irish police forces know the bombers, but cannot bring them to trial without help from the public. Having been badgered for months by a Surrey solicitor, Victor Barker, whose 12-year-old son was killed at Omagh, Gerry Adams wrote to him two weeks ago and explained that he could not ask citizens to give information about the bombing 'for historical, as well as contemporary reasons. Not least of which is our continuing concern at the Criminal Justice system in the north, and the existence and role of the RUC, which must inevitably be involved in any prosecutions even if information is given to the Gardai.'
Victor Barker would like a public enquiry into Omagh, if all else fails. So would the hundreds of other bereaved relatives who had thought justice had been done with the jailing of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, who later proved to be innocent. Chris Mullin, MP, is one of many people who know who planted the Birmingham bomb. Has it ever been suggested that an enquiry be set up at which he would be required to testify? Of course not. The IRA wouldn't like it.
During the thirty years of hell in Northern Ireland the security services made mistakes and a few bad apples committed murder. But overall they behaved with a restraint unknown outside the United Kingdom. Terrorists have murdered 302 police men and women: the RUC killed only 52 (20 were acknowledged terrorists). The British Army (including the reserves) lost 709: they killed 315 (131 were acknowledged terrorists).
As a reward for their decency and their courage, the RUC are to be destroyed and the paras thrown to a Derry mob. So much for truth and justice.
This article appeared in the Daily Mail on March 28, 2000.