After a twelve-year inquiry, the Lord Saville probe of the 1972 "Bloody Sunday" killings in Derry came to a climax yesterday afternoon (Irish time) with the release of his mammoth report. It found that the shooting of the thirteen civil rights marchers, many of them young people, was completely "unjustified," none of them were posing any threat to the paratroopers, and many, as long charged ("How long must we sing this song?"), were shot in the back or while crawling away injured.
Prime Minister David Cameron apologized.
After following the coverage via BBC and The Guardian, I can report it was truly an amazing day in Ireland, the public riveted by the Bloody Sunday report. While the report, to the surprise of many, found no true government cover-up and recommended no murder charges, the families of victims may push for the latter. They expressed profound relief and sense of delayed justice in emotional speeches outside the Guild Hall in Derry shortly after the report's release, especially with the conclusion that all of the victims were indeed "innocent."
It also found that many of the soldiers lied in their testimony.
Final two sentences of report summary: "What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland."
As long alleged, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was found to be carrying a machine gun that day--but there is no evidence that his actions provoked any of the killings.
I am wondering how the report treats the anonymous "Soldier 027" who became something of a whistleblower in the years that followed. His account was largely upheld by the Saville probe. The soldier has been in a witness protection program since his account came to light back in the 1990s.
Certainly I recommend highly the 2002 Paul Greengrass film Bloody Sunday, which anticipated these findings, and has a key character based on Soldier 027. A key adviser was Don Mullan, who wrote the best book on the subject, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday (which helped spark the Lord Saville probe) and became one of my long-distance friends after I wrote about the book and movie. The movie, in fact, ends with Bernadette Devlin turning to a camera at a 1972 press conference and vowing that the families would keep up the fight "until justice is done."
It took 38 years, but that day, more or less, arrived yesterday.
Go here for links to coverage, trailer for the movie and U2 performing "Sunday Bloody Sunday."
Greg Mitchell, the longtime editor at Editor & Publisher and author of nine books, now writes the MediaFix blog at The Nation.