The Bloody Sunday Inquiry - the unionist view

Fountain mural The unionist population in Derry has dwindled since Bloody Sunday (Photo by Ardfern)

Even before 30 January 1972, the day that would become 'Bloody Sunday' divided opinions in Northern Ireland.

The civil rights march had been banned - as were all such protests - and for unionists, anyone who took part in the march was acting illegally and should expect to be punished with the full vigour of the law.

Unionists believed that once violence broke out, the army fired in self-defence in order to quell the rioters, nail bombers and gunmen attacking them in the Bogside.

At the time, the response from Northern Ireland's unionist prime minister, Brian Faulkner, was that "those who organised this march must bear a terrible responsibility for having urged people to lawlessness."

Three months later, Lord Widgery's report into Bloody Sunday concluded that "there would have been no deaths if those who organised the illegal march had not thereby created a highly dangerous situation in which a clash between demonstrators and the security forces was almost inevitable."

Vocal

One of the most vocal opponents of the cost and conduct of the Saville Inquiry has been the East Londonderry MP, the DUP's Gregory Campbell.

He has called on the Secretary of State to resist what he terms "revisionism" in Lord Saville's report.

"There have been attempts since the establishment of Saville to rewrite history and punish the soldiers who, on the day in question, were being sent in to respond to the increase in the area of attacks, widespread damage and murders," he said.

"This included the murder of two police officers just three days before the march itself.

"The new Government have an early opportunity to show that bowing to revisionism is not on their agenda by dealing with the report in a sensible and constructive way.

"Having spent almost £200m of public money on it they should not compound the issue by pursuing those who told the inquiry what they saw and did at the time - the soldiers - while overlooking completely the actions at the same time of those who didn't do likewise - senior members of the PIRA."

Tragedy
James Nesbitt James Nesbitt played Ivan Cooper in "Bloody Sunday" in 2002

Actor James Nesbitt was six-years-old on Bloody Sunday but, as a Protestant from County Londonderry, he grew up largely unaware of the events of 30 January 1972.

He went on to play the role of civil rights leader Ivan Cooper in the film "Bloody Sunday" in 2002, and said then that he hoped it would make people aware of "this big wrong".

"The school I went to taught a very different history from the Catholic grammar schools, for example. So my memories of it were non-existent in a sense.

"The problem with the Protestants and the British is that no one ever wanted to own Bloody Sunday, and it's as much a British tragedy as an Irish tragedy. We're trying to make sense of it."

He said he believed there was a "tacit agreement" amongst the Protestant community that a "great wrong" was done on Bloody Sunday, but added: "I don't think they've ever been able to cope with that - so you walk away from it in a sense."

Context

Darwin Templeton, editor of the unionist-leaning Belfast paper, the Newsletter, described how for many unionists the Bloody Sunday Inquiry is indicative of a number of wider grievances they have about the Troubles and their legacy.

"On a human level, many unionists can understand the determination among the families of the Bloody Sunday victims to uncover the full truth about what happened to their loved ones on the day and can even admire their tenacity in pursuing that goal," Mr Templeton said.

"However, they also believe that the events of the day must be placed in the historical context of a murderous IRA campaign against the Army, both in the north west and across the rest of the Northern Ireland at the time."

Mr Templeton added that unionists have particular issues with the money spent on the inquiry, especially when judged against their perception of the lack of resources for other victims.

"Most unionists are dismayed at how the Saville Inquiry has developed, both in terms of the length of time it has taken and the massive cost of its deliberations," he said.

"They contrast the expenditure on Saville with the limited funds made available for investigations into other killings during the Troubles, which have not attracted the same public profile.

"And finally, they fear that in the end Saville's report will not serve to draw a line under the incident, or to heal the wounds."

More on This Story

THE BLOODY SUNDAY INQUIRY

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