“there is still a statute of limitations, isn’t there?”
Prime Minister David Cameron does seem to have a unique gift for making the best of a bad job. He was dealt an unexpectedly weak hand by the general election, but swiftly capitalised on the eagerness of the Liberal Democrats to embrace the limo, even if it meant dumping all their childish prejudices. He was thrown a curve ball by the report from Lord Saville on Bloody Sunday via the cretin Blair, and milked it for all it was worth. The media seems to have fallen for his emotional response in Parliament, saying the Para’s action was unjustified and unjustifiable. That’s easy to say with the benefit of 38 years of hindsight and following a report which failed miserably and outrageously to mention any context at all.
The “civil rights” march was illegal. The marchers were rioting. They were throwing rocks. The Paras thought, not surprisingly, that the march was hiding gunmen and bomb throwers. The IRA had been killing Paras’ comrades for months, not to mention policemen and civilians. Martin McGuinness was in the crowd, carrying a machine gun. Undoubtedly, IRA forces were in the vicinity. Saville didn’t believe, according to the report, that the IRA fired first, relying on statements made unreliable by the passage of time. That must be a huge doubt.
There never should have been a Saville Report. Max Hastings was right on the money in a BBC Radio 4 interview, reminding us that he refused to testify to Saville because his memory just couldn’t reliably recall what happened in 1972. When he refused to cooperate, the commission reminded Hastings of what he had said to the Widgery commission, which investigated Bloody Sunday originally. Hastings said he couldn’t recall any of the details, and obviously the other witnesses couldn’t either. Any conclusions made by Saville are tainted by the fact that it was just too long after the event to provide reliability.
David Cameron gritted his teeth and apologised, while probably muttering under his breath about the fool Blair and his unnecessary concession to the IRA in securing the peace agreement.
It’s all very well for Cameron to make the best of a bad job, but one thing must not be allowed to happen. The Paras who were fingered by the enquiry must not be prosecuted on the basis of Saville’s 20-20 hindsight and unreliable testimony. Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, interviewed on NewsNight, refused to address this point, saying it was out of his hands because of the separation of powers. Cameron cannot allow any of these Paras to be victimised by the courts, not the least because of the hideous injustice of these facts. Of all the poor unfortunate victims of the Troubles, 10 per cent were killed by the security forces, 30 per cent by Protestant militants and 60 per cent by the IRA. There will be big trouble for the Tories if they allow any legal action against British soldiers. But that shouldn’t happen; there is still a statute of limitations, isn’t there?