Archive for July 2nd, 2010

Contesting the Past: The Saville Report on Bloody Sunday

2 July 2010

Contributed by Shaun McDaid

The publication on 15 June 2010 of Lord Saville’s Report into the events of Bloody Sunday was one of the most significant events in the recent history of Northern Ireland. For many, Saville’s unequivocal exoneration of those civilians shot by members of 1 Para on 30 January 1972 came as no surprise – not least the families of the victims. The Saville Inquiry exorcised the ghosts of the Widgery report of 1972, the first investigation into the deaths. Widgery’s report suggested that some of those who had been shot had come into contact with or had fired weapons. The forensic evidence on which this conclusion was based has subsequently been discredited; it was rejected by Lord Saville. After almost forty years, the state officially recognised the innocence of those who were shot by the Paras that afternoon. The Prime Minister offered an earnest apology on behalf of the government. However, despite the lack of ambiguity of Saville’s main findings, they were hotly debated in Northern Ireland, with opinion often dividing along sectarian lines.

The differing emphases placed on the report by nationalist and unionist politicians are illustrative of the challenges facing analysts of Ulster politics. Nationalists regard the report as a vindication of the innocent civilians who lost their lives, while many unionists focus on the lack of closure for families who lost loved ones to paramilitary violence. Unionists are also concerned about the movements of the current Deputy-First Minister on Bloody Sunday itself. In Northern Ireland, even seemingly incontrovertible facts can be interpreted in different ways. Politicians on both sides will, it seems, attempt to use the details of the report against each other for political gain. Read more