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A contribution from A. Kaye.
The tragedy of 30 January 1972, infamously known as Bloody Sunday, has left a formidable imprint on the consciousness of Northern Ireland. The killing of 14 people, who were marching against internment (imprisonment without trial) and later found to be unarmed, by British soldiers has been the subject of two inquiries, years of review by the Public Prosecution Service and has now lead to one soldier, identified as Soldier F, charged with two murders and the attempted murder of four others.
Despite the slaughter of defenceless adolescent boys and men, I cannot shake the feeling of the involved soldiers being persecuted instead of merely prosecuted. I have this internal debate, a moral conundrum: defenceless people protesting for civil rights vs soldiers acting on trained instinct while carrying out their duty. Yet somehow the normal ‘them’ vs ‘us,’ ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ reasoning doesn’t make sense of this bloodshed.
I have come to realise there can be no justice for those involved in Bloody Sunday, like so many other casualties of war or civil unrest. The devastating loss of life is a byproduct of the hostile environment the soldiers and marchers found themselves in. It does not sound nice or fair, but it is the truth.
Two inquiries into this dark day, have resulted in contrasting summaries:
The Widgery Tribunal concluded the soldiers returned fire, and while their actions bordered on the reckless, they acted within their duties.
The Saville Report, the most protracted and most expensive inquiry in British history, concluded the soldiers opened fire first due to loss of self-control and recommended prosecution be considered for numerous soldiers. Surely, these stark differences are a reflection that the pursuit of justice cannot be achieved but only manufactured depending upon the political environment of the day?
If it is not for the differences in political environments and the incessant need to find a scapegoat, how can one explain how 12 years of fact-finding increases the reliability of information 30 to 40 years old and the testimony somehow be more accurate than that given while memories were fresh? And Is it fair and reasonable to examine the actions of soldiers A to F in minute detail for 12 years when the soldiers, themselves in danger, only had a split second to decide? Is it fair to scrutinise the behaviour of others when the climate of ‘the troubles’ can no longer be felt but only remembered?
Moreover, I cannot shake the feeling that this is a dangerous precedent being set. Our armed forces, the backbone of security for our great nation, is being diminished before our very eyes. For if we do not support the trained instinct of our armed forces, the necessity to make split-second decisions in highly volatile situations to preserve life, we are then asking for a defence force that hesitates in combat.
The most strong and loyal of men and women make the decision to serve Queen and country. Yet, the endless review of Bloody Sunday by the same Government that imposed internment, outlawed marches and gave the soldiers their orders on Bloody Sunday, has resonated heavily in the hearts and minds of both current and former members of the British Armed Forces. This apparent persecution signals that loyalty is one way and each soldier is disposable.
Many veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder due to the trauma they experienced serving our nation and experience higher rates of suicide, substance abuse, family breakdown and homelessness compared to the general population. For serving our nation and sacrificing their very spirits if not their lives, the British Government will now hang them out to dry.
This is a sad state of affairs but not one to be taken lying down. Tens of thousands of veterans and civilians are joining forces to denounce the persecution of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and the disposable soldier, Soldier F.
The Great Gathering, as it has been coined, will bring London to a standstill on 29 June 2019 and beyond until common sense prevails and loyalty is restored. It is more than a protest, it is an announcement to the British Government that the men and women who lost their lives for our nation, who had their spirits broken, will not be pawns in whatever “supposed” politic game is being played.
In a world of increased military activity and terrorism, a nation must be backed by a powerful defence force. It is time to support those who have dedicated their lives to protecting us.
Lest We Forget.
Note: further information on The Great Gathering and the plight of the disposable soldiers can be found on the YouTube channel ‘WHO DARES WINS’ or Facebook event, The Great Gathering, Justice for our veterans.