Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has apologised for the actions of British soldiers after the “Saville Inquiry” found that 14 civil rights demonstrators and bystanders were killed without justification.
Describing the actions of soldier as “unjustified and unjustifiable”, the Prime Minister told the Commons: “What happened should never ever have happened. I am deeply, deeply sorry.”
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry report found that all those killed were unarmed and that paratroopers had lost control and opened fire without warning. Some had been trying to flee when they were hit and soldiers had made up false accounts in a bid to cover up their actions, the report found.
A total of 13 unarmed civilians, seven of them teenagers, died in Londonderry when soldiers from 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment opened fire during clashes after the banned march was stopped from entering the city centre on January 30 1972. A 14th man died some time later from his injuries.
Lord Saville concluded: “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.”
The inquiry found that the soldiers of the support company who went into the Bogside, where the march was taking place, did so “as a result of an order which should not have been given” by their commander.
It concluded that “on balance” the first shot in the vicinity of the march was fired by British soldiers.
None of the casualties was carrying a firearm and while there was some shooting by republican paramilitaries, “none of this firing provided any justification for the shooting of civilian casualties”.
In no case was any warning given by the soldiers before opening fire and the support company “reacted by losing their self-control … forgetting or ignoring their instructions and training”.
The result was a “serious and widespread loss of fire discipline”.
Afterwards, many of the soldiers involved “knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing”.
After a night of anxious expectation in Londonderry, bereaved relatives celebrated the report’s conclusions at the Guildhall, giving thumbs up to crowds outside.
The £191 million Saville report included 30 million words of testimony and took 12 years to complete.
Lord Saville has been criticised for the length of his inquiry, which was expected to last two years when it was ordered by Tony Blair in 1998.
Nearly 1,000 witnesses gave evidence, including soldiers, civilians, police, politicians, forensic experts, journalists, civilians, priests and members of the IRA, including Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister.
Sunday Bloody Sunday is the opening track from U2’s 1983 album, War. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is noted for its militaristic drumbeat, harsh guitar, and melodic harmonies. One of U2’s most overtly political songs, its lyrics describe the horror felt by an observer of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly focusing on the Bloody Sunday incident in Derry where British troops shot and killed civil rights marchers. Along with “New Year’s Day”, the song helped U2 reach a wider listening audience.
The song has remained a staple of U2’s live concerts. During its earliest performances, the song created controversy. Bono reasserted the song’s anti-hate, anti-sectarian-violence message to his audience for many years. Today, it is considered one of U2’s signature songs, being one of the band’s most performed songs. Critics rate it among the best political protest songs, and it has been covered by over a dozen artists. It was named the 268th greatest song by Rolling Stone on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
U2’s drummer, Larry Mullen Jr said of the song in 1983:
“We’re into the politics of people, we’re not into politics. Like you talk about Northern Ireland, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday,’ people sort of think, ‘Oh, that time when 13 Catholics were shot by British soldiers’; that’s not what the song is about. That’s an incident, the most famous incident in Northern Ireland and it’s the strongest way of saying, ‘How long? How long do we have to put up with this?’ I don’t care who’s who – Catholics, Protestants, whatever. You know people are dying every single day through bitterness and hate, and we’re saying why? What’s the point? And you can move that into places like El Salvador and other similar situations – people dying. Let’s forget the politics, let’s stop shooting each other and sit around the table and talk about it… There are a lot of bands taking sides saying politics is crap, etc. Well, so what! The real battle is people dying, that’s the real battle.”
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