Thursday, 17 June 2010

Cameron sets the tone for unionists' muted Bloody Sunday response

Predictably, there’s been an enormous quantity of analysis and reportage, following the publication of the Saville Report on Tuesday.  If posting has been light over the past couple of days, it’s because I’ve been making an effort to digest the best of it.

There is a lot to commend the thrust of Turgon’s post on Slugger O’Toole, which examines unionist reaction to Saville.  He identifies two ’predictable’ responses which he believes are emblematic.

One, as typified by Gregory Campbell, casts doubt on the report’s interpretation.  The other, as articulated by Sir Reg Empey and others, points to a disproportionate concentration of resources on the victims of Bloody Sunday, as opposed to victims of Republican violence.

I accept that these arguments have been raised and that they are, as Turgon contends, ’understandable’.  I also agree with his broader point that, should we deny moral equivalence between terror groups and the British army, we should also expect standards of self-scrutiny and accountability from the latter to which the former do not aspire.

The important point is that, however belatedly, the United Kingdom has examined its actions and acknowledged its guilt.  That shows a capacity for reflection which is not matched by Republicans, who still maintain that Bloody Sunday justified thirty years of mayhem and murder.

I would argue, though, that unionist complaints about Saville have largely remained rather low key.  Even from Campbell, who is the most vigorous critic.  The positions have certainly been assumed, predictably, but the rhetoric has been kept in check.

If the inquiry and its report provides the ’justice’ which bereaved families crave, then the £200 million could be worth it.  After all, they still claim that the most important aspect of this process is clearing their loved ones of any blame.

The proviso is that if any subsequent legal proceedings become too lengthy, one sided or vindictive, then the grievances of other victims will be hard to contain.  They will find their voice, inevitably, in the political arena.

So far, the defining moment of the week, for me, was a unionist prime minister, David Cameron, speaking in brave, balanced and conciliatory tones about the wrongdoing of British soldiers.

The distance which he put between himself and events in Derry was defined by time rather than politics.  It is clear that he, at least, does not regard Northern Ireland as someone else’s responsibility, remote from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Unionists here should follow his lead.

4 comments:

Seymour Major said...

You are right but I think you are being a little bit too polite to Gregory Campbell.

Gregory Campbell's doubts are not based upon objective analysis. Lets be forthright about this. It was pure bigotry which drove the direction of his mind.

It serves as an example of how the DUP only seems to consider the interests of the community that elects them.

UUP politicians should be using this sort of comment and other comments made DUP politicians in the past to distinguish themselves to promote a superior, more ethical and tolerant form of unionism.

That this does not happen is a source of perplexity to me.

slug said...

Seymour, I very much agree with Cameron's approach, and am normally not one to defend the DUP or Cambell, but rather than dismiss the points that the DUP make as "bigotry" (your word), I think the appropriate response is actually, as Cameron did, to also acknowledge the concerns of the community that elect the DUP on this, in particuar the issue of balance. I watched the debate in the House on Tuesday and I thought it was very good overall, including the points from the DUP about balance, as well as the points expressed so eloquently by the SDLP's Mark Durkan.

Gary said...

Without jumping to a DUP'ers defence it might be more to do with the attempts on the man's life for being nothing more than a Unionist. Or the fact he grew up in Londonderry during the exodus of up to 12,000 Protestants from the cityside. Your experiences, IMO, help to shape who you are.

Seymour Major said...

Im sorry Slug but I call a spade a spade. You may not like me using the "b" word. I can assure you that I use it sparingly. Gary, I hear what you say but I dont value politicians who fail to rise above their own bitterness. Perhaps he will remain popular with his community but I am not obliged to to respect him.

I watched Mr. Campbell live on TV pronouncing the report as "revisionism." Everybody is entitled to their opinion, of course. I will soften my tone then and wont use the "b" word. I will just simply describe Campbell as a person who would not tolerate the truth. Is that better?