Thursday, 17 June 2010
Cameron sets the tone for unionists' muted Bloody Sunday response
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.