1922, 1972, 2022

Published in Editorial, Issue 2 (March/April 2022), Volume 30


In this issue Jack Hepworth (‘The “good Old IRA”—remembering republican veterans after 1969’, pp 40–3) reminds us that in 1972 there were some 32,000 living republican veterans of the War of Independence and Civil War. They were at the same remove from the events of the ‘revolutionary decade’ as we are now from the events of 1972—the worst year, by far, of the more recent Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, which included Derry’s Bloody Sunday (30 January).

In the recent 50th commemorations of the latter atrocity, it was pointed out that, despite the 2010 Saville report, which categorically established the innocence of the victims, none of the perpetrators (particularly ‘Soldier F’) have since been brought to justice—and with the passing of time, nor are they likely to be. But who were the perpetrators? In his 2010 apology to the victims, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that ‘the government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces’. Yet the Saville report found that neither the British government (led by Edward Heath) nor the Northern Ireland government (led by Brian Faulkner) could be held directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths and injuries caused. Nor could the commander of British land forces in Northern Ireland at the time, Maj.-Gen. Ford, yet he was acknowledged by Saville as the driving force behind the operation. The squaddies on the ground, led by Lt. Col. Derek Wilford, would take the rap.

And if the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday, in spite of the vindication of a ten-year enquiry costing £200 million+, can’t get legal satisfaction, what hope is there for other victims of the Troubles, particularly victims of paramilitary violence? After all, 1972 was also the year of Belfast’s Bloody Friday (21 July).

So it is time for politicians on all sides to come clean—there will be no legal redress for the victims of the Troubles. But nor should there be a unilateral amnesty for crimes committed by members of the British security forces. What we need is a comprehensive ‘truth for amnesty’ scheme, as advocated by the Truth Recovery Process—https://www.truthrecoveryprocess.ie/—before it’s too late and the veterans of 1972 go the same way as the veterans of 1922.

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