BLOODY SUNDAY: Another view

Demands for an apology are at the heart of the Irish problem.

In full penitence mode, the FT this morning opined that Bloody Sunday required an act of atonement by the British Government. I don’t agree – although I bitterly regret what happened.

After 1920, we should never have been in Ireland at all – that’s very easy to say from the perspective of 2010, but it’s true nevertheless. Ireland is Irish or it’s nothing.

Equally, when the report’s findings were announced yesterday, the mood of the Derry crowd should have been one of stoical dignity – not triumphalist whooping. We’re talking about innocent people here, shot dead in their prime. The rhetoric made me angry – and the anger had nothing to do with petty nationalism.

How easy it is for us now – from the perspective of 38 years – to judge young soldiers’ actions when under attack. How quickly we forget the aerial footage of undercover UK forces being dragged from a car and beaten to death, ‘live’. The first few paragraphs of today’s FT article negate its latter half: the IRA in takeover mode and the country’s current deputy carrying a machine gun. Thirty soldiers and twenty policemen dead in just over a year. Tell me how, then, as a soldier being bombarded, you were to decide that the crowd members ‘posed no threat’? Look at the footage and ask yourself again about that conclusion. It is, quite simply, irrational.

I cannot join in this national obsession of late with apology and sorrow: not because I do not feel profound sadness about Bloody Sunday, but at least partly because I am part Irish, and the product of a mixed religious marriage. I find a staged apology now an insult to the Irish people – and perhaps a judgement on the Irish people that they want one in the first place.

I recognise that this sounds harsh and uncaring; but the weeping and cheering is far too easy – and dreadfully hypocritical.

On their own admission, the IRA declared war on the UK and made everyone and everything a military target in order to excuse the most cowardly atrocities. In a military war, people get killed. Don’t declare war as an excuse to kill for political gain, and then become lachrymose about dead civilians: that is the worst form of double standards imaginable.

And if you are an occupying force, don’t send in an elite killing machine to deal with an unruly mob. That was a decision of which even Benjamin Netanyahu would have regrets.

Everyone involved in this ‘inquiry’ would’ve done well to remember one thing: asking people to say sorry is what holds peace back. It is that ghastly human need to keep the score and thus hold a grudge. It was the root cause of this unpardonable incident. If you don’t ask for an apology, you are very unlikely ever to cause violence.

Yesterday’s crowd scenes felt to me too much like retribution, and not enough like closure. We do not need an act of atonement, any more than the IRA do. We need to forgive, and move on.