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31 May 2007 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

Old soldiers have no conscience

The retired soldier Mike Jackson has acknowledged that innocent people were killed on Bloody Sunday. He stopped short of saying that all of the people murdered that day by British Paratroopers were innocent, leaving himself wriggle room should the Saville enquiry reach a different conclusion.
Mike Jackson was head of the British armed forces in Derry on Bloody Sunday. One wonders why it has taken all this time to acknowledge that innocent people who engaged in a peaceful demonstration against internment without trial, were shot off the streets of their own city by an army that had no right to be there.
It’s hardly likely that the old, retired career soldier is suffering the pangs of conscience for a massacre of the innocent. It’s more likely he is a mouthpiece, the first of many to be wheeled out by the British political and military establishment, in expectation of Saville reporting in the autumn.
The leaking of information however plausible by British Government sources has been successfully deployed in the North of Ireland over the years to psychologically prepare the public for the outcome of enquiries that were nothing more than a sham. Perhaps Saville will break with tradition.
Bloody Sunday didn’t happen out of the blue. British paratroopers were sent into the North to implement British Government policy. The week prior to Bloody Sunday they brutally attacked a peaceful demonstration to Magilligan internment camp. They shot dead six people in the Ardoyne in Belfast.
But Bloody Sunday was different. It was to be a turning point in the history of the North as events over the next decades would show.
Mike Jackson claims that there should have been a political response to the situation in the North. If that was the case, why did the British military and political establishment aware of the history of grievances that led people onto the streets opt for a military solution, the consequences of which would result in more death and suffering and prolong a conflict that should have been resolved?
Some years ago a former member of the Paras revealed that on the eve of Bloody Sunday they were instructed by an officer to ‘Lets teach these buggers a lesson, we want some kills tomorrow’. That suggests that Jackson and all the big brass in the British Army present in Derry on Bloody Sunday, were working to a preconceived plan to kill innocent people as Jackson now admits. But then history has taught the Irish a lesson that the spilling of Irish blood is somehow not all that important and old retired  soldiers can talk about it years on without fear of disgrace or arrest and conviction.
Whatever the conclusions of the Saville enquiry, the people of Derry know that Bloody Sunday did not happen as a result of some soldiers running amok or a regrettable accident of war. Fourteen people were murdered and it was the British Army acting on orders from its political and military establishment and nobody else, who killed them.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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