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18 March 2010 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

Have the British ever set the truth free?

Have the British government ever told the truth about the North or indeed the truth about atrocities carried out against defenceless people during their colonial exploits in many countries of the world? What are the chances they will come clean on the atrocity that was Bloody Sunday in Ireland, that they will tell the truth?
The late Monsignor Denis Faul claimed many years ago that he could verify that the British never told the truth about a single incident in the North since 1970.
The delay in the publication of the findings of the Saville Inquiry has added to speculation that this report may be another tissue of lies.
In retrospect, the Westminster government’s default response to the many atrocities carried out in the North since 1970 by their military and intelligence services has been to set up an official inquiry, none of which were about truth. Remember Scarman, Cameron, Hunt, Widgery, Bennett, Stephens, to name but a few.
The objective of most British inquiries was simply to buy enough time to cover up the truth. Sub judice became the convenient legal tool to prevent a prying media from poking their noses into sensitive issues involving the British Army and unionist death squads.  
The events in Derry on Bloody Sunday were more of the same but different in that the murder of 14 citizens and the wounding of 28 others was witnessed by hundreds of Derry citizens. Despite this, the British establishment were confident that their version of events on the day would be accepted and press statements were prepared in advance, and sent all over the world, before the blood of the slain had even dried.
The Widgery Tribunal was a typical British response to murder. It was set up to silence the relatives of the dead and to quell the outrage of the people of Derry, still reeling from the shock and disbelief of witnessing what the Derry Coroner described at the time as ‘sheer unadulterated murder’. 
Widgery was the ultimate in cover up and whitewash. He didn’t even bother to read the statements of witnesses before reaching his conclusion that the dead were all gunmen and nailbombers and deserved to be shot. It would take 26 years and a lot of campaigning for the British government to apologise to the relatives of the maligned dead and admit that Widgery was indeed a whitewash. The result was the Saville Inquiry.
The beautiful eyes of a child look across the streets of Derry to where he and 13 others were murdered on Bloody Sunday. The eyes are part of the “Set the Truth Free” campaign by relatives demanding that the British government produce the Saville report immediately.
It is 38 years since the eyes of 17-year-old Gerard Donaghy closed for the last time on the town he loved so well. No wonder that on the day of the funeral, the skies of Derry wept for its citizens, shot dead while peacefully protesting internment without trial. In hindsight, it is clear that the actions of the British establishment at that time were to put an end to street protest.
In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, the people dried their eyes and for the next 37 years on the anniversary of the massacre and organised by Sinn Féin, they marched the original route, demanding not only an end to internment without trial but an inquiry into an atrocity that will never go away until the truth is set free.
So what chances now, 38 years on and 12 years after Saville, that the truth will be set free next week when the report is due to be handed over to Shaun Woodward, the British Secretary of State. The predictions are not good for relatives who were promised the report last October.
Woodward has so far resisted their efforts to have the report given to them simultaneously. It’s the very least they are entitled to.
If its findings are an honest appraisal of the hundreds of participants who were eyewitnesses to the massacre, and whose testimony should substantiate what many of us know already to be the truth, that those slain were not gunmen or nail bombers but were shot down in cold blood, walking their own streets, then why the delay?
Unless, of course, this inquiry, like all the rest, is another British cover up, whose tentacles reach all the way to the higher echelons of the British establishment.

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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