There were two events in Derry to commemorate the Bloody Sunday massacre. In an earlier, smaller event, official nationalist Ireland was well represented with Mícheál Martin and Simon Coveney joining Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin.
In the afternoon, tens of thousands marched from the Creggan to Free Derry Corner, where they demanded prosecutions of the top brass of the British Army on the day. Strange as it might appear, Sinn Féin was not represented.
The main theme of the second demonstration was a call to prosecute General Sir Mike Jackson, the second-in-command of the first battalion of the Parachute Regiment.
Immediately after the Bloody Sunday massacre, Jackson interviewed his soldiers and drew up a ‘shot list’ of where the shootings had occurred. It was a piece of fiction but it became the basis for the original Widgery report which whitewashed the Parachute Regiment.
Not only did Jackson help to organise the massacre, but he was also the key figure in covering it up.
This is why he must be brought before the courts to answer for his crimes.
There is an important political point here. The British establishment like to portray the conflict in the North as a war between two tribes, where their army becomes ‘piggy in the middle’ keeping them apart. But Bloody Sunday arose from the cold-blooded decision of the British establishment to suppress a mass movement for civil rights.
Three weeks before Bloody Sunday, Major General Robert Ford, commander of land forces in Northern Ireland, wrote in a memo that he was “disturbed” by what he regarded as the soft attitude of local army and police chiefs to the Bogside, and added: “I am coming to the conclusion that the minimum force necessary to achieve a restoration of law and order is to shoot selected ringleaders amongst the DYH [Derry Young Hooligans].”
The Parachute Regiment was sent to Derry to conduct a massacre – to break and intimidate a civil rights movement.
Official Ireland has, correctly, argued that there must be no immunity given to the soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday. But the real criminals are those who gave the orders.
Let’s start by putting them in the dock. That was the big message from Derry on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.