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Bloody Sunday Enquiry

THIRTY-ONE years ago, paratroopers shot thirteen demonstrators dead on the streets of Londonderry. In republican circles, the received opinion of the shootings is that it was a deliberate act on behalf of the British government to strengthen unionism and crush Catholic resistance to Stormont rule. Much to their disappointment, the proceedings of the very expensive Saville enquiry are undermining this theory. Documentary evidence brought before the tribunal shows that the British government under Ted Heath acted with deep cynicism against both unionists and republicans. Brian Faulkner and the unionist cabinet were well aware of the contempt in which the Westminster government held them. On hearing of the Bloody Sunday shootings, Faulkner predicted that, “This is London’s disaster but they will use it against us.” Within two months his government was history!

According to Eamonn McCann—an organiser of the Civil Rights march in 1972 that ended in tragedy—in the Sunday Tribune, (December 29th 2002) a memo produced in 1971 by Burke Trend, the then Cabinet Secretary, demonstrated this contempt. Advocating ‘joint sovereignty’ with Dublin with Éire troops patrolling Catholic areas of Belfast and Derry, an attached document published by Heath’s Central Policy Review Staff think-tank declared: “The fact that Northern Ireland is constitutionally part of the United Kingdom is no more or less relevant than the fact that Algeria was part of metropolitan France… If the six counties ceased to be British, the net saving to public expenditure would be considerable… Some form of deal with the Irish Republic seems the best option available.” Hardly the stuff of defending the Union at all costs!

David Kerr,
January 2003.

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