Loyalist grievances have been threatening the Northern Ireland talks. But, says Nick Martin-Clark, attention will shift to an old nationalist wound-the unfinished business of Bloody Sundayby Nick Martin-Clark / February 20, 1998 / Leave a comment
I hope there will be no more Enniskillens and I am deeply sorry about what happened in Enniskillen”-Gerry Adams speaking on Remembrance Sunday 1997 about the 11 people who died ten years ago while attending a memorial service at the town cenotaph. Previous expressions of regret include: “I make the point very consciously that what the IRA did was wrong.” Adams will not be drawn into speaking for the IRA, and the etiquette of the distinction between the two faces of the republican movement precludes an apology from Sinn Fein. The IRA, however, is capable of speaking for itself and, very early on, put out a terse statement acknowledging that Enniskillen was a mistake. In view of the damage done to the republican cause this was more a statement of fact than an apology.
At international level, the business of apologies is a murky one. At the moment, the Northern Ireland Office is considering a dossier of new evidence on the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings, presented to it last year by the Irish government. Mo Mowlam is understood to have said privately that there will be movement on this issue before the anniversary on 30th January. Whether there is or not, the Irish government will publish the dossier early this year. The pressure is building.
It is now 26 years since a banned civil rights march against the practice of internment, proceeding through a “no-go” area of the city of Derry in Northern Ireland, ended in 13 civilians being shot dead by the British Army. None had been armed. Of the 13, eight were less than 20 years old; seven were minors. A 14th man, who was already unwell, died later as a result of his injuries. Twelve others sustained gun-shot wounds. Large numbers of protestors were beaten and roughly handled during arrest and interrogation. No soldier was harmed even superficially. The 1st Parachute regiment earned an enduring reputation for brutality that day. Images of Bernard McGuigan lying dead, of Father Daly waving a blood-stained white handkerchief at the soldiers, of the 13 coffins laid out in St Mary’s church in the Creggan district of Derry, seared themselves into the consciousness of a generation.
Outrage, international and nationalist, was immense. In the House of Commons, Bernadette Devlin (mother of Roisin McAliskey) slapped Home Secretary Reginald Maudling in the face and pulled his hair. Ireland recalled its ambassador. In Dublin…