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June 17th, 2010

The Saville Report has brought to an end the long-running campaign of the relatives of the victims of Bloody Sunday. The upbeat mood of the relatives following the publication of the report indicates that, for them, the truth has set them free, and has perhaps brought an end to a painful and difficult episode in the history of the Maiden City.

The justification given for twelve years of inquiry and almost £200 million of costs has been that the state was responsible for the unjustified killing of its own citizens. But the point has been made that no other group of victims will be accorded the same privilege. A friend of mine went through “Lost Lives” and came up with the following statistics for 1972, which sets the events of Bloody Sunday in context.

496 people were killed in 1972, including 12 in January before Bloody Sunday, and including two police officers murdered in the Creggan on the Thursday before Bloody Sunday. Of those killed in 1972,

  • 258 were civilians
  • 108 were regular soldiers
  • 26 were UDR soldiers
  • 17 were RUC officers (including the two mentioned above)
  • 74 were republicans
  • 11 were loyalists.
  • Republicans killed 279 people
  • Loyalists killed 121
  • the Army killed 79
  • the RUC killed 6

The totals don’t add up, but some deaths may not be attributed.

What is clear is that there are many relatives of innocent victims who will never be given the detailed accounts of what happened, nor will their killers ever be brought before an inquiry or a human court of law. Maybe the best way forward is simply to let the past be the past.

That does not mean that justice will not ultimately be done. Christians believe that we are headed to a day when all wrongs will be righted and when “justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). That “shalom” will bring relief and joy to all who have been treated unjustly. And everyone will acknowledge, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” (Revelation 16:7). Under God’s righteous rule, we have the hope that every victim will ultimately get their own Saville Report.

Postscript: Here are Bono’s comments on the publication of the Saville Report.

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