It has just been announced that the police are going to launch an investigation into the Bloody Sunday deaths. It comes after the Police Service Northern Ireland and the Public Prosecution service reviewed the evidence of the Saville Inquiry.
There will be a lot of comment about this in the coming days, but I think a couple of things are worth noting at the outset.
Firstly, there can be no doubt that a number of soldiers deliberately shot and killed innocent people that day. Secondly, there can be no doubt that they then lied and misled an exceedingly long and costly public inquiry set up precisely in order to find the truth of what happened that day.
As it happens, the Saville Inquiry provided ample opportunity for people to tell the truth. The provision of a public interest immunity certificate meant that anybody who told the truth to the Saville would be protected from any further legal actions. If Soldier F, for instance, had gone before the inquiry and admitted what from the evidence of other soldiers and many civilians is demonstrably the case – that he deliberately shot and killed innocent people that day – then he could not now be the subject of a police investigation or any future criminal case. But he did not tell the truth. For two days he sat and told an incredulous inquiry that he could remember nothing. As did Soldier H and most of the other members of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment who were present on 30 January 1972.
Which brings me to a final point. The events of Bloody Sunday are now known about in the fullest and most complete terms that any historical event could be. Yet the announcement today says that the police investigation is expected to take at least four years and to be the work of a team of 30 detectives. This is ludicrous. It certainly takes a long time to read the Saville report, but not that long. The evidence is in any case neatly summarised, explained and analysed in my recent book on the subject. The last thing that is needed now is yet another long-running inquiry. As I hope my book shows, the case against certain of the soldiers is not only very clear now, it has been very clear since 1972. It remains a deep scandal for the British army and the British state that Soldiers E, F, G and H among others were not only never prosecuted or in any way disciplined back in 1972 but actually continued to have careers in the British army.
Soldiers E and G are now dead. F and H were still alive ten years ago when I watched them testify at Saville. If they are alive now they in particular should be prosecuted for what they did and for then lying about it to Saville. The idea that this process should take another four years, however, is to add insult to deep injury.