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The importance of truth

9 November 2012

2:23 PM

9 November 2012

2:23 PM

The words ‘Saville’ and ‘Inquiry’ have taken on a somewhat different meaning in recent weeks. But this is just to tell interested readers that my book on the original Saville Inquiry, Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry is out now in paperback. If you can still find a bookshop then you might find it there. Otherwise it is of course available on Amazon etc. Priced at £12.99, it includes updated material on the recently-announced police investigation.

The book has been described by the Spectator magazine, no less, as ‘a real-life whodunit’, by the New Statesman as ‘compelling’, by the Literary Review as ‘indispensable’, by the Irish Independent as ‘riveting’, by Kevin Myers as ‘superb’. Several of my regular readers who have not read it, meanwhile, have described the very idea of me writing the book as ‘baffling’.

Quite a few people have asked me to explain why I wrote it. People tend to think that there are clear reasons why you write a particular book. I never find this. For instance many people hold the belief that people write biographies and histories of people or times that they admire. For my own part I do not think that is the case. I write books about subjects which interest me, and I hope will interest others, but the only thing I can discern that any of them have in common is that they all aim to correct some lie. The only time I have written a biography it was to correct what I thought was a mistaken historical impression. My book on neo-conservatism aimed to correct some then very prevalent myths about a particular political worldview. My book on Bloody Sunday tries, among other things, to correct the popular misunderstandings on all sides about an event covered in propaganda and counter-propaganda and simply aims to get to the very uncomfortable truth.

Some regular readers of my political comment have been surprised that I should write a book which is highly critical of, among other things, parts of the British army. But there it is. I couldn’t write a book about Bloody Sunday which praised them over-much. The book is also highly critical of the IRA and exposes their own doings on the day as much as it does those of the British army. But the implication is that everybody knows something bad happened on Bloody Sunday but ‘why dwell on it?’ I suppose my short answer would be that we didn’t dwell on it enough at the time, didn’t sort out the real problems that arose from the failings and outrage of the day, and that we perhaps ought to learn the lessons now that we did not learn at the time.

In any case, the idea that books are written to support a certain side or argue a persistent and clear line seems awful to me. This may sound priggish, but the only point of writing seems to me to try to get to a truth. Sometimes it might serve one person’s political or personal interest, sometimes another’s. But the truth seems to me to be a subject worth pursuing, even – or perhaps particularly – in obscure byways.

Anyhow – the book would make a fine, if slightly unfestive, Christmas present.

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