28 June 2010
The significance of Bloody Sunday and the difficulty in tracking down the mistake

Brian comments:

I’ve recently been very struck my EU Referendum’s criticisms of the Paras.

Undoing in a few violent minutes what took years to contrive. Armed thugs. That kind of thing.

Do you agree with him? Or is that kind of thing irrelevant also? (I don’t ask in a snearing way. I genuinely ask.)

Yes, I was very struck by what North had to say too. Especially his piece on Ballymurphy.  Clearly the Paras had form.

However, I’m not sure about this idea of “undoing” valuable work.  The days when soldiers were sharing cups of tea with the locals were long gone.  There was a fully-fledged IRA campaign already in existence.  There were several no-go areas which security forces would not normally enter and were controlled on a day-to-day basis by the IRA.  Almost 200 people had been killed in the previous year.  The situation had got so bad that the government had introduced internment - not a decision that they would have taken lightly even then.  So, the situation was pretty bad even without the Paras.

I can’t imagine they did a lot of good but I’m far from convinced that Bloody Sunday acted as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA - it was pretty strong already.

It think the real significance of Bloody Sunday was that it knocked Britain off the moral high ground.  When Britain tried to make its case the IRA could just turn round and say: “What about Bloody Sunday?”  Worse still, it was very difficult for Britain to admit the mistake.  Loyalty works both ways.  If you want your soldiers to be loyal to you, you had better be loyal to them.  We’ve seen much the same sort of thinking more recently wih the rigging of the de Menezes inquest.  Other readers may remember the day SO19 (Scotland Yard’s snipers) went on strike after a couple of their colleagues were suspended.  In the case of the Paras they clearly believed they (and it is they) could get away with it.  Which implies that that belief was being reinforced by those in authority above them.  That raises questions that governments don’t like to answer. 

The IRA has a fundamental problem: it is a fascist organisation in a democratic age.  If you apply democratic principles through the Wilsonian doctrine of self-determination to Ulster you would have to say that Britain has no business governing the West Bank of the Foyle, South Armagh and West Belfast.  (There are other areas that I could probably mention especially in Tyrone but it starts to get very complicated so I won’t).  What the IRA has been trying to do for 40 years is to use that injustice as a wedge to secure the fascist aim of getting the rest of Ulster into a united Ireland.

So, the answer is to withdraw from nationalist areas?  To my mind yes but there are problems.  Since 1945 states have been incredibly reluctant to alter borders.  That’s one of the reasons Africa is such a mess, with borders crossing tribal lines and bringing together under one governmental roof all sorts of people eg the Shona and Matabele, who don’t get on.  I think this reluctance has something to do with the experience of the 1930s but I’m really not sure.  The other problem is working out what constitutes a “nationalist” area.  Would they include places like the Fountain in Londonderry, Suffolk in West Belfast and Enniskillen? all of them oases of unionism in deserts of nationalism.

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