Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

July Books 12) The Bloody Sunday Report, Volume V

At 654 numbered pages, this is the longest volume of the ten so far (and also, incidentally, marks more than a halfway point in the whole report, as Volume X is largely taken up with legal appendices). Whereas Volumes III and IV covered the events in the carpark of the Rossville Flats, where one person was killed and six wounded, Volme V takes a rather shorter time to deal with the events of Rossville Street to the west and north, in which six people were killed and one wounded. It's easier to do in that all of the killing shots took pace in a very narrow window of space and time, as the Paras coming down the road took cover in the ramp beside the Kells Walk flats and started taking potshots at the crowd gathered at the rubble barricade two thirds of the way down Rossville Street, which ran directly between the junction known to the army as 'Aggro Corner' and the junction known to history as Free Derry Corner.

I think this would actually be a good sample volume for anyone who is interested in the deliberative process which led to the writing of the report as a whole but is not, perhaps, interested enough to work through all ten volumes. As usual, we start with a detailed description of the geography of Rossville Street, and an analysis of the movements of the soldiers as they moved down it. Once again we have a mysterious gunman - though whereas the two previous such cases were identified clearly as Official IRA men, this one remains unidentified. However, as in the two previous cases, he is marginal to the story, having been seen by a small number of civilians and by only two soldiers, neither of whom was involved in the later shooting at civilians. Private 017 fired a rubber bullet at him and he ran away.

Three more incidents are described before we get onto the main business: one man injured by a plastic bullet, a woman injured by shattering glass when a plastic bullet was fired through her window, and a man chased into a derelict building who gave himself up when the soldier chasing him fired into the ceiling. The first of these incidents, according to Saville, was a shot which "cannot reasonably be criticised", a relatively rare endorsement of the use of force on Bloody Sunday. The other two were clearly excessive. In any case all are marginal to the main action (though Saville assesses the testimony of the soldiers involved here as part of the general picture).

The main action is the firing by soldiers from two different platoons at civilians gathered at the rubble barricade towards the southern end of Rossville Street. Saville goes through the accounts of the soldiers of their own and thir comrades' firing, patiently pointing out the significant internal discrepancies between the various accounts given between 1972 and his own inquiry. One gave an ill-advised interview to the Daily Telegraph in 1999, which Saville ruthlessly deconstructs. (It is interesting that the Daily Telegraph actually gave rather balanced coverage to Bloody Sunday at the time, though not since.) All are clearly lying or at best deluded. Colonel Wilford turns up again in the middle of the action, telling the soldiers to go for it when they were ready (at least according to Private L, though Saville thinks he is an unreliable witness who lied abut shooting an unarmed civilian).

As before, Saville uses forensic and civilian evidence to establish [89.70, slightly edited] that Lance Corporal F shot and killed Michael Kelly; Corporal P shot and killed at least one of William Nash, John Young and Michael McDaid, though Lance Corporal J may have been responsible for one of these casualties and Saville cannot eliminate the possibility that Corporal E was responsible for another. Saville is also sure that Private U shot and killed Hugh Gilmour; and that Private L or Private M shot and killed Kevin McElhinney. One of the soldiers then [89.71] shot Alexander Nash in the arm as he attempted to tend the body of his son William.
89.72 The soldiers were not justified in shooting any of the casualties in Sector 3. In our view Corporal E, Corporal P, Lance Corporal F, Lance Corporal J and Private U fired either in the belief that no-one in the areas towards which they were firing was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, or not caring whether or not anyone there was posing such a threat; and Private L and Private M probably fired in the belief that they might have identified gunmen, but without being certain that this was the case.
One name that came up particularly in this chapter is that of forensic scientist John Martin, who provided evidence to the Widgery Inquiry to the effect that Michael Kelly, Michael McDade and William Nash had probably been handling firearms shortly before they were shot, evidence that provided some of the key arguments for the Widgery whitewash. Martin's analysis was destroyed by the Saville Inquiry's own experts, and he himself resiled from it almost completely when giving evidence to Saville. This is one of the few even slightly satisfying elements of the entire affair.

Volume I | Volume II | Volume III | Volume IV | Volume V | Volume VI | Volume VII | Volume VIII | Volume IX | Volume X and conclusions
Tags: bloody sunday, bookblog 2010, world: northern ireland
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