August 2nd, 2010


August Books 1) Longest Day, by Mike Collier

Basically a fairly standard adventure of the Eighth Doctor and Sam Jones arriving in the middle of a conflict on an alien planet; time eddies and nasty villains complicate the situation (though some of the characters seem to have remarkable powers of surviving major injuries). Remarkable for insisting, more than I remember previous volumes doing, on Sam's falling in love with the oblivious Doctor, which is of course now standard fare for New Who but was a new departure back them. And of course it turns out that this is a set-up for the ending when she and the Doctor are parted by circumstance, with several volumes to go before they are reunited.

August Books 2) The Bloody Sunday Report, Vol IX

Now that the main story and conclusions are done, Volume IX looks at some issues of evidence and legality, a couple of which struck me as important enough that they should really have been included in the main findings of the report. Although at 253 pages this is by far the shortest volume, the points raised are interesting and I go into them in great length below, with some pretty full quotations from both the report and the evidence given to the inquiry.

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There are then chapters looking at how the trajectory photographs of the soldiers' shots were compiled; what might have happened to various photographs known to have been taken on the day but since missing (the soldiers' lawyers arguing that their absence was evidence of a vast pro-IRA conspiracy, Saville disagreeing); the provenance of one particular photograph of people in Glenfada Park North; the question of psyops, linked with the colourful figure of Colin Wallace but of marginal relevance to events on the day; and the dramatic story told by Private 027, whose media interviews were a major part of the process leading to the setting up of the Saville Inquiry, but who does not really seem to have come through witt the goods:
179.18: In his oral closing submissions, counsel for the majority of the families described Private 027 as “a wretched witness”. To a substantial extent we agree that this comment was justified. At the same time, we take the view that Private 027’s evidence cannot be wholly dismissed on the basis that it is such exaggeration, fantasy and deceit as to be of no assistance. Our conclusion is that it would be wrong to ground any of our findings about Bloody Sunday on his evidence alone, but equally wrong to ignore it where there is other material that tends to support what he told us.
Which is rather a good encapsulation of Saville's cautious but comprehensive approach to the entire enquiry. (Incidentally the costs of providing security, including a change of identity, for Private 027 must have been a substantial element of the huge overall cost of the Inquiry.)

There are then sixty pages or so of entirely factual reporting of the system of army and police radio communications in operation in Northern Ireland generally and on Bloody Sunday in particular, detailed but not particularly interesting. One civilian listening in to the army went off on the march, leaving his twelve-year-old daughter to change the tapes over ever 45 minutes. The lawyers for the victims tried to argue that the Paras were not using a secure system, so the fact that there was no record of the order to go into the Bogside being made meant that it was never given, but the evidence is pretty clear that they did have a secure system and everyone behaved as if the order had been duly given, so it's difficult to see what they were trying to prove.

The last 45 pages of the volume tackle an earlier theme from a different angle: what exactly were the legal powers of the soldiers in Northern Ireland? A few weeks after Bloody Sunday, John Hume and others won a court case quashing their arrest by the army, on the grounds that the arrests were made under a law of the Northern Ireland Parliament, which however had no power to instruct the British army. (I have heard, but have been unable to verify, that Paddy Ashdown was one of the soldiers who arrested Hume on the occasion in question.) Saville examines the agreement on mutual jurisdiction betweem the RMP and the RUC, and comes back to the question of Collapse ) Saville's omission of any counter-argument to this theory, particularly considering the amount of space devoted to knocking down other conspiracy theories, is itself an eloquent silence.

There is one more sting to come. Saville looks at the actual powers of arrest as legally allocated to, and as actually used, by soldiers on Bloody Sunday. He Collapse ) the entire arrest operation, in the name of which the victims of Bloody Sunday were killed and wounded, was carried out completely illegally by the army. It's a bit surprising that this did not make it into the main conclusions of the report as publicised in June.

I probably will trudge through the legal annexes of Volume X after this, just for completeness, and so that if people ask me if I have read the whole report I can give a better answer than that I managed nine of the ten volumes.

Volume I | Volume II | Volume III | Volume IV | Volume V | Volume VI | Volume VII | Volume VIII | Volume IX | Volume X and conclusions