Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Saville report at a glance…

by Kathryn Hadley

A brief background to the report
On Sunday January 30th, 1972, 14 people died when British soldiers opened fire on civil rights protesters in the Bogside district of Derry. The shootings sparked international condemnation. In Dublin a crowd of protesters burnt down the British Embassy. The day after the incident, the then Prime Minister Edward Heath set up a public inquiry under the then Lord Chief Justice Lord Widgery. A report was published within 11 weeks of the shootings.
The report largely absolved the British soldiers, however, and was rejected by the families of victims and criticised for excluding key evidence. It concluded that shots had been fired at the soldiers before they started the firing that led to the casualties; that the soldiers acted as they did because they believed their standing orders justified it; and that although there was no proof that any of the victims had been shot while handling a firearm or bomb, there was a strong suspicion that some had been firing weapons or handling bombs in the course of the afternoon.
Twenty-five years after the event, in January 1998, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair eventually established a full enquiry under the auspices of former High Court judge, Lord Saville of Newdigate. Blair’s statement to the House of Commons on January 29th, 1998, and Lord Saville’s opening statement, delivered on April 3rd, 1998, can be found on The Bloody Sunday Inquiry website.
The inquiry began on March 27th, 2000, taking oral statements from the first hundreds of witnesses. A timeline of the key moments in the inquiry is available on the website of The Guardian.

Facts and stats about the Bloody Sunday inquiry
The Bloody Sunday inquiry is the longest and most expensive in British history. It cost almost £195 million and took 12 years to complete.
The inquiry closed in 2004.
It took over four years for the Saville report to be written.
The completed report is 5,000 pages long with a 60 page summary.
In November 2008, it was announced that the publication of the report would be delayed for at least another year.
At the beginning of April 2009, it was announced that the publication of the report would be delayed until after the general election.
It was due to be handed over to Shaun Woodward, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at the end of March this year and was expected to be made public shortly after.

What is happening today?
The Saville report was delivered to the Guildhall in Derry at 2 o’clock this morning and was made available to the families’ legal teams.
Cameron is expected to announce the official publication of the report later this afternoon in the House of Commons.
Full coverage and regular updates are available on the website of The Guardian.

The website of the Bloody Sunday Trust, a history project based in Derry to commemorate the events of Bloody Sunday and to preserve the memory of its victims, provides useful background information to the report and features a gallery of photographs from the collections of the Museum of Free Derry.

Our Picture Editor, Sheila Corr, was a student at Trinity College, Dublin, at the time. She remembers the shock and outrage across the border.

On February 2nd 1972, three days after the event, and while many of the
funerals took place, a day of national mourning was held throughout the Irish
Republic, and, as a mark of respect for the dead, businesses were closed and
services held. In Dublin, so far largely untouched by ‘The Troubles’,
thousands marched in solemn protest behind symbolic coffins, and later, as night
fell, an angry crowd descended on the British Embassy and burnt it
I watched the procession pass slowly and in silence before
the old Irish Parliament building and Trinity College where I was then a
student, and in Merrion Square, usually an oasis of Georgian tranquility, saw
the embassy blaze unchecked against the dark sky. It was an extraordinary
moment when hatred of Britain raged furiously about me, and for the first and
only time in all the years I’d visited Ireland with my Irish parents, I felt an
uncomfortable need to conceal an English accent.

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