Bloody Sunday & British Imperialism – Op-ed by Tarlach McConnell

The ringing in their ears may have ceased. Yet the innocent blood, which they had already drawn, continued to drip from their murderous hands and rain upon the triggers of their self-loading rifles.

The facts belie a claim, that is made most often by men wearing suits, that these, young, naive and working class soldiers could ever appreciate the magnitude of the problem which they faced. ‘Peacekeepers’ who were sent to Ireland in order to protect one section of the population from another while helplessly serving both equally. To present this narrative is however, to immediately concede the necessity for a Civil Rights movement in the North of Ireland during the 1960’s. Many in authority refuse to make this concession whatsoever. One section of British Citizens in a part of the United Kingdom were under attack from another other and the section under attack being both fewer and weaker than the other attacking section required a deployment of British troops for their own protection,

It is an interesting narrative, one that could be considered pernicious when reviewing the actual and the established historical facts.

I have had the misfortune to read a number of books that were penned by former British Soldiers who served in this Country in the 1970’s and 80’s. One of them was by a Paratrooper  He explains that one of the initiation ceremonies of the regiment was to go on a night out with colleagues and await the moment when a female companion in the company nipped to the loo. They would then take her hand-bag and defecate into it. To consider such a disgraceful action is bad, to participate in it is worse and to record it in a book is the definition of a paratrooper in Ireland in 1972. Twisted, vile and sick.

After training and the joyous initiation ceremonies, they were deployed to Ireland where they were placed into the care of their superiors  usually in an RUC post come Army Barracks. Their roles were explained to them from intelligence files that had been in the main collated by a police force that had been exclusively formed from the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1922. There was another element at play and it was the global position that British Imperialism had found itself enduring since the 1960’s. Indeed globally imperialism was under threat and the red scares resonating from the east certainly influenced the decisions of the British Government. People on the streets was a bad omen for British rule and it’s destructive potential for British interests had been witnessed in Kenya and Aden. Brigadier Frank Kitson wrote a manual in Counter-insurgency from these very experiences.

The core tenets of his manual had long been adopted by British forces at the end of January 1972. MRF death squads stalked the streets of Ireland murdering innocents at will. Their aim was evidently to strike terror into the indigenous people so as to remove them by force from support of the then fledgling Irish Republican Army. We are only beginning to learn of how deeply and firmly Loyalist terrorists were rooted in the same strategy as calls for truth relating to the Mc Gurks bar massacre turn up further evidence of British complicity in that atrocious act.

On July 9th 1972 Paratroopers descended on the Springhill area of Belfast and commenced their rampage of death by shooting dead an unarmed man as he emerged from a halted car before wounding a passer by who hd rushed to assist him. They claim to hold no exact record detailing when they murdered a 13 year old girl during the shooting but we know that a priest and a passer by who had rushed to thr little girls aid were summarily executed with a single sniper shot to the head, all were unarmed and the priest had been waving a white handkerchief before his murder.

The following month the Government ordered Internment and with it another raining down of death from the barracks that would affect the lives of ordinary decent people. The Government excuse for failing to capture many if any actual I.R.A. men during the swoops has been allocated to old and unkempt intelligence files that were held by the R.U.C. This excuse of course is an insult to the intelligence of any Irish person or indeed any person with a brain in their head.

It is here that the 1st Battalion of the Parachute regiment enter the eternal annals of sheer orchestrated evil. Between the 9-11th August 1971 eleven wholly innocent residents of BallyMurphy were butchered by sniper fire while unarmed. Less than Six-months later they arrived in our town and took up their position in the Bog.

It is undisputed that internment had failed entirely in its stated objective and that the over whelming majority of those who found themselves interned were as innocent as the little girl and the priest who were murdered in Springhill or indeed all of the victims therein and those subsequently murdered in Ballymurphy.

Young, poor Catholics who came from poor Catholic families had been imprisoned having committed no offence while both the emotional and the financial burden of that imprisonment was to be carried by their families. It was and it remains an absolute disgrace. Any injustice will be confronted by the people of Ireland and always has been. Of course such an awful injustice would lead the people onto the streets in the hope, that lingering, utterly useless hope, that people might alter the mind of the tyrant if only they can make enough lawful noise.

The lawful and legitimate noise which they made was initially met with an eerie silence before the the shooting commenced. The dead lay strewn across the streets and by the end of the day the infamous 1st Para could add another 14 innocent people to their tally of mayhem and death.

To these despicable people, Bloody Sunday represented another reprehensible initiation ceremony and what they did here was vile and disgusting, inexplicable and sickening as anything the Parachute regiment had ever done before and goes far beyond the twisted anecdotes of  mentally ill and defective men.

Brigadier Kitson allegedly rebuked General Mike Jackson who led the massacre. He did not scold him for murdering 14 unarmed people unprovoked. He reprimanded him for  having not killed more! Counter insurgency methods, by the “Good guys” right?
Some prick in a suit stands up in a castle  and he feigns an apology but it comes 40 odd years after justifying 1st Para and their actions that day by claiming their Soldiers had been fired upon and that the innocent dead had been carrying nail bombs which incidentally and by defiling the bodies of the dead to do so, blood crazed paras had placed in their jacket pockets.

An apology doesn’t cut it. You see, and I understand the man isn’t well at present, but he was here when it happened. Right at the forefront and he was as receptive to the news that Elizibeth Windsor had commended her Sons regiment for what they had done here as any other Derry person could be. He shook her hand, he dined with her, he posed with portraits painted in her honour and he did so in the name of reconciliation while simultaneously the very British Government that ordered, orchestrated directed and choreographed, pre-meditated and planned strategy of sheer murder in Belfast and Derry, declared there must be immunity from prosecution provided to all British service personnel who served here no matter what crime/s they committed in their ‘service’  it is no coincidence that his fellow member Gerry Kelly, an IRA veteran of the time, has announced he however is more than happy to accept the current retrospective prosecution of I.R.A Volunteers.

So we revolve back to the beginning British narrative, “young naive working class men unaware of what was occurring who were helpless in the face of inter-communal sectarian strife”. They were a group of thugs and murderers trained to be evil and employed for no other reason but to implement British policy in Ireland through the barrel of an SLR. Bloody Sunday was policy and there can never be justice enough for what happened that day to those it affected. 45 years later it is increasingly likely that there will be no justice at all. Sackcloth and ash is not sufficient for us, although we have adorned it dor 20 years. We must now accept as Gerry Kelly accepts that under section 32 of British legislation Irish Republican combatants of the ‘Long War will be gaoled and tagged like criminals for having had once the sheer audacity to arm themselves against people like 1st Para! The message from England is clear; They have the right to murder who they want but the oppressed peoples they target do not possess the right to defend themselves.

The Bloody Sunday weekend and the families campaign for Justice is something that is and will remain very close to my heart, However as an Irish Republican it is my duty to tell the truth and organise myself and those around me to face it. That truth is now the written word. Damn England’s concessions and to hell with her false apologies the only justice possible will be administered by the Socialist Republic alone.

Tarlach McConnell is a former Republican POW from Fermanagh, he was incarcerated in both Maghaberry and Portlaoise Gaol. 

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