Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Just like Finchley ?*

The findings of the Saville report published today only confirm what should have been known all along - that this was an act of military repression against unarmed civilians. 

It's real significance lies  not in these  conclusions but in the reactions that it still provokes from unionists and apologists for the British authorities: That it was a 'waste of money' or that it should be set against attacks on the British army - particularly the Warren Point shootings - in a tit-for-tat manner. They show as little understanding now as they did at the time.

Unlike many people brought up as Catholics in this country, I am not of predominately Irish descent (one great-grandmother from County Leitrim). So  I didn't grow up on a diet of nationalist songs or tales about the 'boys back home' - although history O level at my school - taught by a priest - did spend a disproportionate time on Parnell and Home Rule, and prayers were offered for the Maze hunger strikers.

It wasn't really until I developed socialist ideas  that I came to understand  the injustices perpetrated in the name of British people in Northern Ireland. And that nationalism wasn't an abstract sentimentality but was inextricably linked to day-to-day struggles for employment and housing. 

And there lies the powerful significance of Bloody Sunday  - then and now - this wasn't a march commemorating some distant historical event or a tribal sense of communal pride - this was a march for civil rights. And those killed were very ordinary - and largely very young - working class people facing the full force of the state.

* Thatcher notoriously  claimed in 1981 that 'Northern Ireland was as British as Finchley'.

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