Motion to Take Note
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity for the House to debate this important report and I particularly look forward to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Macdonald of River Glaven. This debate on the report of the Bloody Sunday inquiry follows the publication of that report on 15 June this year and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister’s Statement in response, which was repeated here by my noble friend the Leader of the House.
The tribunal, chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville of Newdigate, was established by the previous Government to investigate the events of Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972. Its report ran to over 5,000 pages and covered the events of that day authoritatively and in great detail. Noble Lords will be aware that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made a full and frank Statement in response to the tribunal’s unequivocal conclusions. The Government were absolutely clear that what happened on Bloody Sunday was “unjustified and unjustifiable”. I reiterate that today. The conclusions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, are shocking. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said, we do not honour all those who have bravely served in upholding the rule of law in Northern Ireland by hiding from the truth.
I am sure that noble Lords are familiar with many of the conclusions in the report, but I should put on record again some of the tribunal’s key findings. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, found,
“a serious and widespread loss of fire discipline”,
by members of Support Company of the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, who entered the Bogside,
“as the result of an order … which should not have been given”.
Crucially, the noble and learned Lord concluded that none of the casualties,
“was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury”,
or indeed was doing anything else that could on any view justify their shooting. What is more, the noble and learned Lord found that some of those killed or injured were clearly fleeing or going to assist others who were wounded or dying. Patrick Doherty, for example, was shot while,
“crawling … away from the soldiers”.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, found that subsequently many of the soldiers,
“knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing”.
I put on record again the Government’s apology for the events of that day. The Government are deeply sorry for what happened.
Fifteen June was a momentous and historic day. The report’s conclusions and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister’s Statement received global coverage and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. The Taoiseach generously recorded how the,
“brave and honest words of prime minister David Cameron in the House of Commons will echo around the world”.
Of course the events of 15 June were most significant for the families of those killed and those injured on Bloody Sunday. In reflecting on the events of 15 June 100 days on, an article in the local Derry Journal newspaper recently reported how the lives of the families had been affected. One lady, who lost her brother and whose father was shot and injured, recounted:
“Before, I might have slept for about four hours a night and had a real problem sleeping but now I can easily sleep for six to ten hours a night”.
Another man, who lost his brother, recalled that, after entering the Guildhall Square on 15 June:
“It was obvious that this really mattered to everyone in Derry, not just us”.
I am sure that the whole House will join me in acknowledging the profound effect that this report and the Government’s response have had on the lives of those families and the wider community in Northern Ireland.
Let us also acknowledge the sacrifice made by those members of the security forces who lost their lives in the Troubles. Bloody Sunday is not the defining story of the British Army’s service in Northern Ireland. More than 250,000 people served in Operation Banner and displayed enormous courage and determination in supporting the police and the rule of law.
It is symbolic of the significant progress that we have seen in Northern Ireland that the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, could receive broad acceptance across all parts of the community. The First Minister, Peter Robinson, noted his acceptance of the findings of the report, the conclusions of which were inevitably more challenging for unionists. The families themselves, even in the emotion of 15 June, looked beyond the success of their own campaign and made reference in their statement to all the victims of violence. The visit by the four leaders of the main Protestant churches in Ireland to the Bogside shortly after publication demonstrated the potential for such a symbolically important report to promote reconciliation.
Moving on from the violence of the past to build trust and confidence across the community is one of the great challenges facing Northern Ireland today. Many others who were bereaved during the Troubles looked at the events of 15 June and asked: “What about us?”. There cannot of course be a Saville-type inquiry for all the thousands of Troubles cases, but much work on these sensitive past cases is ongoing. The Historical Enquiries Team is investigating all 3,261 deaths from the Troubles in Northern Ireland, including the deaths of soldiers and members of the security forces who lost their lives upholding democracy and the rule of law. The high satisfaction rate that the team is achieving demonstrates the important role that it is playing in helping to bring a measure of resolution to families. Other families are pursuing cases through the Police Ombudsman or inquests.
There also remains a demand for public inquiries into a number of specific legacy cases. The Government’s overall position is clear: there will be no more open-ended and costly inquiries. The Bloody Sunday inquiry was initially forecast to last for two years and to cost £11 million; it ended up lasting 12 years and costing more than £191 million. Public inquiries do not provide any guarantee of satisfaction for victims’ families. The response to the recent report of the Billy Wright inquiry was much more polarised and showed that even an inquiry lasting six years and costing £30 million can be accused of not having answered critical questions.
While the Government’s general position is clear, that is not to say that we do not recognise the sensitivities in specific cases and the need to look at each case on its merits. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is meeting a number of families who have brought their cases to him and will consider their views in a detailed and measured way.
Dealing with the past in Northern Ireland is a complex and wide-ranging task. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions and there will inevitably be some people who are never able to come to terms with what happened. The Government do not pretend that there are any easy answers. Indeed, under devolution, important powers relating to victims services, policing and the courts were devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Government have been clear that they will not impose solutions on the people of Northern Ireland.
The Consultative Group on the Past, co-chaired by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and Mr Denis Bradley, produced a series of proposals aimed at helping Northern Ireland to build a shared future that is not overshadowed by the events of the past. Its report in January 2009 was an important contribution to the ongoing debate. However, it was clear from the summary of responses to the group’s work published by the Government this summer that there is little consensus about it in Northern Ireland. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is listening to the views of people from all parts of the community. He intends to set out the Government’s thinking early next year.
Leadership will be required from all those involved in the events of the past 40 years—in Westminster, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland—if Northern Ireland is fully to put the past behind it. For the people of Londonderry, or Derry as others prefer to call it, recent events have shown how important it is to move forward. Those who carried out the terrible attack in the city only nine days ago have nothing to say about the future and so cling to a past that everyone else has left behind. They will not be allowed to drag Northern Ireland back. We are confident that the political stability that Northern Ireland is experiencing can endure. The report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, is an important contribution in helping Northern Ireland to put the contentious events of the past behind it and to move forward to a genuinely shared future. I beg to move.
My Lords, I welcome this debate and thank the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, for providing this House with an opportunity to have a thorough discussion of the findings of such a vital report—a report that has healed many wounds. I, too, look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven.
The Saville inquiry’s findings are not only crucial in establishing the truth of what happened on that fateful day 38 years ago but also of great consequence for the future of Northern Ireland. Many noble Lords speaking today have huge personal experience in Northern Ireland and have shown a consistent interest in its progress towards peace. I must make special mention of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, whose wonderful work with Denis Bradley in chairing the Consultative Group on the Past has been an important step in dealing with the legacy of 40 years of violence and mistrust in Northern Ireland. Like the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, I believe that we will benefit from his wise experience today.
The events of Bloody Sunday can and should never be forgotten. The findings of the Saville report were long awaited by all those affected by what happened during the course of the civil rights march in Londonderry on 30 January 1972. More important, the conclusions of the inquiry were painfully anticipated by the families of the 13 civilians who were killed by Army gunfire on that day, as they were by those who were injured. The finding of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, that some of those killed or injured were clearly fleeing the area or going to the assistance of others who were dying is truly appalling. Conclusions that one person was shot while,
“crawling ... away from the soldiers”,
and another was shot, in all probability,
“when he was lying mortally wounded on the ground”,
are shocking and indefensible.
Bloody Sunday occurred in the context of a reignited campaign of armed violence by paramilitary groups and internment without trial by security forces policing the streets. The British Army was in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday, as it had been since the flare-up of violence in 1969, as an aid to the police service of Northern Ireland in restoring order to the city. The men and women of the British Army are, I believe, second to none. We owe an enormous debt to the work of our Armed Forces, which have played an essential role in maintaining order and achieving peace in Northern Ireland. Their record of service is justly commendable. However, the conclusions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, shocked us all. What happened on that day was wrong and we agreed with the Prime Minister when he said in his measured and honest Statement on 15 June that,
“you do not defend the British Army by defending the indefensible”.
He was right to say that,
“what happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/6/10; cols. 739-40.]
We welcome the full and unreserved apology from the British Government and we share that apology.
It was vital to get to the bottom of what happened on Bloody Sunday because of the impact that the events of that day had on the subsequent 30 years of violence and political unrest in the Province. It was vital and it warranted an independent judicial inquiry because of the distinct nature of who was involved in what occurred in Londonderry that day. As Tony Blair said when he announced the Bloody Sunday inquiry to the Commons in 1998:
“Bloody Sunday was different because, where the state’s own authorities are concerned, we must be as sure as we can of the truth, precisely because we pride ourselves on our democracy and respect for the law, and on the professionalism and dedication of our security forces”.—[Official Report, Commons, 29/1/98; col. 502.]
The inquiry was vital because of the shortcomings and unanswered questions left over from the Widgery inquiry. As my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton remarked in evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee in the other place, the Widgery inquiry was both,
“an unsatisfactory and unfair inquiry”.
Finally, Saville was vital for the Bloody Sunday families, as the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, suggested.
The Saville inquiry has established the truth. That is what it set out to do and its value is immeasurably large. However, from these Benches, we argue that this value can be truly realised and sustained only once certain questions have been answered. In his Statement marking the publication of the Saville inquiry, the Prime Minister told the other place that there would be,
“no more open-ended and costly inquiries into the past”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/6/10; col. 741.]
So what now of the inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane? What about the deaths of the 11 civilians at Ballymurphy in 1971, an incident where some of the soldiers on duty on the day were the same service personnel who were to be in Londonderry six months later? What about an inquiry into the Omagh bombing? To focus on the Ballymurphy case, in the context of the announcement that this is the end of the line for public inquiries, will the families find it slightly confusing that the Secretary of State recently met those who lost their loved ones at Ballymurphy? Perhaps it raised expectations of success in their call for just such an inquiry.
The noble Lord rightly spoke of the importance of reconciliation and commended the work of the Historical Enquiries Team. The purpose of the HET, a specially convened independent police team, is to try to help people bereaved by the Troubles by answering their questions and looking at each case thoroughly, with a view to bringing forward any new or remaining evidential opportunities. The HET hopes to bring a measure of closure for the families of those killed and to bring some closure on the past. The HET is looking into more than 3,000 deaths. Its budget was originally set at £34 million over seven years. The HET is half way through its case load and it has spent all its allocated money. The scale of the historical case review is unprecedented and the HET has neither the human resources nor the budget to conduct complex inquiries like the Bloody Sunday or the Billy Wright inquiries. The Government cannot rely on the underresourced HET to deal with all the remaining cases, especially any future complex inquiries. The Billy Wright inquiry cost £35 million and that was for just one incident and one death. There are cases remaining of the complexity and profile of Billy Wright and it seems clear to these Benches that the HET is not the mechanism to address them. I also remind the House that, while funding for public inquires comes from central government at Westminster, the budget of the HET is supplied by the Government at Stormont.
However, this is not a time to stand still and tell the HET how to handle its workload. The situation in Northern Ireland is peaceful, but still fragile, as recent violence has made clear. It is crucial that we build a consensus to find a process to replace inquires, if they are to be ruled out. We must find a process to deal with the complex past; we cannot shut it down.
We in this House are all agreed that Northern Ireland has made outstanding progress out of the dark days of the violence of the Troubles and we celebrate that. We can and must build on this peace, and the lessons of Saville, by addressing the needs of Northern Ireland in the round. One crucial way in which to do this is through investment in community policing. The Government must affirm their support for all communities in Northern Ireland with proper investment in the Police Service of Northern Ireland. If this does not happen, there is a very real risk that the community policing role will be taken over by dissidents. Northern Ireland is not immune from value for money, but it is a special case and should be recognised by the Government as such. The Secretary of State must win his battle with the Treasury ahead of next week’s comprehensive spending review. A large percentage of Northern Ireland’s population is employed in the public sector, but the Troubles helped to bring about this state of affairs. Private investment in Northern Ireland is possible, and is happening, but it needs help and encouragement. Northern Ireland needs to be given the means to ensure that the ends of peace are sustained. Economic support for Northern Ireland is support for the peace process itself.
The Saville report clearly states the significance of events on 30 January 1972:
“What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland”.
The truth has been arrived at and, with it, some closure for the Bloody Sunday families. I am glad that my party while in government made the decision to look again at the events of Bloody Sunday and I am immensely proud of the work that we did with the parties and communities of Northern Ireland to bring a successful peace settlement to the Province. Of course, we worked with many noble Lords in this House, on the Benches opposite and from the Benches around us. Tony Blair said that the aim of the Saville inquiry was,
“to establish the truth, and to close this painful chapter once and for all”.—[Official Report, Commons, 29/1/98; col. 502.]
I hope that that is what it has done.
The value of the Saville report cannot be underestimated, but remaining questions must be answered. The Government must anticipate potential situations in Northern Ireland, must be sensitive and get to know the communities and must stick to the principles that enabled us to build, prosecute and deliver peace to Northern Ireland. I am confident that that is what they will wish to do.
My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as co-chairman of the Consultative Group on the Past, set up by the British Government to inquire into ways in which we could not only bring out the truth of the past but bring about reconciliation. I also declare an interest as Bishop of Derry three years after Bloody Sunday. For those reasons, and for other obvious reasons, when the Saville report was published it was a very sombre occasion, not only for those such as myself who were deeply involved in the work of the community in that particular area, but for those who, throughout the length and breadth of the Troubles, ministered to people of all denominations and political outlooks who were the victims of the tragedy of those years. I use the word sombre because I can think of no other appropriate word which would remove triumphalism, or any other equivalent word, from that occasion.
Like many, many others, I welcome the way in which the report was received in Westminster, and particularly the response of the Prime Minister. I also welcome the way in which this debate—a welcome debate—has been introduced by the two previous speakers, who have brought before us a much wider dimension than the simple details of that report. If I might issue a plea in this debate from my personal perspective, it would be this. While there are details in that exhaustive report which obviously must be addressed, I beg that the House put it into perspective, because it is one attempt—a lengthy attempt—to put one more piece of the jigsaw of the past into perspective. I hope that we do not lose sight of that fact.
Let me tell your Lordships of a conversation that I had a few days after the Saville report was published. It was with a widow of a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, which played such a pivotal role in the defence of the community during the Troubles. I had buried her husband, and I wondered what her reaction would be to the Saville report. I did not get the reaction that I had anticipated. She said, “Thank God he’s not here to hear that, because if it’s true”—and she accepted the findings—“he would have been ashamed that this had brought such shame on the British Army in the Troubles”. That helps to put into perspective the vast number of brave men and women who took a part in the security forces during our Troubles and who, despite the very dangerous situation in which they worked, were not guilty of some of the things that have been alleged and proved under the Saville report.
In putting it into perspective we must also recognise that, when looking into the past of Northern Ireland, the key word is “victim”. It is not just the victims that we think of immediately—those who have lost loved ones, on whatever side of the community they come from—but the way in which standards suffered. Morality was questioned, and ethical issues were raised which were swept inevitably under the carpet because of the speed and pressure of events which were a tragedy for the entire community. Whenever we come across attempts to try and find out what happened in the past, there will always be mention of the Saville reports of this world. But does a report answer all the questions, or does it by its very nature pose other questions that it cannot answer?
I think, for example, of another part of the diocese where I worked in those days—the small village of Claudy, which was devastated by an IRA bombing. Innocent people representing both communities, and children, were among those who died in that explosion. The justifiable feeling of people such as those in Claudy, and in other areas in Northern Ireland who looked at the expense, length, publicity and attention given to Bloody Sunday was to say, “We too are victims. We, too, suffered. We, too, lost loved ones. We have questions that are not being answered. We have asked society to help us find what they call justice”.
Immediately you are faced with what I have described in the past as the huge ambit of interpretations of what “justice” is. For one person it will be to see a prosecution of those who caused the loss of a loved one, and they will not be satisfied until they see someone in the dock being sentenced for the crime. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who simply say, “We want to know what happened and how it happened, and we simply ask human questions”. As I have said in this House before, I will never forget the mother of the young policewoman who was killed in the explosion in Newry, who simply said to me, “Archbishop, I have only one question in finding justice”. I asked, “What is it?”. She said, “Did she have her dinner before she died?”. That was a simple human reaction, at the other end from those who seek justice in our courts. That illustrates the huge expanse of what it means to be a victim.
When we debate this report, we have to recognise that it lifted both a veil and a burden from a large part of the community of Londonderry. When I went there as a bishop, I was very conscious on my first visit to the Bogside of how deeply feelings ran about the events of Bloody Sunday. At this distance, therefore, I can understand the reaction to the tribunal’s report when it was published. I also recognise and pay a warm tribute to the actions of my successors, the church leaders in that city, who on the publication of the report went into the Bogside and simply listened, talked and prayed with those most affected, no matter what denomination they came from. As has already been said today in this Chamber, that is another indication of how far society has come.
There are, though, two levels to this discussion. There is the marvellous, courageous political progress made by the politicians in Northern Ireland, but there is also the question of any change of heart among ordinary people leading ordinary lives every day on the ground. One is political progress; the other is the question of human reconciliation. From what I am told, the reaction to Saville has been a huge step in that direction. People have said, “We have found justice. We have an answer to some of our questions”. Even though that is true and there has been general relief, however, one has to think again of the feelings of that widow who said to me, “I feel a bit ashamed that this should cast any aspersion on the reputation of the British Army”.
Moving on from that, I want to quote the words of the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan—if she will forgive me quoting her—when she wrote,
“there is an ongoing, articulated need for the investigation of so many of the unsolved and of some of the ‘solved’ atrocities of the Troubles”.
I interpret her words to mean that until society—every one of us—finds some way to deal with the past, this is going to go on and on crossing our path.
The Government have said that this is the end to open-ended inquiries. In the light of the expense and everything else involved, we would welcome that. I certainly would. However, I pose another question: with what do we replace that system? What do we say to society will be the alternative to Saville? If we do not come to terms with the sensitive nature of dealing with the past in a place such as Northern Ireland, there will be a constant drip-by-drip exposure and calling of attention to atrocities, to events and to suspicions—the list is endless. Coroners’ courts, investigative journalism and ancillary events to court cases will go on and on not just for our generation but for the generation—the most important one—that will read of the Troubles in history books. Memories are what make us, mostly, what we are, but they also dictate what we could become. I urge Her Majesty’s Government, if they do not see the future of inquiries in the currently accepted sense, to give urgent and honest consideration to what they will replace the inquiries with. What will they place in the vacuum when they take away the system of inquiries into the past?
The Consultative Group on the Past, of which I had the honour to be co-chair, suggested the establishment of what we called a legacy commission that would bring together the threads of detection, reconciliation and building up for the future. We were told that the cost involved in setting up such a commission would be prohibitive, but then we learned of the cost of the Saville report. I urge Her Majesty’s Government to accept that the time is right, through the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to urge the local parties in the devolved Administration to take the courage to address how they deal with the past on a cross-community basis. For obvious reasons—for political reasons—that is a very sensitive issue. No local political party grasps with open heart the issue of how to deal with the past. However, until there is that sort of agreement and the establishment of some structure to make that possible, the drip-by-drip agony will continue.
I pay tribute to the successive Secretaries of State—many of them sitting in your Lordships’ Chamber—with whom I have had the privilege of working over the years. I believe that they will agree with me that the complexity of the issue is such that it will not be answered by one report, one tribunal or one decision but must be directed to where it matters most. The answer must come from the bottom up, from what society is ready to have and from what society is prepared to do.
Let me finish on this note: a sign of dealing with the past is a gauge of a society’s maturity. The question is whether Northern Ireland is mature enough to find the truth of the past. Saville would indicate, encouragingly, yes. If that is a true indication, I believe that it is up to the party politic in the devolved Administration—encouraged by Westminster and Her Majesty’s Government, supported by the Irish Government—to find a way in which that drip-by-drip agony can come to an end.
Reference was made to South Africa. I have studied the South African truth and reconciliation process but I have also looked at Chile, Argentina, East Timor and other efforts to look into the past. Do you know what conclusion I have reached? When all the dust settles we can forget about legislation; we can forget about laws, tribunals and debates. We end up looking into ordinary human life and the reaction of people to tragedy. Thank God I see—as, I hope, do those who, like me, live and work in that part of the United Kingdom—the seeds of real hope. We must grasp the fact that, until we deal with the past in a holistic manner, we will face other Savilles and other questions that we must answer honestly.
My Lords, I follow the speech of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, with some trepidation, as you can well imagine. I had the privilege of standing with him on the steps of Omagh town hall following the tragedy in Omagh, the home of my wife. I rise to speak because I have been intimately involved with Northern Ireland for the past 43 years, through marriage and family, and in aspects of the peace process. In parentheses, I say that members of my family have not been killed in the Troubles but they have experienced the effects of bombings and the loss of neighbours as a result of the events of these past years.
This afternoon I express appreciation for the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, in what has been a painstaking, exhaustive and, I am sure, often exhausting inquiry. My own observation, together with those of various episcopal colleagues from Ireland, is that this report has brought about significant healing. Again, I pay tribute to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, for playing his considerable part in the Province during the inquiry period.
Welcoming the report in June, the most reverend Alan Harper, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, reflected in his news release that,
“the contents of the report will be painful for many people, not least the families of those killed, those injured and those present on the day. It will also be a day of painful memories for the soldiers involved on that day”.
I endorse the remarks of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, in relation to the British military. Alan Harper continued:
“Furthermore, some of Lord Saville’s conclusions and recommendations may meet with limited acceptance by some people”.
While there is little doubt that Archbishop Harper was right, in conversation with him and the present Bishop of Derry and Raphoe earlier this week the overall sense was that the Saville report has brought significant healing. Certainly, the publication itself was regarded as a significant milestone and achievement. Further, in support of other noble Lords, the Prime Minister’s words were well received on both sides of the border.
As the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, has observed, the action of the non-Catholic church leaders with the Bogside residents after publication was also significant. This courageous act on the day after publication was co-ordinated by Bishop Ken Good and involved him, together with the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the president of the Methodist Conference. Following prearrangements, the three leaders walked into the Bogside and met the residents and, at the memorial to Bloody Sunday, handed over a replica of a sculpture of two people shaking hands across the river in Londonderry, which symbolised building bridges and healing wounds. The occasion was emotional, with tears, embraces and handshakes but, above all, a sense of the Protestant community reaching out a hand of reconciliation.
As others have observed, it is inevitable, however, that one person’s blessing is another’s impoverishment, or that a feeling arises that some get justice but others do not. Where Saville has encouraged, even liberated, the people of the Bogside and elsewhere in Derry, for the people of Claudy and elsewhere there remains a sense of impoverishment, as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, pointed out. I will not return to the events of Claudy, Omagh and elsewhere as they have often been mentioned by others, or, indeed, to the Historical Inquiries Team except to say that we need to continue to reflect on how we deal with the ongoing sense of loss and bereavement in cases where no one has been brought to justice.
As Alan Harper has reflected:
“We know all too well that history cannot be re-written”.
He continued that, while we hold the,
“victims of Bloody Sunday in our prayers let us continue to remember the thousands of others whose suffering continues and whose memories have been re-awakened”
by the publication of the report. “Our hope”, concludes the Archbishop,
“is that the lessons of the past will help us to build and sustain a better future for all our people and that neither bitterness nor disappointment will be allowed to blight our future”.
Few of us would disagree with that. It is true that things are often worse than we imagine, but is also true that they are much better. Back in darker days in Northern Ireland, there were those committed to a simple mantra, “Pray peace; think peace; speak peace; act peace”. On one of his visits before his death, the German pastor Martin Niemöller, an arch opponent of Nazism and a victim of Hitler’s concentration camps, observed of the people of Northern Ireland, “Every day hundreds of acts of forgiveness are carried out in this Province, far more than anywhere else in Europe”. He was speaking then, of course, before Bosnia and other Balkan conflicts, but it was then—and, I believe, is now—significant testimony to a people who seek to add a measure of grace to the world.
I welcome this report and thank all who have been instrumental in its writing.
My Lords, as I do not want to spend time looking at the details of the Saville report, I start by saying that I share the view of those who think that some of the events recorded were unjustified and unjustifiable. However, I stress that they were events committed only by some. I noted the paragraph in the report that commended the appropriate and proportionate restraint of aspects of the Army activity on that dreadful day.
I start from a privileged position of having served as a Minister in Northern Ireland for more than six years—only one of two who has done so. I do not have a Peterborough accent; I am the only native-born son who has had the privilege of being a Minister during direct rule. I have seen violence and the consequences of violence and I have had to deal, on the Government’s behalf, with the consequences of violence. It is against that background that I want to make two points arising from the Saville report—perhaps two lessons. The first is to remind your Lordships' House that the action of the Army in support of the RUC was a slightly unnatural action for an army to have to take; it was training the Army to behave in a somewhat different way from that in which armies normally behave. That gives me the opportunity to express my personal appreciation for the work that the RUC did—it was the Royal Ulster Constabulary in those days—and the work that the Army did, at great personal risk and sacrifice, on behalf of the people of the whole nation, of the people of Northern Ireland and, indeed, of us Ministers. I owe my life to the diligence of some Army officers and some RUC officers, and I remain grateful.
As we think of the behaviour of some who should not have behaved as they did, I share the view of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, that we must not tar the majority by the actions of what was, in the context, a very small minority. I come back to the behaviour of the Army, because, from all the Saville report, each of us will have been attracted by a particular sentence. I will tell you the sentence that attracted me. It was about the difficulty in separating out the potential rioters from the mass of ordinary marchers. That encapsulates one of the most difficult aspects of policing in Northern Ireland or in similar circumstances. The majority were doing what they were democratically permitted to do—to express their opinions, even if, on occasions, the Government did not like those opinions. Under the cover of that democratic process, a few evil people wanted to create danger and violence.
In other words, security and political development are inextricably linked. The problem which we all had—I pay tribute to my noble friends Lord King of Bridgwater and Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, under whose leadership I had the privilege of serving—was that we all understood the fine intricacy of security and political development. If, on a dark night, a 19 year-old Army officer with half a second to decide whether his life was at risk shot someone, and it turned out to be an accident, the political consequences reverberated—as they did all the more in Londonderry. I became a Minister 15 years after these events, and the political problems in Londonderry were palpable. No one could have believed that the feelings of the local people had been stirred up by some political activity. Had that been the case, I would have loved to have had ownership of the political activity, abilities and skills that created that sort of a reaction. This was gut. It may or may not be a coincidence—I do not care today to choose—that, as a Minister, it was on the streets of Londonderry that I came closest to losing my life.
I pay tribute to Bishop Edward Daly—he was that iconic priest waving a white handkerchief photographed in the middle of the troubles on Bloody Sunday—for the work which he, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and other churchmen did to try to handle the situation. One of the things that I would have liked to have seen effected, which I spectacularly failed to achieve, was to make it a matter of government policy that when the Army is acting in support of the civil powers, and someone gets shot, the Army person is deployed somewhere else until an inquiry establishes the facts. If that is a matter of policy, no blame can be attached to the individual for the individual circumstances. In political terms—by which I mean trying to develop the circumstances in which political progress can be made across the Province—that would have been a big advantage. However, I have to say, as a member of Her Majesty's Government at the time, that that did not become government policy. I regret that and it may still be a lesson that might beneficially be learnt for the future.
The second lesson that I want to draw follows in parallel with the excellent speech, if he will permit me to say so, that the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, has just made. He and I have not colluded but your Lordships are going to hear some of the same messages that he so eloquently gave us. Twelve years and £190 million amount to an awful lot. We deal with numbers here. Outside, people think that the inquiry went on for ever and cost the earth, but we are supposed to have some sense of perspective. When I awoke one morning in Northern Ireland—I was the Finance Minister for the Province at the time—my officials told me that the previous night’s bombing had cost the British Exchequer £25 million. It was a part of the IRA’s strategy that, if it could do enough damage, eventually we would run out of patience to pay the money and go away. I pay tribute to my two noble friends for the way in which they made it clear at the height of the Troubles that, no matter what it cost, the British Government would not back off. However, now we find that there will be no more open-ended inquiries.
I remind colleagues that peace or the absence of violence are not the same as reconciliation. They are quite different. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, referred to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. I had some reason to be exposed to that and I do not advocate that we should go down the same road. However, I do advocate to your Lordships that we should learn the lesson that, unless we focus on doing something about reconciliation, we will continue with the danger, so adequately pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, that the present fragility—her word—might continue. If fragility lasts too long, it becomes more fragile with the passage of time.
I remind the House that, when government or the organs of the state are in the dock, people can look to the Government to take action on their behalf. However, when it is not the organs of the state that are in the dock, to whom do the people look to get the sort of help and closure that Saville has given? People need help to heal the past. Therefore, although I do not challenge the Prime Minister’s comment that this is the end to open-ended inquiries, I say to the House, as did the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, that that leaves a problem unsolved. We need to find a new way to address those issues.
Perhaps I may illustrate the point by reference to the bomb at Omagh. We are outraged, and rightly so, that 11 people died on Bloody Sunday, but three times that number died in Omagh. Does Omagh not raise serious questions about the need for resolution and reconciliation and for trying to take a step to heal the past for the benefit of the future? I believe that it does. Twelve years and £190 million are not the answer, but an answer needs to be found if Northern Ireland is to prosper. Like the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, I passionately believe that it will prosper only on the back of reconciliation and healing, and I was pleased that the right reverend Prelate also used those words. Northern Ireland needs to be healed. People need the past to be addressed and, in my view, finding a way of doing that constitutes the biggest challenge that the Saville report has laid down for government.
My Lords, I served as a Minister in Northern Ireland for a much shorter period than the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney. Several years have passed but his reputation was very high when I got to Belfast in 1997. I remember the day when Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State, said to me that there was to be a further inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday. I felt an enormous sense of relief because, although I had not been in Northern Ireland all that long, it was very clear that the situation had to be dealt with if any progress were to be made towards a peaceful resolution. I and those around me were delighted.
In the long period between then and now, there was a nervousness about what the report would bring. I believe that we were all mightily relieved when we saw the report and the very positive response to it by the Prime Minister. I never thought that a British Conservative Prime Minister would be cheered outside the Guildhall in Derry. None of us could have anticipated that, even a short time before the report came out.
I do not want to approach this in a mood of self-congratulation for this country, but I do not believe that there are many other countries in the world which could deal with an event which had blotted their past in such an open, honest and apologetic manner as we did. It was apologetic in the sense that the Prime Minister apologised for what happened. That is a sign of strength and we have to build on that strength. We all know that the events of Bloody Sunday were disastrous for Northern Ireland; and they were disastrous for the whole of Britain and Ireland as well. We all know how much support the IRA gained from the events of Bloody Sunday, as it did from a mistaken attempt to introduce internment there.
There is one respect in which Bloody Sunday was different from other tragic events in Northern Ireland’s history and why there was an even greater need for an inquiry into it than into some of the other events—although I shall speak about that in a moment—and that, of course, is Widgery. The fact that Widgery said, effectively, that everything was all right and that the report was widely regarded as a whitewash made it even more important that there should be another inquiry into the events of that tragic day in Londonderry. I understand that it is the first time in British legal history that there has been a second inquiry into the same events, and probably into the same facts.
Some people say—and I understand why because a life is a life however it is taken away—that many other tragic events have taken place there and that many people have been killed by republican and by loyalist terrorists, but one important difference, which has been referred to already, is that our soldiers were the servants of the state of this country. It is right to demand higher standards of those who act in our name than of those who act as terrorists or paramilitaries outside the law. For that reason, I think that the Saville inquiry is different and represents a different mood from some of the demands for inquiries into some of the other events which were not done by the British state.
Nevertheless, although the British Army came out of the events badly in Londonderry on that day, I think we all have a high respect for it. I certainly do. I saw it in action in Afghanistan when I was there briefly early last year. We need to pay respect to the Army, even though on this occasion it is important that we get into balance what happened; the report is rightly critical of it.
I turn briefly to the lessons from the Saville process and the issues for the future. Of course, it was costly and took a long time. Although the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, made it very clear how important it was to have the inquiry and get those results, and I very much agree, the fact that it cost so much has made it harder to have similar inquiries. That is why the Prime Minister said that there would not be any more public inquiries and the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, said that there would be no more open-ended inquiries. I think that that is a pity, because the process was good. Had it been quicker and less expensive, we could have decided that other issues required an inquiry, but we have been a bit stymied. I understand that, this afternoon, the noble and learned Lord, Lord, Saville, is giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Select Committee in the House of Commons, and that the committee was going to ask these sort of questions. It is a pity that we could not have had those views to hand prior to this debate.
Other events happened in Northern Ireland, and every speaker so far has referred to them and said that we have to do something about them. I do not think that we can just ignore Ballymurphy because there was no whitewash Widgery-type inquiry about it. We cannot ignore it because that also involved soldiers. In Claudy, although no British troops were involved, I think that our Government were in some way complicit in transferring a particular person into Donegal and out of our jurisdiction.
So we have a responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland, because they, above all, are entitled to closure and to some greater inner peace in their minds about some of those events. We call this the Eames/Bradley report for short, but the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, played an important part in the report and in our debate this afternoon. For all the good work that it is doing, I do not think that the historic inquiries team is the best way to deal with some of the events to which we have referred. It is not independent in the sense that the Saville inquiry was independent, and it is burdened with a lot of work on lower level but important issues. We need to find a different way to deal with the outstanding issues.
There was criticism of the report that the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, produced, along with Denis Bradley, but we ought to revisit its conclusions because although some of them were criticised very much, others are very relevant today and we would be paying a disrespect to the work that went into that inquiry if we simply said, “We will move on; that wasn’t very good”. I have read it again over the past day or so and I think that there are some very important conclusions in it which are relevant to how we move forward. I am not totally clear as to the best way ahead, but that of course is a responsibility for the Government. All that I hope is that they will look again at the conclusions in that report.
One outstanding issue is Finucane. There have been inquiries into Billy Wright; we have had the report. The Nelson and Hamill inquiries continue. I do not think that we can leave Finucane alone; there is too much concern about it. If we simply say that nothing needs to be done about it, we and the people of Northern Ireland will regret that day. It represents one important item of unfinished business in Northern Ireland and it has to be addressed; we cannot duck it. I do not want to go into a long debate about what happened under the previous Government, but we cannot just move away from that one. Next year, there will be crucial Assembly elections in Northern Ireland, and I would not want the Finucane issue to bedevil the discussions and debate in that election campaign.
I shall refer to just two other issues. The Northern Ireland Bill of Rights is not directly relevant to Saville, but it is indirectly relevant. It has been put into the long grass, although the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission did a lot of work on it. I hope that the Government will look again at it to see what of the report on the Bill of Rights that was put before them is worth bringing into law. That is important.
Lastly, I shall refer to an issue that my noble friend Lady Royall referred to: community policing. In the end, Saville is about establishing a long-lasting peace, and community policing is an important aspect of that at the moment. If any financial decisions were to be announced on the 20th of this month that damaged community policing in Northern Ireland, they would prove many times more costly in terms of lives than the money that would be saved. I urge the Government to think hard. Community policing is now an essential part of the peace process in Northern Ireland, and anything that takes away from that would be damaging to the future of Northern Ireland.
Having said that, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, on his report. It was an important day in the history of Northern Ireland when the report was produced. I echo the words of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames: what we need is an ongoing healing process for the people of Northern Ireland. The Saville report is part of it, but we have some way to go.
I thank my noble friend Lord Shutt for introducing this important debate and I look forward to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Macdonald. First, like so many other noble Lords, I believe that the tone, tenor and substance of the Prime Minister’s response to the Saville report were appropriate in every respect. I congratulate Mr Cameron on that. It helps to make for satisfactory closure, to use the current argot, and allows the political system in Northern Ireland to mature. The development of a more normal politics, and one that is appreciably less sectarian, is desperately overdue.
Secondly, we are all indebted to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, and his colleagues for producing such a detailed, meticulous and comprehensive analysis of the events of Bloody Sunday some 38 years ago. As so many noble Lords have said, such a report was necessary to redeem the reputation of United Kingdom justice and government more generally since the earlier and—as is now widely recognised—infamous Widgery report was published. That was a whitewash and a cover-up on an unprecedented scale. The widespread reaction against Widgery’s findings was, as Saville notes, totally counterproductive and acted as the best recruiting agent for the Provisional IRA. All future public inquiries should be compelled to take a crash course on the dangers, both immediate and longer term, of hasty fixes and fudges.
It was fitting, therefore, that it was a Conservative Prime Minister who responded to Saville in the way that he did because it was a Conservative PM, Edward Health, who set up the Widgery inquiry in the first place. Widgery was a stain on the United Kingdom judiciary. It placed a further and unnecessary strain on the judges in Northern Ireland, who were carrying out their duties under the most trying circumstances. I have known the last four Chief Justices of Northern Ireland, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, who is speaking in this debate, and have witnessed the impartiality and assiduity that they all brought to the exercise of their duties. That dedication survives and bodes well for the future constitutional development of Northern Ireland.
In welcoming the Saville report and the responses that it evoked, I believe that there remain two more general UK-wide considerations. The most worrying is the use of the British Army in peacekeeping operations, to which the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, referred. There are some successes, of course, of which we must be proud, but too many unacceptable outrages are still being perpetrated. The immediate reaction of the military is always to claim that lessons have been learnt—that was said after the publication of the Saville report—but the events in Derry 38 years ago were not dissimilar to what has happened more recently in Basra in Iraq and in Helmand province in Afghanistan. Basically, as the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, pointed out, the military are not adequately trained to carry out peacekeeping, which is essentially a police operation. I can only hope that in the defence review being undertaken much more provision for training the Army in police methods will be considered. It will be more important in the future than aircraft carriers. I ask my noble friend to reassure me on this point.
Furthermore, will my noble friend say whether there was any truth in Monday’s Guardian report that official archives illustrated that Ministry of Defence policy was to fully prosecute republican paramilitaries while being lenient on loyalist paramilitaries? That would resonate with one’s observations at the time and would be consistent with the woefully misleading findings of the Widgery report.
Finally, there is the question of cost, to which others have referred. Almost £200 million is as unbelievable as it is unacceptable. The problem lies in the fact that lawyers, both as barristers and as judges, have no experience of project management. In fact, throughout their careers, they are managed by their clerks. Only in the topmost positions in the judicial hierarchy are they called on to manage and that comes late in their careers. As has been said, the Ministry of Justice must attend to this problem of excessive costs. By way of a benchmark, I ask my noble friend what the budgetary spend of Derry City Council was in the past financial year. As others have said, we must find a solution. The Government must come forward on it because, if you are not going to have public inquiries or if you are going to truncate them severely, as seems likely, you must have some mechanism to deal with these sorts of issues as they arise, as they clearly will, not just in Northern Ireland but elsewhere where we deploy our Army. We must now all pray that Northern Ireland can progress and develop as a mature civil society and democratic polity.
My Lords, the inquiry, headed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, aptly summarised that the events of that January afternoon 38 years ago were indeed a tragedy. They were a tragedy, of course, for the 13 civilians, who in the course of a civil rights march lost their lives when they had done nothing that could have justified their shooting, and for the widowed and bereaved. But they were also a tragedy for the British Army, in that, albeit in one small area, some soldiers from one company and one battalion failed to come up to the very highest standards of discipline and restraint for which the British Army is rightly admired. As has been said, that increased nationalist hostility towards it, thus making its very difficult job even harder. Also, the events were a tragedy for the people of Northern Ireland as a whole.
An earlier, contemporary inquiry, conducted by Lord Widgery, tended to take the view that under the circumstances and in the noisy confusion prevailing at the time, in which security forces were clashing directly with demonstrators in a highly emotive area, some error of judgment by individuals as to which targets should be engaged when intent on protecting themselves and their comrades was almost inevitable. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, however, considered quite categorically that the failure of certain soldiers in that one company, properly and beyond all reasonable doubt, to identify the targets being engaged as posing a direct threat of death or serious injury to themselves or their comrades—that is, à la yellow card—was so serious as to constitute a totally unjustified and therefore unjustifiable use of force.
This assessment was fully accepted by the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government, the British Army and the whole country. In a masterly Statement that he made in another place, he gave a fulsome, heartfelt apology to all those who had suffered and to the bereaved. To this, all who mind about the rule of law, just as much as the high reputation of the Army, would wish to subscribe. I believe that the Prime Minister’s Statement has also had a good reception in Londonderry.
The least that your Lordships’ House should do is to take note of the Bloody Sunday report. However, I believe that it is important that noble Lords should be mindful of what the inquiry did not say or imply. For instance, it had no truck with and specifically rejected any suggestion that there might have been a sinister predesigned plot actually to cause casualties among the rioters and any, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, described them, paramilitaries “pour encourager les autres”. The inquiry did not deny the right of the chain of command to order, if it thought it appropriate, arrests of troublemakers during the march, which, although organised as a civil rights one protesting against internment, had in fact been banned and involved rioting.
The inquiry did not consider that there had been any general breakdown of discipline and indeed made it clear that most soldiers throughout the area behaved with a high degree of responsibility and in accordance with the yellow card. I am glad to say that the battalion that I once had the honour to command, the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Green Jackets, as it was then, positioned at Barrier 14 to prevent the march from reaching the heart of the city, was particularly singled out for praise for the restraint and proportionality of the force that it used in dealing with intense rioting.
What did go seriously wrong, as both inquiries pointed out—and this of course is the nub of the whole business—was the spontaneous action that was taken when the vehicles and men of the Support Company of 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, appeared in Rossville Street. The commanding officer of the battalion had in fact exceeded his orders in sending the Support Company into the march from the north to make arrests—as well as one ordered by his brigadier from the east through Barrier 14—and in allowing the Support Company to follow the march down the now revised route, virtually chasing both the marchers and the rioters back into the Bogside and making it difficult to separate one from the other, an action that he had been ordered by his brigadier to avoid. So it was that at that point, at 4.30 pm, the arrest operation, although six arrests had been made, took second place for that company if it was not forgotten altogether, while the soldiers, believing that they were under fire, turned their attention to engage their imagined assailants, firing, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, put it,
“with a serious and widespread loss of fire discipline and control”,
with the tragic consequences that we now know.
There had been shots from both sides in other areas, and these continued, but the first shots in this particular area were probably fired for rather obscure reasons by an officer with Support Company itself, a point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville. This would in no way have prevented other members of the company from believing that that shot and the others that followed might be directed at them. In street fighting, as I can confirm from very personal experience, because of echoes, ricochets and the short time lag between the crack of the bullet and the thump of the gun firing, it is extremely hard to differentiate between fire that is going and that which is coming your way.
That would be particularly the case on the edge of the Bogside, where the expectation of hostile fire would have been so great. After all, in 1972 we were in the middle of an intense insurrection, which had every intention of toppling the structure of government, with no-go areas, massive destruction of property and numerous assassinations of security forces personnel and civilians to give expression to that policy. Certain areas of West Belfast and Londonderry, particularly the Bogside, were highly dangerous places, where the security forces could invariably expect resistance of one sort or another. It was all so different from what we can imagine today. This knowledge would be quite enough, on the occasion of this noisy and sometimes violent march, at least to induce a high level of apprehension even in hardened troops, particularly as that battalion was unfamiliar with the area.
Perhaps I may, as an old soldier with some experience of that sort of tension and stress, ask noble Lords for a moment to put themselves in the shoes of those young men of 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, back in the entirely different environment of 1972. To help in that, I cannot do better than to quote the report’s own description of their predicament:
“We appreciate that soldiers on internal security duties, facing a situation in which they or their colleagues may at any moment come under lethal attack, have little time to decide whether they have identified a person posing a threat of causing death or serious injury; and may have to take that decision in a state of tension or fear. It is a well-known phenomenon that, particularly when under stress or when events are moving fast, people often erroneously come to believe that they are or might be hearing or seeing what they were expecting to hear or see … It is also possible that in the sort of circumstances outlined in the previous paragraph, a soldier might fire in fear or panic, without giving proper thought to whether his target was posing”,
a direct threat. Under such circumstances, the temptation must have been very great to see any figures who might be sheltering behind suspicious areas such as barricades, as some were, or on the balconies of the Bogside flats, from one of which acid was indeed thrown down, or throwing things that could be loosely imagined to be nail bombs—one of the casualties was found to have a nail bomb on his person—or crawling purposefully holding something that could conceivably be thought to be a rifle, as posing some sort of future threat and therefore a target to be engaged before worst fears could be realised. It might even, in their opinion, have justified some sort of prophylactic fire into potential ambush areas to deter hostile and perhaps lethal resistance, which is absolutely common practice in normal street fighting. In that part of the United Kingdom particularly, of course, it is not possible to condone such judgments when close adherence to the yellow card could have prevented them. However, in this stressful, untidy situation, it should be possible for open-minded people to appreciate why this lapse of fire discipline could have occurred.
There I hope we can leave the matter. When you consider that 651 service personnel have been killed and 6,307 wounded since the start of the Troubles, not to mention the grievous police and civilian losses—many inflicted in absolutely cold blood—and the leniency in terms of early release, pardons, amnesties and so on subsequently given to the perpetrators of these crimes, it would be a great abuse of even-handedness and justice to single out these unfortunate soldiers of this one company, who should not have been in that area in the first place. Whatever their shortcomings, they were trying to do their duty as they thought fit in support of the civil power and the interests of the law and order for which we should always be grateful. Specific action against them is bound to be difficult and time-consuming and would cause the opening up of old scores and prejudices. This would not benefit in any way the peace process, which our Armed Forces helped to bring about, and the hoped-for coming together of the various communities. If this inquiry by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, can at last bring this whole tragic incident—and the past—to a decent and emphatic conclusion, then the time and public money spent on it may at least be said to have been in the national interest.
My Lords, in his recent memoirs, the former Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, addresses the issue of the inquiry which he asked the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, to establish into the events of Bloody Sunday. In his memoires, Mr Blair said that as time passed and as more and more money was spent, he became more and more jaded and asked himself whether he had done the right thing and thought perhaps it was not a justifiable move. However, in the end, when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, reported and there was that remarkable response by the people of Derry, Mr Blair came to the conclusion that he had done the right thing and that the expenditure was justified. I regard Mr Blair’s attitude in this respect as being entirely understandable and I think that it would find many echoes in your Lordships' House. I have more respect for Mr Blair’s work as Prime Minister than is probably now fashionable in your Lordships' House, but I am unwilling to leave the matter quite there.
I must first declare an interest as one of the two historical advisers to the tribunal, appointed in the late 1990s. The other was my friend, Professor Paul Arthur of the University of Ulster. I should describe briefly, so that there can be no misunderstanding of my subsequent remarks, the role of the historical adviser. It was, first, to provide historical background papers about the situation in Derry and Northern Ireland for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville; at a later date, to advise about a document search—where documents were likely to be found in government archives based on my own experience as a historian—and suggest places to look; and, finally, to do an analysis of those documents. All this work was completed in the last century and all of it is a matter of public knowledge. The work is posted on the inquiry’s website. In fact, I had never spoken to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, until this afternoon, just before he gave evidence on his inquiry to the House of Commons Select Committee.
That was the nature of our involvement. We were extraordinarily fortunate in terms of documents and personnel. Very few documents that seemed to be relevant had disappeared. Let us contrast that with the more recent inquiry into the death of Mr Billy Wright, which cost £42 million and was considered to be much less satisfactory. That was not because of any absence of professionalism on the part of those who worked on that inquiry; it was simply because, although the events connected with Mr Wright’s death were only 10 years ago, a surprisingly large number of the dramatis personae were dead whereas a surprisingly large number of the dramatis personae of Bloody Sunday, 38 years ago, were still alive. It was also because many documents in the Billy Wright case had taken a walk whereas the same documents in respect of Bloody Sunday had not. So we were extremely fortunate, particularly in the matter of the survival of documents.
Even for £200 million, no inquiry can give the absolute truth. In the 1880s in London we had the special commission of inquiry into Parnellism and crime. Relevant documents with regard to the conclusions of that special commission have become available only in the past 10 or 20 years. I am absolutely certain that, over time, documents will become available and memoirs written which will change parts at least of the story as given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville. That is not a reflection on the professionalism and lucidity which he has brought to his report; it is simply a reflection on the difficulty of establishing the absolute truth of these events. I fully support the conclusions that he has reached, but since the report has been published I have heard from a nationalist, Derry and Bogside point of view criticisms of certain points which seem to be at least serious, and I have heard people with connections with the Army criticise other points in a way which seems also to have a degree of seriousness. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, has done a remarkable job, in particular in the handling of sensitive intelligence matters which I did not think could be handled so well, but even at that price, you do not get a guarantee of absolute truth. What you get is a very good job and a remarkable piece of work by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville.
I remind noble Lords of the real context of why we got the Saville inquiry in the first place. It was not because Lord Widgery said that those who died were guilty—because he did not; it was because Mr Gerry Adams and the leadership of Sinn Fein said that there was a conspiracy on the part of the British state to bring about these events. The Saville inquiry was set up because a calculation was made by the then Prime Minister, as part of the peace process that led to the successful negotiation of the Good Friday agreement some months later, that it was necessary to bring Sinn Fein along. It was an entirely defensible and correct political calculation on the part of the Prime Minister of the day. But the actual circumstances are often misrepresented.
Let me explain. What did Lord Widgery say in April 1972 about those who died? In the conclusion of his report he stated:
“Each soldier was his own judge of whether he had identified a gunman. Their training made them aggressive and quick in decision and some showed more restraint in opening fire than others. At one end of the scale some soldiers showed a high degree of responsibility; at the other … firing bordered on the reckless”.
“None of the deceased or wounded is proved to have been shot whilst handling a firearm or bomb”.
Lord Widgery's report is inadequate in many ways. It does not reach out to the people of the Bogside who suffered so much pain on that day, but he did not say that those who fell were guilty of any crime. If there is any doubt about that, John Major, the Prime Minister before Tony Blair, said in the House of Commons that those who died on that day should be considered innocent. There was therefore no need as such to address that question. There were other important questions that rightly had to be addressed and I hope I showed by the fact that I was happy to work for the inquiry that I believed it was important to get to the truth of these matters. But it is not the case that Lord Widgery actually said that those who fell on the day were guilty.
On the other hand, Mr Adams's views, taken two months before the establishment of the inquiry on 7 December 1997 to the Independent, are very clear. He said that one question that is very much on people's minds is Bloody Sunday. He said:
“Everybody knows it was a premeditated attack as part of the military-political strategy at that time. You'd think it would be relatively easy to set up an independent inquiry to sort everything out, but to do that the Prime Minister has to challenge all that stuff. That’s the test”.
It was as a response to that challenge that Tony Blair took the correct decision to establish the Saville inquiry. But it is quite important to realise the real context of the political decision.
The immediate casus belli is a claim of conspiracy. In my view, the release of documents before the turn of the century made it clear that there was no conspiracy at the level of the British Cabinet, no conspiracy at the level of the Northern Ireland Cabinet and no conspiracy at the level of the higher reaches of the Army or the Ministry of Defence. That was for the price of £20,000 or £30,000. A large part of the tribunal's conclusions state that there was no conspiracy. I do not say that the many other tens of millions of pounds subsequently racked up in this century were irrelevant or wrong. This afternoon, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, before the Select Committee in another place, made a very serious point that the Ministry of Defence had lost contact with many of the soldiers and it was necessary to pay private inquiry firms to establish contact with many of the soldiers involved. I regard that and many other things that he gave instance of this afternoon as entirely legitimate expenses that the inquiry subsequently entered into.
There is a point here about the peculiarity of the English in these difficult situations to lawyer-up with this model of inquiry. The Belgians, confronted with the difficult question in their own past of the possible involvement of the Belgian state authorities in the murder of Patrice Lumumba, had a commission of historians. The Swedes, confronted with issues about how their security forces had operated during the Cold War, had a commission of historians. The Dutch, confronted with issues of how their army performed in the Balkans—sensitive, difficult and painful issues for the Dutch people—had a commission of historians. In England, we lawyer-up. There is a certain model of inquiry and certain expenses inevitably follow from that inquiry, which is part of the reason already given by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, in this respect.
I shall give noble Lords another example. The eight days of the former Prime Minister, Mr Edward Heath, in the witness box, contributed absolutely nothing to the final conclusions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, while contributing a significant amount to the earnings of the barristers involved in the questioning. All we needed to know about the former Prime Minister’s views about Bloody Sunday were in the Cabinet conclusions of two weeks before, when it was perfectly clear that his opinions and attitudes about what to do about Derry were, if anything, benign and conciliatory, and certainly did not edge or lead towards the murderous events that took place. Then there is the case of Mr David Shayler, the intelligence officer. His evidence on a key intelligence question took one hour, but there were several days of lawyers asking questions to establish his credibility before he could go into the witness box.
So there is a problem with how we do this type of work, and its cost. We regard Saville as having been successful and benign, in certain important respects, regarding the impact of his report on Northern Ireland. We must also face up to the fact that we have new inquiries coming in, one of which is rumoured to cost £52 million and another £40 million. We are very fortunate indeed that the Saville inquiry, partly through luck, turned out to be so authoritative in some many crucial respects. Already, in the case of the Billy Wright inquiry, we have an example of a very expensive inquiry, costing £32 million, which is widely regarded as somewhat unsatisfactory in its impact in Northern Ireland, although through no fault of those carrying it out. That is an awful lot of hip replacements and other operations in the National Health Service. Hundreds of millions of pounds are racked up on this, again and again.
I conclude by making an observation about Mr Blair’s opening case for setting up the inquiry in the House of Commons. He said about the Armed Forces, I think entirely correctly, that,
“it would be a disservice to them to believe that they should have anything to fear from an inquiry that establishes the truth, where people accept that people were killed in circumstances in which they should not have been killed. Far from undermining support for our armed services, I believe that … we underline the fact that, unlike the terrorists, we do not have anything to fear from inquiries into the truth”.—[Official Report, Commons, 29/1/1998; col. 512.]
I believe that Mr Blair spoke the truth that day and that it is a truth that is much to be respected.
The truth now is that a Martian who came down to earth and listened to the post-Troubles debate about Northern Ireland would conclude, after listening to the BBC news on a regular basis, that the following people died during the Troubles—those who died on Bloody Sunday and those who died in the other celebrated cases in which we have inquiries, which we have mentioned this afternoon. The Martian would also conclude that we have a very serious problem with collusion. In certain cases there appears to be evidence that there has been an element of collusion between state forces and loyalist paramilitaries, but the number of republicans killed by loyalist paramilitaries is just over 30. So even if all these were cases of collusion in which state forces had helped the loyalist paramilitaries, that would be less than 1 per cent of the total of those who died during the Troubles. It is also worth bearing in mind—and it has already been referred to—that for every one member of the IRA who fell during the Troubles, eight members of the security forces fell. Those are very important facts that have to be kept in mind.
We need now an attitude towards the past that does not privilege certain deaths. It is quite correct that we have led the way in those cases in which the state has behaved badly, but in a modern democracy we need to have more than that. Why? Because it demoralises the centre ground in Northern Ireland and those people with conventional morality who cannot figure out this way of dealing with matters. Most importantly, we rely on our Army and security services to help us in another and probably greater threat of terrorism. We need those in our Army and security services to know that while we will of course be vigilant with respect to wrong-doing, we also respect the work that they are doing and that the way in which we approach these matters, including the story of the Troubles, reflects that respect.
My Lords, it is a great honour and a privilege to address your Lordships’ House for the first time. I do so with a sense of trepidation, in that I am following so many powerful speeches, and with a sense of privilege to be taking part in such an important debate. I am delighted to start by thanking all the staff in this building for the great kindness and patience they have shown towards me in the past few weeks. They have certainly needed their patience; I am conscious that I have asked the same questions many times over, usually regarding the directions to some place which I have already been to. Police and doorkeepers have made these rather strange first few days a great deal easier than they would otherwise have been.
Like my fellow new Members, I have been welcomed with great warmth and generosity by noble Lords from all sides of the House, and from all parties and none. Speaking of different parties, my supporters came, perhaps slightly unusually, from two: my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market, the president of the Liberal Democrats, acted as introducer and supporter to a number of new Liberal Democrat Peers, and in spite of heavy burdens elsewhere she did the same for me. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, is not a Liberal Democrat but she was my pupil-mistress. Indeed, I was her first pupil when I was called first to the Bar. The noble Baroness will not thank me for mentioning that that was over 30 years ago. She has, however, remained an inspiration to me throughout my career in the law. I thank them both for their great kindness.
The spirit of this place is deeply impressive and I am delighted to be here. When the Deputy Prime Minister, as he then was not, first spoke to me last October about the possibility of my becoming a Liberal Democrat Peer, I naturally imagined that he was proposing that I should join a small, independently minded band of committed troublemakers. Instead, and much to my surprise, I find myself sitting on the government Benches. We shall see how much difference that makes to my noble friends—or, I suppose, in the end, to me.
The events that occurred on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside were of startling import to the United Kingdom. Twenty-six unarmed, mainly British, citizens were shot by soldiers of the British Army on the streets of a British city. Thirteen of those mainly British citizens, seven of whom were teenagers, died immediately or soon after, while another man died four and a half months later. At least five British soldiers fired shots at people they knew posed no threat at all, and five members of the public were wounded with shots to the back. Each killing, each wounding, was unjustified. Each was unjustifiable. No single victim had posed any threat of death or serious injury to any soldier.
The British Government have held two investigations into these momentous events. The Widgery tribunal was established in the immediate aftermath of the event. It largely cleared the soldiers and the British authorities of any blame, going no further than to describe the behaviour of some of the military as “bordering on the reckless”. That report was published in circumstances of great controversy at home and abroad, but its conclusions were accepted without hesitation by the then British Government. It seems to me that it is partly because it became so widely believed, not just throughout the United Kingdom but around the world, that Widgery had failed abjectly to uncover the truth of that day that the establishment of a second inquiry became inescapable.
No great country can knowingly allow a great injustice to lie. This is all the more so when that injustice involves the state’s own responsibility for the deaths of its innocent citizens, and particularly when that responsibility has previously been obscured by a failed inquiry headed by a then serving Lord Chief Justice. The wrong had to be righted.
This is not at all to say that the Saville inquiry was capable of righting all injustices in Northern Ireland. Of course it was not, and never could be; no one believed that to be its purpose. In particular, it has left quite untouched the terrible injustices that terrorism has wreaked upon the unionist communities over too many years. In the face of great cruelty, the resilience of the people of Northern Ireland has become a matter of historical record. Likewise, the courage of the overwhelming majority of British soldiers is overwhelmingly recognised and I pay tribute to it.
I spent five years of my life as Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, much of which time was spent prosecuting terrorists of all hues and bringing them to justice. I therefore understand what terrorism represents and the great evil that it creates. I understand the misery that it brings, and the importance of destroying it utterly. But it is important to recognise the difference between illegal violence perpetrated by terrorist gangs on the one hand and illegal violence perpetrated by the state on the other. The state’s response to each category will necessarily differ. In the first case, the state has the duty to put it down; in the second, the state has an additional duty to put it right. This, I think, was the intention of Saville and, in so far as it ever could be, this intention has been realised. The inquiry took far too long and cost far too much but, when the report came, in its central findings it was exemplary. It is meticulous, it is scrupulous and, above all, it is fair.
It is said that when the Prime Minister received a first-draft response to Saville composed by his officials, he tore it up, sat down and wrote what he intended to say in his own hand. Well, good for him. Everyone wants justice; the thirst for justice is a critical marker of the human spirit, and I believe that we are all born with it. Through Saville, and through the Prime Minister’s eloquence in commending its ringing conclusions to Parliament last June, the British state has at long last delivered at least a measure of justice to all the victims of Bloody Sunday. I believe that in doing so, the state has strengthened itself.
My Lords, by way of exordium, I tender congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, on his maiden speech, which has been a notable contribution to this debate. He, of course, is better known to the profession and the world at large as Ken Macdonald, Director of Public Prosecutions from 2003 to 2008. That, as everyone connected with the law certainly knows, is one of the most difficult and exacting jobs in the law. If I may paraphrase the great showman Barnum, you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time, and that is engraved on the heart of every DPP.
The noble Lord’s early training fitted him well for the duties of the post that he discharged with such distinction. After reading PPE at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, he was called to the Bar and engaged in criminal practice for 25 years, taking silk in 1998. In the process, he not only acquired the thorough knowledge of criminal law and practice that is the essential grounding for a DPP but also acquired the mature experience and honed the fine judgment that are so necessary for making some very difficult decisions on prosecutions.
It has been said—I think this goes back to Lord Kilmuir—that judges should be very careful to conduct themselves and to speak in such a way that they do not get reported in the daily papers. A good DPP may aspire to that, both by the quality of his decisions and by avoiding unnecessary controversy, but he can never hope to escape what Horace called the “civium ardor prava iubentium”—the horrid citizenry yelling at him telling him what to do or, if you like, the newspapers. The noble Lord has come through that experience with a high reputation and he is a worthy addition to this House. We look forward to hearing many more contributions from him.
Some 37 years ago, in August 1973, I appeared as counsel at the inquest into the deaths of those who died in Londonderry on 30 January 1972. My function was to present to the coroner and the jury the evidence that had been furnished to me, which was a mere fraction of the material considered by the Saville inquiry. Many years later, when I was Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, I presided over a court that considered at least one legal issue arising out of the inquiry proceedings. If those are interests, I certainly declare them very willingly and at once. For those reasons, and for many others, I do not wish to make any comment in the House on the content of the Saville inquiry or the findings of the tribunal, nor do I think it appropriate for me to attempt to comment on the elaborate and expensive form that the inquiry took.
My purpose in speaking today is to raise the more general issue of whether it is beneficial to hold further inquiries into the many distressing events that occurred over the past 40-plus years in Northern Ireland. We must be the most inquired-into segment of the populace in the world. The litany of inquiries is long and ever lengthening: Cameron, Scarman, Widgery, Diplock, Gardiner, Baker and Saville as well as the recently concluded Billy Wright inquiry and the ongoing Hamill inquiry—and those are only the ones that I can remember. All of them have involved huge amounts of time, energy and resources.
Successive Governments have been understandably concerned about the proliferation of open-ended inquiries and the diversion of ever scarcer resources to them, and Governments have sought powers to limit them. Again, I do not want to get involved in the arguments about the usefulness of the limitations that might be imposed. I have a more fundamental point to make about whether we should call a halt to inquiries into the past and to investigation of events that took place long ago.
Two reasons are generally advanced in favour of pursuing such inquiries in future. The first is that, if those who have committed crimes can be brought to justice, they should be, and so investigation of cases long regarded as old and dead may be justified so long as those carrying it out can see a realistic possibility of resolving them. I would certainly not dispute that the process is generally in the public interest and it must always go on. The second is the more arguable question of the extent to which inquiries help victims or benefit the community. The prevailing view, which your Lordships have heard expressed many times this afternoon, is that the extended pursuit of truth gives comfort to those who have suffered bereavement or trauma through terrorist action and that such pursuit is always justified.
One cannot live in Northern Ireland, as I have done all my life, without being all too well aware that a considerable body of people have suffered badly—some have suffered dreadfully badly—from terrorist action. No one could fail to feel enormous sympathy with them over the hurt, pain and distress, bodily and mental, that so many have endured and will endure until life’s end. Nothing I say is intended to minimise that. Numerous government initiatives have rightly been directed towards assisting such people and the provision of welfare for them. The work and effort of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and his Consultative Group on the Past are only one part of that.
One of the aims of many of the bodies concerned with this is the investigation of past deeds and the ascertainment of the truth, as far as it is possible to do so. To that end they support continuing with inquiries and investigations of all kinds. This does not factor in the indefinable issues involved in the public interest. Many, though by no means all, of the people who have suffered are extraordinarily keen to pursue the facts of past events, however long the journey and however far it may take them. One respects this desire if it will help to heal their wounds. However, against that I detect a growing feeling that we, as a community, would benefit from trying to put the past behind us—in the common and overworked phrase, to “move on”—and that focusing for too long on the wrongs of the past is picking at old scabs, keeping old wounds raw and keeping people on edge, which is detrimental to the health of society.
Like so many things, this involves a balancing of interests. Should the desire of some to pursue inquiries to the very end prevail, or should the interests of the community prevail in drawing a line? I have come to the conclusion—which I must express unequivocally, though I fear I find myself in disagreement with many noble Lords who have spoken—that those who say it is in the public interest to call a halt to further inquiries are right. People have been hurt—many badly and some dreadfully. Much can and should be done to help them in various ways. However, as a society we badly need stability. One of the best ways of achieving that would be a long period with as little disturbance as possible. Furthermore, Northern Ireland is now in the process of tackling the many problems of today. It needs all the impulse and creativity that it can summon, untrammelled by the weight of old divisions and antipathies. To this end, the talents and energies, both emotional and practical, of its people must be harnessed. That can only be for the public good.
Like all societies riven by divisions and strife, Northern Ireland has to put them behind it if it is to flourish. In that, increasing prosperity can only be a useful lubricant. If people in countries with problems such as those experienced by Croatia can do it with some success—I am assured by responsible people there that many of them are trying to—we can do it. If we are to develop as a mature and peaceful society, it is better that we should do so without inquiries, which are commonly so prolonged and often controversial, and may produce too little real enlightenment in the end. To reiterate the cliché: it is time to move on.
My Lords, I am prone to speak directly at times, so I hope the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, will forgive me if I say how much I disagree with him and suggest that he might like to think about whether he would have made his speech before the Saville inquiry. If there is any logic in what he has said, it would have been better, or at least as good, to draw the line then, rather than now, would it not?
I was pleased to hear the words of my noble friend Lord Mawhinney and, indeed, those of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, in defence of the Army.
Too many who have never had the experience of making a difficult decision, taken on imperfect information and when they may have been frightened, are quick to condemn those who react wrongly under those pressures.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said pretty well all that had to be said about what happened in Londonderry in the wake of the publication of the inquiry. That has been repeated today from both Front Benches. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for the way in which she facilitated private all-party briefings on Northern Ireland when she was Leader of the House. Those were very helpful indeed and I hope that that practice will continue.
My introduction to the politics of Northern Ireland predated some of the nastier experiences I have had. I was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Robin Chichester-Clark, the last Ulster Unionist to hold office in a Westminster Government. In that role I frequently went back and forth to Londonderry in the early 1970s. It was an extraordinary experience to see how different things could be in different parts of the same kingdom.
It should not have taken 12 years to produce the report, nor cost £190 million in outdoor relief for wealthy lawyers. As the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, observed, we are all indebted to them for this report; indeed, we are highly indebted. It was right to discover what happened that day, so far as we could. I do not differ from what has been said about the tragic errors and failures that led to such a loss of life. However, there is something else about the report which seems to have largely escaped notice; it is testimony to the existence of an entirely different attitude towards public affairs, politics and public order in Northern Ireland from that which we experience and enjoy in the rest of this kingdom. That was the thought which first came to me back in the early 1970s when I was going back and forth to Londonderry. I emphasise this by quoting from paragraph 3.119 on page 46 of the principal conclusions of the Saville report, which refers to,
“allegations that Martin McGuinness, at that time the Adjutant of the Derry Brigade or Command of the Provisional IRA”—
I observe in parenthesis that that is a terrorist organisation—
“had engaged in paramilitary activity during the day. In the end we were left in some doubt as to his movements on the day”.
The paragraph goes on to say that,
“he was probably armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun, and though it is possible that he fired this weapon, there is insufficient evidence to make any finding on this”.
We can imagine what would have become of the career of my right honourable friend Mr Michael Gove had a judicial inquiry found that during an illegal demonstration in favour of free schools he was probably armed with a sub-machine gun, and that it was possible he might have fired it. It is unlikely that he would today be the Secretary of State for Education. But we have no need to imagine the fate of Mr McGuinness: he is the Minister for education in part of this kingdom, in Northern Ireland. It seems that there are different ways of ordering our affairs in those two parts of the kingdom.
When I asked a little while ago if there would be an inquiry into the murders at the Grand Hotel, Brighton 26 years ago, my noble friend Lord Shutt told me:
“The Government have no plans to hold a public inquiry in relation to the terrorist attack on The Grand Hotel, Brighton, in October 1984. As the noble Lord will be aware, there was a police investigation following the attack and one man was subsequently convicted of offences relating to the bombing”.—[Official Report, 28/6/10; col. WA216.]
One man; but we all know that that one man did not decide to do this on his own. He did not go out to buy the explosives and the timers on his own. He did not finance the operation on his own. He did not think of it on his own. Many of us have suspicions about who was in charge of what we know—because they owned up to it—was an IRA/Sinn Fein operation. Why was it so important to inquire at such cost and such time into what happened, and who was responsible for what happened, at Londonderry, but so important not to uncover the truth about who was responsible for what happened at Brighton?
I end as I began. There are different standards for Northern Ireland and the rest of this kingdom. While those different standards exist, we will never find long-lasting and true peace in Northern Ireland. The inquiry began by adopting the title of the Bloody Sunday inquiry. I fear that that adoption of the very language of those who set out to break the law and confront the forces of the law underlines my view of the difference in our standards.
It would not take long or cost much to establish who was behind the murders at Brighton—or indeed those at Claudy or Omagh, I suspect. IRA/Sinn Fein have claimed responsibility in some of those cases, and I understand that the identities of those who commanded the terrorist organisation at relevant times are well known to the authorities. Surely they could be invited to defend themselves against the suspicion that it was they who procured those bombings, not least that at Brighton. Or is it that the deaths at Brighton count for less than those at Londonderry? Or is it as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, might imagine—that the Queen’s soldiers are sitting ducks for inquiries and the members of the Army Council of Sinn Fein/IRA are, like the godfathers of the Mafia, not just too well connected and too powerful to be brought to justice but too important for the truth about them to be not merely known but to be published?
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will forgive me if I do not follow him in considering whether there should be an inquiry into the Brighton catastrophe.
It is clearly right that today we should be holding this debate on what happened on Bloody Sunday. We owe it to those who were killed and injured. In a sense, there is nothing today that we can add to what the inquiry said in the last paragraph of its overall assessment:
“Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland”.
Those words were repeated by the Prime Minister at the end of his Statement on 15 June. I was privileged to hear that Statement and, just as there is nothing to add factually to what is contained in the Saville report, there is little, if anything, to add by way of comment to what the Prime Minister said in that remarkable Statement. I shall never forget it: it was heard in absolute silence. My noble and right reverend friend Lord Eames, if I remember correctly, was sitting beside me. As we heard it, he described the atmosphere as sombre, as indeed it was. However, at the end of that Statement, the Prime Minister said that it was time to move on, and so it is. The great merit of the Saville report is that we can now do just that.
It is easy enough to say—as many have, although not I think today—that the inquiry took too long and cost too much. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, did not say that in his opening remarks and I am very grateful to him. He drew attention to the length of time and the cost but did not say that it was too long or cost too much. I am grateful for that because the task that the tribunal set itself was truly gigantic. This was an inquest into the deaths of 13 members of the public. They were not all killed together by a bomb. In one sense, it would have been much easier if that had been so, but they were killed by 13 separate shots fired by 13 different soldiers. Therefore, this was not just one inquest; it was 13 separate inquests into 13 separate deaths. The tribunal was determined to get to the bottom of each death and surely it was right to try. It has, in fact, succeeded in doing so to an extent that I find astonishing.
One of the tribunal’s difficulties was that there were a huge number of potential eye witnesses to what happened in the crowd that day. Obviously the tribunal had to listen to all those who had something to say. Therefore, I am not at all surprised that the tribunal took some five or six years out of the total length simply to hear the evidence before reconstructing, on the basis of that evidence, what happened.
There was another reason why the Saville inquiry may have thought it right to take as long as it did. There had been a previous inquiry, which has been referred to often this afternoon, by Lord Widgery, the Lord Chief Justice. The Saville inquiry referred to it in a single, rather dismissive sentence in the first paragraph of its report and never alluded to it again. The reason, of course, was that the Widgery inquiry was wholly inadequate, as we can now see, and indeed was a significant cause of subsequent unrest. The Saville inquiry was determined not to make that mistake; nor did it.
Here, I echo very much the important point made by my noble and right reverend friend Lord Eames when he said that one cannot say, as the Prime Minister did, that there should be an end to such open-ended inquiries. As my noble and right reverend friend asked—and I ask the same question—what is the alternative? If it takes 12 years to get to the bottom of what happened on Bloody Sunday, we must simply take 12 years. You cannot set up an inquiry of this kind and then cut it short by some arbitrary time limit. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, indicated that a special rule might be thought more applicable in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, he accepted that it is time to move on there. If the Saville inquiry means that we can move on, as I believe it does, then surely, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said, the money that we spent on it was worth while.
That brings me to my last point. We have spoken of the expenditure of money, but there was also a human cost to which I should refer. I pay tribute to the three members of the tribunal. They all bore a huge burden over many years. However, the main burden undoubtedly fell on the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville. I was very glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Bew, said about the enormous skill with which the noble and learned Lord conducted the inquiry.
What I now have to say about him may sound like an obituary, but I can assure the House that the noble and learned Lord is still alive. He was one of the youngest judges ever to be made a Law Lord. He had hardly settled in when he was asked to undertake this inquiry. Many Law Lords might have refused. No doubt the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, thought that the inquiry would be finished within two years, which was the estimate given by someone, though heaven knows on what conceivable basis that can have been formulated. I know that the noble and learned Lord was looking forward greatly to returning to his ordinary work in the House of Lords; in fact he was longing to come back. So he had no conceivable incentive, if anyone should suggest it, to prolong the inquiry—quite the opposite.
I have no doubt that, at the end, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, undertook the inquiry because he regarded it as his duty to do so. The fact that it took 12 years meant that, to his great cost, it was too late for him to return to his ordinary work in the House of Lords. At least he has the consolation of knowing that, like Othello, he has done the state some service, and for that we should all be profoundly grateful.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. I have the greatest regard for him as an eminent jurist and I am sorry that he will not agree with at least one of the things that I am about to say.
I have read that part of the report that is available in print. It seems to me to be a clearly argued, thorough and convincing report and I hope, trust and pray that it brings closure to the families of the victims and to the two communities in Londonderry—or Derry—and in Northern Ireland. It is undoubtedly a remarkable achievement by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, and his colleagues.
However, it would be quite wrong not to say on the occasion of this debate in this place that there is a big problem, which has been referred to several times: this inquiry took so long and cost so much that the Government have, apparently, decided that we can never do such a thing again. I totally agree with my noble friend Lady Royall that that is a regrettable decision. It deprives the country of an enormously important check and balance in our system of governance. Of course, we hope that nothing so horrific will ever happen in our history again, but we all know that that is unlikely to be the case. I am extremely worried about the abandonment of the whole concept of an inquiry of this kind.
Before we take such a definitive decision—this is where I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, will not like what I have to say—I hope that we will look again at the way in which this inquiry was conducted. I am certain that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, acted with the greatest integrity and professionalism. I do not for one second suggest—to anticipate what might be in some colleagues’ minds—that there was any financial motivation on the part of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, in this matter. I do not doubt that he could make vastly more money doing other things. Whether that is the case for all the lawyers involved, I really do not know. However, I attended the inquiry on one or two occasions and, rather more frequently, I followed it on the internet and, at the time, I was frankly appalled at the leisurely pace at which it was conducted. Sometimes a witness would not turn up and, so far as I could judge, there was no sanction at all for that. The inquiry would simply be postponed for two days, there apparently being no alternative work programme in place. I was quite shocked by that. Also, as we heard this afternoon, it took five days to cross-question Ted Heath, the Prime Minister at the time of those events.
Rather than just abandoning the idea of having such inquiries, however, we owe it to ourselves and the country to find a way in which, in future, such inquiries can be viable and can be conducted with a greater degree of discipline and a rather more focused, businesslike management of the whole process, which I am sure is possible. It may be that different financial incentives have a role in that. I just mention in passing, without in any way suggesting that this would be appropriate in such a judicial activity, that in the City it is now normal, before lawyers are hired for any transaction, including the most complicated and the largest, where the complexity and the time involved can least easily be predicted at the outset, for the lawyers to be asked to quote a fixed price before they are appointed. There may be alternative structures that should be considered. We should not just abandon the whole mechanism without thinking about how it might be made more viable and realistic in future.
That said, I should like to make just four points about the general context in which this horrific event took place. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, has just reminded us, this is a moment to try to seek historical truth. One has to start with the fact that these events took place against the background of a march organised by the Civil Rights Association. Most people taking part in that march were clearly entirely peaceable in their intentions. One has to ask: why was there a march in this country organised by the Civil Rights Association? The reason is that, at that time, and during the whole of the 50 years for which the Stormont Government existed, there had been serious abuses of civil rights. Indeed, the civil rights of the Catholic minority had been systematically suppressed for all that time. There were problems in housing and education. There was deliberate gerrymandering of constituencies. There was a terrible problem with job discrimination in the employment market. It was not just that the Government of Northern Ireland acquiesced in job discrimination; from time to time, they promoted it. Lord Brookeborough, who became the third Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, urged unionists to employ only Protestants—to use his phrase, to employ Protestant lads and lasses—and vaunted his employment of 100 per cent Protestants. That was the background. In those days, there was a culture in Northern Ireland that it was a Protestant state and that if the Catholics did not like it they could go down to the Free State or, after 1948, to the Republic.
Only two people, or groups of people, did anything about that. One was a very brave man, Terence O’Neill, who was bitterly attacked from within the unionist party—many of the attacks were co-ordinated by the Reverend Ian Paisley—and politically destroyed. Some people will recall the extraordinary furore that was created in Northern Ireland when Terence O’Neill visited a Catholic school—it was the first time in the 40 years since Stormont had started that a Prime Minister, or any Minister, had been in a Catholic school. That indicates the psychology at the time.
The only organisation to do anything about that was the Civil Rights Association. It organised a number of peaceful demonstrations, which were turned violent by extreme unionists—many of them also organised by people extremely close to the Reverend Ian Paisley. There was disgraceful violence in Armagh and at Burntollet Bridge, just outside Londonderry, in 1968-69. Against that background, it is of course not justifiable or forgivable but it is perhaps humanly understandable that a climate—a fertile field—was created in which extremists and terrorists from the IRA could present themselves as being the defenders of the Catholic community, which was under such attack and systematic discrimination. That is not a happy story.
My second point is that, although I have deliberately been harsh on them, this was not entirely the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Government of those days. The buck really stops here in Westminster because the Northern Ireland Parliament was not a sovereign Parliament like the Irish Parliament in the years before 1800; it was a subsidiary Parliament created by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. We had ultimate responsibility for the way in which it was conducting the governance of Northern Ireland and we did nothing whatever about it.
It would be easy to make a party-political point and say that on the whole that period was dominated by Tory Governments, that a ruthless alliance was formed before the First World War by Carson and Bonar Law in their attacks on the third home rule Bill and that it was all the fault of the Tories. I do not say that, however, because I am ashamed to say that Labour Governments of the time—the minority Labour Government of 1924 and the Labour Governments of 1929 and 1945—were equally negligent about this scandal taking place in Northern Ireland. I am happy to be corrected, but as far as I can recall no Liberal voice was raised in all those years against what was going on in Northern Ireland. That was a disgraceful situation.
It was the fault of Westminster, this Parliament that created Stormont. It simply acquiesced in that completely intolerable situation, which ended up in the appalling situation that we have become familiar with over the past 30 years. There are lessons in that for everybody. I cannot conceive of another devolved Parliament in the United Kingdom behaving in the fashion that the Stormont Government and the majority in the Stormont Parliament did, but if that were ever to happen I hope that in Westminster we would not fail in our responsibilities as we did last time.
My third point is that the background to this appalling event—the tragic disaster on Bloody Sunday—is internment. It is extraordinary that the mistake of internment was made at all. British Governments—Whig, Tory and Liberal—throughout the 19th century voted through these two Houses in Westminster coercion Acts that had the same effect and allowed arrests without any judicial process, the holding of people without trial and the suspension of habeas corpus. They were a complete disaster and did not work at all. Many Irish leaders of the time were arrested in this way, including Parnell, who was arrested in 1881. When the coercion Act had been passed and before Parnell was arrested, as he expected to be, somebody said to him: “Mr Parnell, who is going to take over the Irish parliamentary party if you are arrested?”. He responded, “Captain Moonlight will take over the Irish party”, and Captain Moonlight did. The equivalent of Captain Moonlight took over in the 1970s after internment. That was a terrible mistake and we should learn from it, because we could make similar mistakes in other parts of world, overthrowing our constitutional liberties, supposedly in the interests of security, but in fact finding that that sacrifice is entirely counterproductive.
My final point is that, after this ghastly tragedy of Bloody Sunday, we had to face conflict with the IRA for the next 25 years or so. Why did we have to do it? It was to uphold the principle of democracy, the fundamental principle of a free society. Constitutional and political decisions can be made and constitutional arrangements can be changed only by the democratically expressed will of the people, not at the point of a gun. We had to resist the IRA and we did so. I say “we did so”, but the British Army and the RUC actually did so. I accept the appalling criticisms in the report before us, but 99 per cent of time the British Army behaved with incredible courage and great professional restraint. It was because of that, above all things, that we came through and successfully defended that essential principle of a free society.
I also want to say a word about the RUC, which was equally incredibly brave. Many of those men must have felt tempted to drop that profession and get away because it was so dangerous. I am not easily moved to tears, but I have with great difficulty, because grown men do not weep in public, restrained them when going into the police station in Londonderry on more than one occasion and seen the incredible number of names of RUC officers killed during the Troubles in that city. It is absolutely horrific. I make a particular point about the Catholic officers who, of course, were even more vulnerable to revenge attacks and to their families being intimidated and who stayed with the RUC throughout those terrible years. We owe an enormous debt to our security forces—to the British Army and the RUC—in those very difficult times. It is a debt that we must never forget.
My Lords, before I move to the subject of this debate, I should like to record my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, on his eloquent maiden speech. I was a law student at King’s College, London, when the tragic events of Bloody Sunday occurred. I remember coming to this place in disbelief and horror to try to find out what had happened and how it was that Bernard McGuigan, Gerald Donaghy, Hugh Gilmour, John Duddy, Gerald McKinney, James Wray, John Young, Kevin McElhinney, Michael Kelly, Michael McDaid, Patrick Doherty, William McKinney, William Nash and John Johnston had been shot dead, and 13 other people wounded. The Widgery report was a travesty. Lord Widgery indicated that some of those killed had been handling weapons and nail bombs, which was relied on for decades by certain politicians and has been recorded extensively in publications.
The families and the people of Derry waited a very long time for the truth to be told. As the Saville report states:
“The firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury. What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland”.
The families of the dead and the injured on Bloody Sunday conducted themselves with huge courage, determination, dignity and integrity in their long fight for justice. It was so good to see the scenes in the Guildhall Square in Derry when the Saville report was published. It was good, too, to hear the Prime Minister apologise unequivocally. This was an important moment for everyone affected by these terrible events.
There must be learning from Bloody Sunday. British forces serve in many places across the world. Their sacrifice must always be remembered, but learning must take place. As the Prime Minister said in another place:
“Openness and frankness about the past, however painful, do not make us weaker; they make us stronger”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/6/10; col. 741.]
In Northern Ireland, almost everyone has been affected in some way by the Troubles. I was 26 when I was caught in a bomb explosion. I was pregnant and as a consequence of my injuries my unborn child died. It is not easy in such circumstances to move on. I know that personally; yet my pain was as nothing compared to so many—compared, for example, to the pain of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who has spoken today.
The pain of those whose loved ones have died and who have never had the benefit of a proper investigation is an ongoing and terrible sore. Eleven people were killed in incidents involving the Parachute Regiment during three terrible days in Ballymurphy in 1971. These events have been referred to earlier today. It all started on 9 August 1971 on internment day. Over those three days 11 people were killed—Francis Quinn, Father Hugh Mullan, Joan Connolly, Daniel Teggart, Noel Phillips, Joseph Murphy, Edward Doherty, John Laverty, Joseph Corr, John McKerr and Paddy McCarthy. There have been no proper inquiries into these deaths. All that happened just five months before the Bloody Sunday shootings and both events involved officers of the same regiment.
As noble Lords have heard, there have been many atrocities in Northern Ireland—too many. Many of them received only the most perfunctory of investigations for a variety of reasons, some of which were simply the number of atrocities and the small number of police officers to investigate them. But the families of those who died were often left uninformed and alone. I met one UDR widow who told me that the only contact she had after her husband was murdered was when officers came to collect her husband’s gun. Another lady said that police officers told her that they would find the killers of her UDR husband and that they could come back and tell her. For 30 years she sat looking out of the window and waiting, but nobody came. I have also worked with the families of the disappeared, whose loved ones were abducted by the IRA. Their bodies, as we all agree, need to be returned to those who grieve for them but have no grave to visit.
All the bereaved families of Northern Ireland still grieve. Some of it happened a very long time ago and some of it more recently. As the police ombudsman, I reported on many cases, but the most complex investigation was that into the activities of a group of UVF police informants in North Belfast. A man came into my office in 2002 and told me that his son, Raymond McCord, had been murdered by UVF informants who had been committing the most serious of crimes for over a decade, that many of these crimes were known to the police, and that those informants were not made amenable for the crimes which they committed. It seemed to me unlikely that this could have happened. Nevertheless, it was my statutory duty to investigate, and I did so. He was right. A group of UVF police informants were linked to at least 10 murders, 10 attempted murders and at least 76 other serious crimes committed between 1991 and 2002. I have to tell noble Lords that before 1994, they murdered Catholics, and after the ceasefire, they murdered Protestants. Some police officers had deliberately colluded with those informants and allowed them to go on committing crimes, deliberately obstructing the efforts of other officers to bring them to justice. These findings did not destroy, but enabled a stronger and better police service and a community in North Belfast that once again is working with the police. As a consequence of that investigation, 11 men now stand charged with the most serious crimes, including murder. The investigation continues.
The deaths and atrocities of the Troubles are not ancient history. I think of the recent attempted murder of PC Peadar Heffron and the murders of Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey. Dissident republican paramilitaries are still trying to murder people. Loyalists, too, are not at peace. Just last month, the Independent Monitoring Commission reported that the murder of loyalist Bobby Moffett on 28 May this year was sanctioned by the UVF. The commission, of which the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, is a member, stated that the reasons why the UVF sanctioned the murder were to,
“stop Mr Moffett’s perceived flouting of UVF authority, and to send a message to the organisation and the community that this authority was not to be challenged”.
We still have a serious problem.
Much has been said about the cost of Saville, and this is used as an argument to close down the past. With the deepest respect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, it is surely inappropriate to refer to those who seek investigations into the murders of their loved ones as “picking at scabs”. It is said that the investigation of past atrocities costs too much and that it could undermine the peace. Indeed I was told on occasion that I should not report because I would destroy the peace process, destroy the RUC, destroy the PSNI, et cetera. None of this happened. As the Prime Minister said, the revelation of the truth makes us stronger. I have listened to endless calls for us to move on, but the reality, as the American poet Maya Angelou said, is that:
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again”.
I know that justice and policing have now been devolved. Notwithstanding that, the Government have a clear interest in the security situation in Northern Ireland, and recent warnings by MI5 in relation to dissident republican activities are chilling. We have to find a way to deal with the past; we cannot ignore it. Currently, four bodies investigate the past in Northern Ireland: the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, the office I held, investigates deaths which may have resulted from police misconduct. The Government also asked us to investigate a number of other cases in which the security forces killed people, and into which there had not been an investigation that was compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In that context, for example, the alleged “shoot to kill” deaths investigated by John Stalker and later by Colin Sampson were referred to my office. I initiated the work, having read the lengthy investigation files created by Mr Stalker and Mr Sampson. The work is massive, but the United Kingdom does have legal and moral obligations.
So the Police Ombudsman investigates; the coroner investigates; the Historical Enquiries Team, established by the PSNI and part of the PSNI, reviews deaths occurring before the Good Friday agreement. The HET reports on inquiries in cases where there can be no investigation to lead to a prosecution; it does not investigate those cases. If it finds that there is scope for an investigation it passes the case on to the PSNI for investigation, which then starts again.
All this produces duplication of work and complex legal situations. For example, when I was investigating a case in which it was alleged that a police officer and a civilian were involved in a murder, the law required me to investigate the police officer and the PSNI to investigate the civilian. The consequence of this was that the police officer was my suspect and the civilian was my witness; and for the PSNI, the police officer was its witness and the civilian was its suspect. I do not need to explain to noble Lords the legal difficulties in disclosure and process consequential upon this situation.
In Northern Ireland four different organisations, at least, are responsible for investigations—I have not referred to the Health and Safety Executive, for example—but I am sure that the resulting complexities and inefficiencies were not intended when the various pieces of legislation were passed. Nevertheless, that law now exists. In addition, there continues to be concern in some quarters about the fact that the actual historic investigations are carried out not by HET, which has some independent personnel, but by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I do not make any attack on the integrity of the PSNI in saying this; I simply report one of our unfortunate realities.
There has been much news in the papers recently about the Metropolitan Police investigation and recent arrests in relation to the murder of Police Constable Colin Blakelock, who was murdered in October 1985 on the Broadwater Farm estate. There is an ongoing process here in Britain of reviewing cold cases and there have been significant successes, particularly as a consequence of developments in forensic science. If the relatives of those murdered in England, Wales and Scotland can expect investigation, why must the situation be different in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom? To decide not to investigate is effectively to give impunity to all those who have killed.
I know from experience that many of these investigations will be profoundly difficult. Over the years, witnesses and suspects may have died, memories will fail, dementia will afflict some witnesses and forensic opportunities will have been lost because of the failure to manage exhibits properly and the passage of time. The RUC routinely destroyed evidential exhibits which were contaminated by blood—noble Lords will understand that many exhibits in murder investigations are contaminated by blood—files were lost as a consequence of explosions and files were contaminated by asbestos and destroyed. None of these is a reason not to try to investigate.
The people of Northern Ireland lived for 40 years in a situation in which even agents of the state were involved in both unlawful killings and other unlawful and, indeed, criminal activity. In these circumstances, confidence in the rule of law was inevitably seriously undermined. As we seek to establish a new Northern Ireland—which is still part of the United Kingdom—we should surely do all we can to consolidate that peace so that it does not break down again and so that we do not see the re-emergence of terrorism as a daily problem in our lives.
I have previously suggested—I do so again—that there should be one independent investigation unit charged with investigating all the unsolved deaths of the Troubles. It should have full police powers and be properly resourced; it should incorporate the Police Ombudsman’s historic inquiries, the HET inquiries and any current police investigations of deaths which occurred during the Troubles. This would obviate the necessity for the current duplication of work and it would be cheaper to run because one could utilise the current combined costs of the PSNI historic investigations, the HET and the Police Ombudsman historic investigations.
There are accounts which can be given to families even where there can be no prosecution—I have done this. In so doing, it is profoundly important that the families are given every piece of information except that which may imperil life or jeopardise current investigation or anti-terrorist methodologies. We do not need to protect the methodologies of the past.
As Saville concluded, Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland. There are still things to be done to address the consequences of the Northern Ireland Troubles and I urge the Government to think about the establishment of one unit to investigate the past. I record my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, for organising today’s debate.
My Lords, the Saville report is a thorough examination of the events and issues arising from Bloody Sunday. The Prime Minister has apologised to the families of those who died. Loss of life has a direct, negative effect on families and communities for generations, and he refused to defend the indefensible. The state is an arbiter of justice and must be held accountable to maintain its credibility. The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir David Richards, has endorsed the Prime Minister's apology, and Army procedures have been amended to ensure that there is no recurrence of incidents of a similar nature.
However, it should be remembered that the events of Bloody Sunday took place at a time when Northern Ireland faced great political and social instability. In 1972, 140 members of the security forces and 250 civilians were killed on the streets of the Province. We all owe an immense debt of gratitude to those who served in the security forces. Without their bravery and dedication, the number of civilian deaths would undoubtedly have been very much greater. There were many who paid with their lives, and their families had to deal with loss and bereavement.
The report gives rise to a number of moral, political and financial questions concerning future prosecutions, treatment of the past and the enormous cost of this type of inquiry. These have important implications for future policy, each of which I shall attempt to address in turn.
The possibility of instituting criminal proceedings against some Army personnel is under consideration. Some have suggested that a verdict of unlawful killing should close the matter. Others consider that soldiers who lied may have committed perjury. This matter, too, is under investigation. I have no hesitation in supporting strongly the maxim that everyone is equal before the law and equally subject to its terms. However, for several reasons, I do not believe that prosecutions of military personnel in these circumstances would constitute an even-handed application of the law.
First, it is always easier to prosecute agents of the state, who may be held accountable for their actions and are readily identifiable, than terrorists, who are unaccountable and usually unidentifiable. Secondly, since it is now almost 40 years since the events took place, much of the relevant evidence must inevitably be unreliable. Thirdly, many IRA prisoners were released early from prison under the terms of the Belfast agreement. To apply different sentencing rules to proceedings against military personnel would be unjust. Finally, the undertaking given by the Attorney-General in 1999 that witnesses at the inquiry would not be able to incriminate themselves should not be ignored.
Several suggestions have been made concerning future expedients for investigation of past events and promotion of reconciliation between the two communities in Northern Ireland. Recently, proposals for further inquiries on the Saville model have been widely canvassed. I believe strongly that these are misguided both on practical and financial grounds. Clearly, it is difficult to distinguish in terms of gravity between the facts of Bloody Sunday and those of many more other tragic incidents. One thinks, for example, of what has become known as Bloody Monday in 1972, when the IRA placed a no-warning car bomb in the Londonderry village of Claudy. Nine people were killed and 32 injured. The report of an eight-year investigation published in August this year concluded that a Catholic priest was directly involved: this fact was concealed by senior police officers, government Ministers and the Catholic hierarchy. Undoubtedly, the families of the Claudy victims have feelings of betrayal and injustice. Clearly, they also deserve our sympathy and recognition.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, their interests would not be best served by the establishment of another Saville-type inquiry. Saville was sui generis. The inquiry formed an integral part of the negotiations leading to the Belfast agreement. Furthermore, huge media attention meant that the worldwide reputation of the British Army and British justice were at stake.
We have heard that the Saville inquiry cost around £200 million. It is reported that 14 lawyers became millionaires during the 12 years of its deliberations.. Vast sums of public money have also been spent on inquiries into the deaths of Billy Wright, Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill. However, do such inquiries, which primarily examine the state’s role in the relevant events, really benefit the victims, their families and indeed society as a whole? May not further examination of painful events lead to greater alienation of communities rather than the healing of divisions?
In my view, scarce public funds could be put to better use in ameliorating the quality of life of victims and their families. Indeed, in Northern Ireland, a Commission for Victims and Survivors has already been established and four victims commissioners have been appointed: the search for a satisfactory method of providing aid to victims should not be abandoned.
There are proposals to establish a legacy commission or a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission, but I believe that they would have little merit. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who headed the latter body, considered that a similar commission might not be effective in Northern Ireland. More specifically, Judge Albie Sachs of South Africa’s Constitutional Court acknowledged that the commission emerged from intense and specific needs in that country. In contrast, Northern Ireland was never governed by an apartheid regime: it was a liberal democracy threatened by terrorism where no one was ever denied voting rights on grounds of ethnicity or religion. This essential truth is often obscured by the fog of propaganda that usually surrounds political developments in Northern Ireland.
Moreover, the South African commission was established after the cessation of the ANC’s campaign of violence. Regrettably, recent bomb attacks in Northern Ireland are clear evidence that a significant number of Irish republicans have not abandoned violence as a political tool. For that reason, the moral dilemma posed by the possible grant of immunity from prosecution remains acute.
It has been suggested that a legacy commission which would not offer an amnesty might be more appropriate. However, if immunity were not offered, it is unlikely that perpetrators of terrorist acts would be prepared to testify; as a result, such a body would necessarily be ineffectual. In the light of the issues I have raised, can the Minister give an assurance that no new or existing body will be given the power to grant immunity from prosecution for any act of terrorism committed in Northern Ireland after today’s date?
Effective ways of dealing with the past do exist. The Historical Enquiries Team, a unit of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, is still working on outstanding cases. Its main aim is to bring closure to those families who have unanswered questions about the death or disappearance of loved ones. The team has a running cost of over £6 million while the PSNI spends around £11 million a year on investigating and reviewing past murders and inquests. This represents public money well spent; proper funding of existing bodies is usually more effective than the creation of new, controversial and often expensive quangos.
Another constructive proposal that has been supported by Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, is the establishment of an aural and video archive for victims and survivors of the Troubles. This would be a relatively inexpensive way of facilitating research by victims and survivors who wished to learn more about incidents which affected them. Above all, the views of victims’ relatives and of survivors should be listened to with empathy and respect. If they wish to recall past events, their accounts should be recorded with understanding and sensitivity. The foundation of a memorial bursary might be a fitting recognition of their suffering, which would at the same time leave a positive legacy for future generations.
To provide closure, the truth must be told, but a plethora of costly inquiries is not a necessary prerequisite for this. There comes a time when it is in the interests of all to move on rather than engage in re-examining painful incidents from the past. This simply causes further hurt, rather than healing divided communities. The Government clearly want to draw a line and move forward, and I am in full agreement with this approach. May Saville mark the end of costly legal inquiries. May it be the inquiry that marks an end to all inquiries into the Troubles. We must continue to listen to victims and survivors and help them rebuild their lives: at the same time, we must avoid the rancour which inevitably accompanies litigation and the attribution of blame. It is my hope that Northern Ireland can move forward to a positive future in a spirit of tolerance and understanding.
My Lords, first, I put on record how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, for giving us the opportunity for today’s debate, which, after the contributions we have heard, has been extremely worth while. I thank my noble friend Lady Royall for her comments earlier, with which I associate myself. I join others in praising the commitment and diligence of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, and his team. This was clearly a highly complex, controversial and difficult inquiry, and the final report and the Government’s response do both him and the Government great credit.
Many of your Lordships have quoted from the report. He makes it clear that none of the 13 people who were killed or those who were injured posed a threat of causing death or serious injury on the day now known as Bloody Sunday. His conclusion regarding what happened on that day is the quote that most affected me. He said:
“What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland”.
It was not just a catastrophe for some people of Northern Ireland, for one community or another; it was clearly a catastrophe for the whole of Northern Ireland and beyond. Although in 1972 alone 500 lost their lives, in over 30 years more than 3,500 were killed and many more were wounded. It just was not possible for people to get on with their lives and put behind them the violent political war around them; it touched every part of society.
The effects of those years never leave those who lived through them. We are all aware of the obvious impact, but a small example, not a dramatic one, was brought home to me shortly after I was made a Minister for Northern Ireland in 2001. That was a time, as noble Lords may recall, when the Assembly was suspended, at the time of what became known as Stormontgate. My noble friend Lady Armstrong informed me that I was going there as a Minister, she said for a matter of weeks or possibly a few months. I remained there for three and a half years. While I was on my first duty weekend, Belfast was hit by a bomb scare. My recollection is that the bomb was real but for some reason it did not properly detonate, so there were no injuries, but it created total chaos and traffic congestion all through Belfast on a Friday afternoon. Roads were closed, and people could not get home or into events in the city in the evening. That night at a concert at the Waterfront Hall, it was obviously the main topic of conversation. The comment that stayed with me was from a woman of about the age that I am now. She was really quite upset and said, “I’d forgotten. This is what it was like every single day, and today has brought it all back”. She went on to tell me that she had sent her children across to England to get them out of Northern Ireland. She was not the only one. There were so many young people, crucial to the future of Northern Ireland, who left their homes. Many of them never returned. In so many ways, the euphemistically named Troubles were a catastrophe for the whole of Northern Ireland.
In looking at the issues that the Saville report raises and the wider issue of how we deal with the past, I should like to use my time in this debate to speak as a former victims Minister for Northern Ireland, in which I followed in the distinguished footsteps of my noble friend Lord Browne of Ladyton. In that role I visited and spoke with many individuals and groups across the political divide who had lost loved ones, and with others who had been injured and suffered themselves. For very different reasons, they all described themselves as victims or survivors of the Troubles. It is very difficult for us in other parts of the UK to really and truly appreciate the depth and impact of these emotions. When so many people in the community have been affected and had to live with the suffering day in and day out, that collective experience can offer support. It can, however, also make it far harder to bear. There is an incredible network of support groups for victims and survivors. Some are for just one section of the community, whereas others are cross-community; some offer counselling and some offer health treatments. They all, however, offer comfort.
Among the organisations that had an impact on and impressed me was one called CALMS, in Londonderry, or Derry, where I met two young women from very different backgrounds. One had lost her brother, who had been in the IRA, while the other—who had become her friend—was from a Protestant background; I think it was her father who had been killed. Both of them and their families had suffered, but they had been prepared to talk to each other and share their grief. They wanted to try to understand something from the experience. They admitted that it was difficult. Neither felt completely at ease in each other’s community, but they had challenged each other’s misconceptions about who they were and what they believed in, with amazing results. Others found it far harder to mix in that way but nevertheless found comfort in being able to relax with others who had been affected as they had, and who understood.
I was hugely impressed by a group of RUC widows that I met—women who, when their husbands died, were left with small children and had to raise families on their own, with very little support. They had never been thanked or praised for what they had achieved for their families. I also recall visiting Ballymurphy women’s centre in west Belfast, which my noble friend referred to a moment ago. At that time there were few ministerial visits to the area and a heavy police presence. Outside the centre, there was a peaceful but clearly highly emotional demonstration for the 11 people killed in 1971, as the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, described. They held up photographs of their loved ones who had been killed. They just wanted to know why this was allowed to happen and how it could have happened. They just wanted answers.
Many people have struggled to make sense of the information they have received about the death of their loved one. I met so many people who had painstakingly tried to piece together information from different sources to try to get to the truth. Others just wanted the opportunity to tell the story of how they had been affected without the fear of others’ judgment. I think I understand the Government’s position on not having any new inquiries but I do not yet understand what will replace them. The Minister has referred to the work of the HET and the police ombudsman. However, we can never use those to replace a mechanism for getting to the truth, or underestimate the need to know the truth. That is not to say that it is easy, because it is not. It is often difficult and often painful and it is always complex. However, it is surely the right thing to do.
The extremely impressive report by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and Denis Bradley faced some criticism when the Consultative Group on the Past, which they jointly chaired, tried to address how Northern Ireland can deal with its past. Some of the proposals were more acceptable than others to the majority, but the group’s work was impressive and comprehensive and tried to address not only the complexities but the pain. It advised against public inquiries but considered that an historical cases review body—a legacy commission—could be part of the way forward. So I know that there are different views on this issue. Some want an independent national committee or a truth commission, while for others it is more personal. It is clear, though, that doing nothing about the past is not an option, and where collusion is suspected it is all the more important.
I appreciate the arguments about the cost of inquiries or the alternatives; surely there is not a single person in Northern Ireland who supports the inquiries who could not think of other ways to spend that money, such as on creating jobs or on building new schools. We have also heard about the need for hip replacements. However, it is the Troubles that have exacted such a high price in both financial and human cost that it is probably immeasurable. That creates a duty to try to take some action to deal with the issues that have been raised today.
I am not aware that anyone is asking for any other Saville-type open-ended inquiries. People are asking for a mechanism that allows independent investigation and an apology where appropriate, and that is essential.
In looking to the future, we cannot see political issues in isolation. We have to recognise the current economic climate and its impact on the political. During those 30 years or so, Northern Ireland did not suffer just physically and emotionally, it also suffered economically. Today’s report from PricewaterhouseCoopers makes worrying reading. It reports that 20,000 jobs could be lost under the public spending cuts, which would have a knock-on effect of 16,000 job losses in the private sector. Will the Minister press on the Government the need to consider seriously the impact of any public expenditure cuts in Northern Ireland? For reasons that have been discussed today, there has been a greater emphasis and dependence there on the public sector, which provides around 30 per cent of the jobs in the economy. Who other than the Government would invest in Northern Ireland after Bloody Sunday?
The devolved Administration are committed, and actively seeking, to bring in new private investment and create a greater proportion of private sector jobs. To succeed in that, though, they need the political stability to earn and maintain the confidence of private investors. If cuts are made too deeply and quickly, that will impact on the economic—and therefore the political—stability of Northern Ireland, and that hard fought-for private sector investment will just melt away. Political and economic stability are related, and it would be illogical and wrong for the Government to work to preserve one while undermining the other.
In conclusion, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, and his team have done more than present an exceptional report on Bloody Sunday; they have reinvigorated the quest for truth. Governments, in setting up the inquiry and in the way that they have responded, have helped to create confidence in the process of truth and investigation. The challenge now is to ensure that everything possible is done to maintain economic and political stability for the whole of the community, and that the way forward meets the needs of the future and does not ignore, but properly deals with, the issues of the past.
My Lords, it has been said on a number of occasions in quoting the Saville report today that Bloody Sunday was a personal tragedy for the victims and indeed for their friends and families, a social and political catastrophe for all the people of Northern Ireland and a military and political disaster for the British Army. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville of Newdigate, has rightly made that crystal clear. I am not at all convinced, though, that had his report come out and been greeted or responded to by the Prime Minister with a carefully crafted response pointing up all the difficulties of the time, the pressures that the Army was under and so on, there would have been any transformational outcome from the expenditure of this enormous amount of money and long period of time.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, said, as did my noble friend Lord Macdonald of River Glaven in a wonderful maiden speech, it was the Prime Minister’s speech that was transformational for the people in Derry. As I listened to it myself, I was reminded very much of the remarkable speech that Barack Obama made on racism during his presidential campaign, where he tore up his carefully crafted speech and wrote something that was passionate, human and engaging with the problem. That is what the Prime Minister did: he engaged passionately in a committed way, understanding quite deeply the pain that was involved for all concerned, and he gave a complete, total and absolute apology. To me, that is what was transformational.
To say that the Saville report was crucial and positive is not to say that the inquiry is the only way that things could have been done, nor is it to say that expenditure of almost £200 million over 12 years was necessary to reach such an outcome. I find it difficult to see how it was necessary to spend a great deal more than South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was dealing with the pain of the whole period of apartheid. Whether that was the only and absolutely necessary way of dealing with the problem is the issue that I wish to address this evening. Frankly, I do not believe that the expenditure was necessary and I think that we need to learn from our experience. However, that is not to say that what we have gone through has not been importantly transformational or that the outcome of the Saville inquiry—the report itself and the judgments on it—was not absolutely right, crystal clear and extremely important. For me, that is not the issue.
As has been pointed out already, there are limitations to any such judicial inquiry. Let me give just one example without referring at all to the wider political context. On 9 June this year, the historical inquiries team published another of its many reports. The report investigates the killing of 41 year-old William McGreanery, who was shot by a British solider in September 1971, substantially in advance of Bloody Sunday. Although the RUC’s Chief Superintendent Frank Lagan in Londonderry had advised that the British soldier involved should be prosecuted for murder, the then Attorney-General for Northern Ireland, Sir Basil Kelly—indeed, he was the last such Attorney-General until the recent appointment—said no. It was said:
“If soldier A was guilty of any crime in this case, it would be manslaughter and not murder. Soldier A whether he acted wrongly or not, was at all times acting in the course of his duty and I cannot see how the malice, express or implied, necessary to constitute murder could be applied to his conduct”.
There is a case to be made that that ruling—entirely inadvertently, I am sure—might have created a sense among young British soldiers at the time that they enjoyed an element of impunity if they were acting in the course of their duty. Such a case could be made. All I want to point out is that that would have been outwith the remit of the Saville inquiry, yet wholly relevant to understanding how the events of the time came about.
The key to understanding the importance of Bloody Sunday and the greater need for an inquiry into those events than into many other circumstances is the profound symbolic significance of Bloody Sunday. Next year, we will recall the tragedy of the sinking of the “Titanic”, with the loss of many hundreds of lives. The fact that we will not remember many other ships that sank with terrible loss of life means not that those who died on the “Titanic” were more important than those who died on other ships but that that tragedy was, in the words of my noble friend and countryman Lord Mawhinney, iconic. To give a perhaps more relevant example, those who died in the Sharpeville massacre were not somehow more important than others who died, but there was an iconic or symbolic significance to their deaths that somehow came to embody all sorts of other things. That kind of significance is by no means unique. Indeed, my friend Professor Vamik Volkan, who has looked at many areas of trouble and conflict throughout the world, has observed that, in almost every situation where such conflict goes on for a long period, there is what he calls a “chosen trauma”. He does not mean that the trauma is chosen in a conscious way but that there is some traumatic experience that comes to sum up and express, almost in a couple of words, the awfulness of people’s experience.
The need for an inquiry into Bloody Sunday was not because there needed to be an individual inquiry into every other case to achieve what was necessary but rather because the inquiry emblemised something. However, the inquiry could emblemise that only if the British Government then responded with true regret and deep apology for what happened. This is why it is not only the inquiry that we need to understand, but the response that it evinced.
Then there is the question of whether this inquiry is of the kind that should be embarked on. There has been almost a suggestion that if the Government say that there should be no more open-ended inquiries, there should be no more inquiries of any kind. It seems to me that that is not the question. The noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, has pointed out that there are at least four institutions that undertake inquiries: the HET, the PSNI, the ombudsman and the coroner. There is no proposition to get rid of the investigative capacity of the PSNI, the ombudsman or the coroner, so of course investigations will continue to take place. The question is: how do we deal with the legacy of the past, which we all desperately hope will not return under the pressure from dissident republicans? How we deal with the legacy of the past is no easy matter.
The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, has experience of how difficult it is, no matter how much time you allow and how much you consult, to come up with a mechanism or device that deals with the past. First, it is not always possible to cure and redeem all of the past. As a psychiatrist, I found it frustrating at times that people seemed to accept that if someone had been physically damaged by having lost a leg, it was not replaceable, but if there was a psychological problem, there must be some way of resolving it. That is not true. Some people are emotionally destroyed and it is not possible to repair the damage. That can be true of communities as well. We should not always assume that everything can be resolved.
Secondly, in trying to resolve things we should be a little modest about what we can do. That something needs to be done does not necessarily mean that the Government should be doing it. There are already investigative agencies that need the resources to continue to investigate the past. They are continuing to do so, as has been made clear. However, when we talk about the victims and the need for closure, how much resource has been given to assist the emotional and support needs of individuals and their families? I tabled a Question in your Lordships’ House for the previous Government, to ask whether they had looked at the financial consequences of giving help and succour—psychologically and emotionally—to the victims of the Troubles. Had they looked at any other part of the world where this had been necessary? Had they looked at the financial consequences of dealing with these things for the health service in Northern Ireland? The answer was no, they had not looked at it at all. They had focused entirely on legal devices for addressing these problems. I am in no way against legal devices; I just do not think they are the only way of dealing with our problems. There are human, psychological, relational and emotional ways of dealing with these things that have been hugely under-resourced in Northern Ireland.
Thirdly, we should not underestimate the importance of the political process in helping people to get over the experiences of the past. It really does make a difference to many people to see former enemies working together for the benefit of the community. Many people then feel that whatever the pain they suffered, at least the community has somehow moved on. That responsibility is a heavy and burdensome one on those who are currently Ministers in the devolved Assembly. They must show that political progress can work, and that relationships built now from the ashes of the past 30 years in some fashion redeem all the misery that was created. I hope they appreciate and understand that.
I have already mentioned that there are other institutions that can undertake inquiries. The noble Lord, Lord Bew, has pointed out that in other countries they do not depend solely on lawyers to assist them when it comes to inquiring into the past. There are others, which have other contributions to make. Perhaps we have pushed it too far. I am still, though perhaps not for much longer, a member of the Independent Monitoring Commission. Why was it created? It was created precisely because we discovered the limits of the judicial process in resolving problems. It was given powers quite outwith the normal powers to address some of the questions that needed to be dealt with.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Does he not recognise the extraordinary disproportionality between the size and the sheer resources devoted to the Londonderry inquiry as opposed to the paucity of resources devoted to inquiries where the victims are on the other side of the political divide?
My Lords, I entirely understand that. I also appreciate that even in comparison with the paucity of the money devoted to those legal inquiries, the amount of money devoted to caring for victims’ emotional needs is pitiable in my experience of working with some of these people. My concern is precisely that we focus too much on judicial inquiries of any kind.
I have noticed in the recent past that people in Northern Ireland—former journalists, academics, victims on all sides, former paramilitaries, those who have lost loved ones, former security force members—have started to come together to tell each other their stories away from the limelight and reporting and with no support from government at all. I am rather more hopeful that that kind of rebuilding and knitting together of relationships among ordinary people in Northern Ireland may do more to heal our broken society than any further major government interventions other than the normal, proper due process of the administration of law done with a human face and a human heart.
My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, for enabling this debate to take place. I declare an interest as when these events occurred I was the military assistant to the Chief of the General Staff, Field-Marshal Lord Carver, based in London, and as such I had to give evidence to the Saville inquiry for four and a half hours. Like my noble friend Lord Bew, I am bound to say that I thought that was perhaps a touch long to repeat the same question several times. The question was all about whether General Carver—as he then was—had been part of a conspiracy with the Prime Ministers here and in Northern Ireland to use the march as an excuse to go into the Bogside and take it over, which was totally removed from any possibility of achievement, let alone desire, because there were simply not enough soldiers available to take on that task.
For me, Bloody Sunday began with another event which I shall never forget. On that morning, a very gallant close friend and colleague, Major Robin Alers-Hankey, died in hospital in London. Robin had been shot in Londonderry in September while commanding his company. He was putting down a march not very far from the area described in the report when the crowd opened, a sniper fired through the gap and the crowd then came together so that it was impossible for the soldiers to follow up and capture the sniper. Those were the sort of events that soldiers were up against almost daily in Londonderry. Like my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall, I had the great honour and privilege of commanding that battalion when it came back from Londonderry, having been its second-in-command and involved in its training to go there.
There has been a great deal of criticism of the Widgery report during today’s debate. However, two aspects of that report and the Saville inquiry are exactly the same: first, that no deaths would have happened unless the ban on marches had been defied, which inevitably led to a clash with the security forces—that was the circumstance—and, secondly, that some soldiers acted with restraint and some without fire discipline. All that has happened in the intervening time is that a great deal more details are available in the Saville inquiry. It has gone into much more than Widgery did. Sadly, as a result of all this, 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment and Bloody Sunday join Brigadier-General Dyer and Amritsar as examples of stains on what the British Army stands for and does.
Perhaps I may make one or two comments about the circumstances of operating in Northern Ireland which echo what the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, said, and very firmly contradict the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton. It was always a great problem for us going into Northern Ireland in those early days after we were put there in 1969, not as the Army to do an army job, but as people to take over from the RUC when it became exhausted. Unlike many other situations around the world in what were called peacekeeping operations or keeping the peace, the Army went in when the police handed over to it. You acted as the Army and you gave the situation back to the police as quickly as you could. Unfortunately, from 1969 onwards, there was a long period when the Army was acting as police, for which it is not trained or equipped, in areas where law and order did not run under the hands of the RUC. It was always problematic and difficult for soldiers who were trained to act as soldiers to have to be pseudo-policemen.
I had the great privilege of commanding my battalion in Belfast for four months, and then I commanded the brigade there for two years. During those two years, every Sunday, for month after month, there were marches which we had to put down. I was very fortunate in having an extremely good policeman in Belfast with whom I worked very closely and we always agreed at what moment we the military would take over responsibility, and we handed it back to him as soon as we could,. It always remains for me one of the great tragedies of Bloody Sunday that Brigadier MacLellan, who was in a similar position to mine in Belfast, was denied the presence of his policeman, Chief Superintendant Lagan, who chose that day not to be there. Lagan had recommended that the march be allowed in the first place and, therefore, he was, in a way, opposed to what happened. However, the absence of a policeman made life doubly difficult for Brigadier MacLellan, particularly in the difficult position of deciding on the moment when arrests squads could go in.
That is, of course, a matter for Saville and the past. As Lord Acton once said, hindsight is the privilege of the historians. I have been interested that the theme of this debate appears to have been the words, “It is time to move on”. It is certainly time to move on as far as the Army is concerned and, like many other noble Lords, I listened with admiration to the very clear, unambiguous and brave words of the Prime Minister on 15 June which were read out in this House. It was instantly followed by a message to the Army from the Chief of the General Staff. I should like to read out from it, because it seems to have been made exactly in that same spirit. Referring to the whole of Operation Banner, the message states:
“The overwhelming majority of those deployed conducted themselves with utter professionalism, restraint and humanity and played an important role in protecting the people of Northern Ireland, providing much needed stability and thereby helping to set the conditions for the peace Northern Ireland enjoys today. The cost was high: we will always remember the 651 service personnel killed, and the 6,307 wounded during the course of the operation, not to mention the grievous police and civilian casualties … We ask a lot of our young soldiers, given the incredibly complex environment in which they have to operate and the magnitude of the decisions they have to take, often on a daily basis. I want to stress that rightly we are held to account for our conduct and must always operate within the law. But I would like commanders to assure those under their command that they will, like me, support all soldiers who have acted in good faith and in keeping with the Army’s values and standards, if and when their actions come under scrutiny ... It is a sign of a healthy organisation that we can look back on our past actions, admit our mistakes, and learn from them, so we are stronger and better for the future”.
Having heard the wise words of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and others, it is clear to me that Northern Ireland wants to move on. I believe you can take a view—many noble Lords have mentioned aspects of this—that Northern Ireland could be better and stronger in the future having been through what it has. It is of course important that aspects of the past are cleared up and healed, and I absolutely accept the need for something other than inquiries. My noble friend Lady O’Loan mentioned one organisation and, in terms of simplicity, I would always welcome that. However, in achieving that and looking forward, I hope that there will be inquiries into all aspects of what went on and not just those involving the security forces. In view of what they have done and what they still do, it would be wrong for them to feel that it is they who are always going to be singled out, as opposed to those who have perpetrated the problems that they have been brought in to solve.
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate. Coming in at No. 20 behind a list of eminent speakers, I think that much that I would have referred to has perhaps been said, but noble Lords will forgive me if there is some repetition in my comments.
In a 30-year reflection on any event, there is sometimes a tendency to look at matters through rose-tinted glasses, although I suspect that, on close examination, we could all be guilty of that. Two hundred million pounds is a large sum of money by anyone’s standards. Were this House to have such a colossal sum at its disposal, what an appreciable difference we could make to the lives of all the people of Northern Ireland. Instead, in an economic climate such as this, this £200-million Saville inquiry—perhaps the most expensive foregone conclusion in history—borders on the obscene. It is a misappropriation of taxpayers’ money that, to be truthful, has changed very little in Northern Ireland’s society. It is the epitome of excess—the ultimate example of profligacy. And to what end? For this is the fundamental problem: a vast sum, a huge report and an astonishing 12 years later, nothing much—perhaps a few millionaire barristers aside—has changed. It is staggeringly ironic that, £200 million further on down the road, Martin McGuinness is on record as saying that an apology would have been sufficient.
The outcome was doomed from the start, as I shall explain. It was ever apparent that, no matter the result, at best one section of the community would be sceptical over the findings, feeling disfranchised and alienated and regarding it as a sop; at worst, some would have resorted to more violence on the streets, had they not got the result that they wanted.
The sad truth is that, yet again, the Protestant community was resigned from the start to the inevitability of the outcome going against its views of the events. Such resignation stems from past experience of government policy over at least two generations, which has been to appease those who shout the loudest and to acquiesce in the views of those who could prove the bigger threat. The harsh reality is that the predictability of the findings is further proof of the extent to which successive Governments and the establishment at every level have incessantly pandered to those who are contemptuous of the rule of law in the UK. They behave thus in a vain attempt to keep the seemingly acceptable face of republicanism on the supposed straight and narrow political path. However, your Lordships need no aide-memoire on the futility of feeding the proverbial crocodile. This inquiry was part of the deal, which has its roots in the Belfast agreement, to entice republicans away from terrorism and into the political process.
Evidence was heard from none other than Martin McGuinness, who admitted to being the IRA’s second in command in the area on the day in question. That is the same Martin McGuinness who now sits as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister and who would probably be recognised as a statesman. In June, one national newspaper said of Saville that,
“nobody, but nobody, would order an inquiry into him”—
Martin McGuinness. It went on:
“This is one-directional justice. Each individual will have to work out for themselves whether this constitutes the mature behaviour of a democracy at its very best, or a wasteful exercise in appeasing a political sympathy that has been appeased for too many years”.
Mr McGuinness, as we are all aware, suffers from selective amnesia. Over the summer, we learnt that he forgot that he had spoken to a priest named Father Chesney, who was the prime suspect in the Claudy massacre. Claudy is not that far from Londonderry. Initially, Mr McGuinness vehemently denied even knowing this man; indeed, he could not remember talking to Father Chesney on his deathbed, which one would suspect would be an emotional, evocative and unforgettable experience. Paradoxically, he can clearly remember incidents from 30 years ago on Bloody Sunday, in which, he claims, he was not involved. However, as he cannot appropriately account for his whereabouts over some 25 minutes that day, it appears rather convenient that his memory of that in which he was involved, as events unfolded, is apparently not so sharp. We are told in the report:
“We consider it likely that Martin McGuinness was armed with a Thompson submachine-gun on Bloody Sunday and we cannot eliminate the possibility that he fired this weapon”.
There can be no doubt that the IRA was represented in the Bogside that fateful day and that Martin McGuinness was a member at that time.
To put the events in context, 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment was on site as tensions were running high following the slaughter of two RUC officers three days before. The civil rights march, as we have been reminded, was not a legal march. Gunfire broke out against the Army, which returned fire—Lord Widgery described it as being done “recklessly” and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, describes the actions as “unjustified”. The outcome of both inquiries is fundamentally the same. Saville, of course, was much more expensive.
As I have previously told this House, we had no need for a £200-million inquiry to establish that there was no premeditated plan to shoot civilians on that day. We did not need an inquiry of this length to inform us that, as a consequence of IRA actions prior to that day, parts of Londonderry “lay in ruins”, to use the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville. Therein is an injustice itself.
Many murders, bombings, shootings and hijackings were perpetrated against innocent people in those 30 years of Northern Ireland’s tragic history—all without a public inquiry. It should be remembered that no one has ever been charged, let alone convicted, of the murders of the two RUC men that effectively sparked the events of Bloody Sunday. Moreover, the RUC lost more than 300 of its officers during the Troubles and, for more than 200 of those murders, no one has ever been tried, convicted or put before a court. Of course, for those officers of the law there will be no public inquiries. There will be no inquiry into the Remembrance Day massacre at Enniskillen; the massacre of the innocent at the La Mon House Hotel; Bloody Friday, when a series of bombs were planted strategically across Belfast leaving few routes of escape; Teebane, where workers were slaughtered in their van as they returned home; Kingsmill, when the IRA separated the Protestants from the Roman Catholics and gunned them down in cold blood; the Ballygawley Road/Omagh Road massacre of soldiers; Narrow Water, when 18 paras were massacred; and Darkley, when a small Pentecostal church was invaded by the IRA and people were murdered as they worshipped. There was the murder of Lord Mountbatten and the bombings at Hyde Park, Warrington, Brighton and Canary Wharf. I could go on. The list is seemingly endless.
It has been said in this House that there is but one inquiry that needs to be dealt with. I think that I have demonstrated quite clearly that there is more than one. It strikes me that there are 101. So why was there a Saville inquiry? The answer is abundantly clear. Political expediency was the order of the day, although that is no reflection on those who carried out the inquiry. This had absolutely nothing to do with truth and justice. Purely and simply, this was an attempt to appease the unappeasable—to soften the iron will of those who had terrorised Northern Ireland in a systematic campaign of annihilation and who were increasingly demonstrating their capacity for destruction and mayhem on the mainland.
The report has pilloried the Army for its actions on that day. The truth is that the soldiers had a job to do in exceptionally difficult circumstances. It should be remembered that, but for their presence in Northern Ireland, many more lives would have been lost. I want to get that on record. I want to pay tribute to every soldier who served in Northern Ireland during those dark 30 years of misery and for the sacrifices that many were called on to make, including the laying down of their lives.
When the Saville report is stripped of its glossy cover, millionaire lawyers and high-profile status, what remains? Certainly, in the wake of this 12-year inquiry, there are lessons to be learnt. So many ineffectual reports from numerous commissions have been produced; this has been the second run at a report covering the events that are now known in common parlance as Bloody Sunday. But for how much longer and how many more times will we be forced backwards to trawl through the ashes of the evil deeds that have gone 30 years before? I suspect that some would be content to carry on with such fruitless endeavours until the past is completely rewritten to suit them and their purposes.
The people of Northern Ireland want to move on. They have severe economic challenges to face and consider that money could be better spent on delivering services to enhance the standard of their lives. Let me be clear: the people of Northern Ireland are done with money pits that deliver very little. They have no appetite for further public inquiries or the nonsense of a proposed truth commission.
My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with some apparent authority about the views of the people of Northern Ireland. I do not know on what he rests his authority, but I am aware from my seven years working with the victims of the Troubles across the whole community that there are many such people. Is he not aware that there are many people who would like the answers to what happened to their loved ones?
I have heard what the noble Baroness has said. I have been an elected representative for some 35 years, during which time I have presented myself continually to the electorate and have been returned at every election, so that may be some authority. In relation to people wanting answers, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, is quite right. People want answers, but I am not sure that they want to be trawled through more endless inquiries. There has to be a better way. Quite frankly, we have made a new start in Northern Ireland. Let us give it a chance and try to move forward. Are we are going to continually go down the road of selective inquiries? Bloody Sunday was a real tragedy and people lost their lives, and I do not minimise it in any way, but are we going to go down the road of setting a hierarchy of victims? Is that what we want to achieve? I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, takes that point.
My Lords, in 1971, 496 people died in Northern Ireland, which was the highest casualty rate in any year of the Troubles. I am not as confident as everybody would appear to be about the Saville report. Throughout the 12 years that it has been going on, I sat on the Benches opposite and hassled to try to get something out of it in a reasonable length of time. I failed abjectly. However, we have been in power for only a few months, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State got the report published and the Prime Minister made his major Statement in a very short space of time. Why that did not happen under the previous Secretary of State is anybody’s guess.
I respectfully point out to the noble Lord and the rest of the House that the report was ready to go when the election was called. It was ready as a consequence of the actions of my Government working in tandem with the Government of the noble Lord. I fully respect the noble Lord, but I do not respect what he just said about the timing of the publication. The Prime Minister did a magnificent job with his Statement, but I take issue with the noble Lord on the timing issue.
I accept what the noble Baroness says, but will attempt to correct it after a nod in this House. The reason why I am little unhappy about the report has not been mentioned. It is that a certain lawyer who was representing the Army claimed that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, cherry-picked the evidence to help to paint the picture that he wanted,
“after 12 years and 191 million pounds to give a report which gave very clear findings even where in truth the evidence didn't support them”.
Another negative about the report is from the civil rights organisation British Irish Rights Watch. It states that what saddens it is that after all this time and all this effort very little more is known about Bloody Sunday than was known before the inquiry took place and that the report begs more questions than it answers.
That is a serious warning about the future. I accept the plight of the victims and that victims are our major concern and should be. In Northern Ireland, when we are talking about the affairs that we are talking about today, there is nothing more important than the care of victims, particularly in the past.
The world has changed. Londonderry is now a city of culture. Who could have imagined that in 1972? As the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and others said, the Prime Minister made a fantastic, emotional Statement in another place that went a long way to appeasing a large number of people in Derry. I have spoken to one or two people to whom noble Lords might not have expected me to speak, one of whom was at our party conference. He assured me that the families of Bloody Sunday victims are largely relaxed—they are unhappy and sad—and do not wish to push for prosecutions.
Where are we now? Where do we go? A lot of people have talked about where we are and where we go, but we have not had any answers yet. A lot of the press statements and other comments—I also have it from Sinn Fein—indicate that prosecutions are not being sought. There also is legal evidence of the requisites that will have to be met if prosecutions are to take place. There has to be a better than 50/50 chance of getting a conviction, which has to be in the public interest. Certainly, defence lawyers would use the 38 years, or perhaps 40 years, rule before bringing people to trial. So that rules out prosecution of the soldiers. A further fact is that if soldiers were brought to court and convicted, they would not spend a single day in jail because of past legislation and all the other things that go with it.
As far as we are concerned, prosecutions for the future are off the table as regards Bloody Sunday, even though—someone might want to stir things up—some soldiers have admitted perjury. However, they still cannot be prosecuted because, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, said, they cannot convict themselves. Hence, that is out too. We have no possibility of any convictions, trials or prosecutions for the happenings of Bloody Sunday.
Let us return to where we go now, on which a lot of people have spoken. I agree that we have to go forward. We have to find a way of giving people some satisfaction that they know what happened. We have to do our best to ensure that the families of victims and so on are kept as well informed as possible about what happened on particular days. I do not believe that going forward with major inquiries costing millions of pounds, with the sole objective of finding some evidence to give comfort to family and friends, is a way to go.
Of the inquiries that are going on now, as is well known, the Wright inquiry found nothing. It did not even find how guns were got into the jail. Mr Wright, the father, is still as bitter, twisted and unhappy as he was before. He got no satisfaction out of that inquiry, which cost £30 million. We can go on. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, has some good examples, while I am reading out the not-very-good ones. That is where I think that we are.
In summary, I do not believe that the Saville report was a great success or that it achieved very much more than the Widgery report. The whole thing was almost a white elephant. I accept what noble Lords have said about being wise with hindsight, but that is where we are. It is very important that, following the speeches made by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, and others, we find a Christian, solid way of going forward, and of handling these things when they happen.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, even though I disagree with 90 per cent of what he said. We have had a sober, measured and wide-ranging debate on the Bloody Sunday inquiry. Many noble Lords who have spoken today served with great distinction as Ministers in Northern Ireland, while others have spoken movingly of their personal experience, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan. Noble Lords have also shared their political and legal judgment with the House, and we have had the welcome and authoritative maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven; we welcome him very warmly to the House.
As the final sentence of the report’s principal conclusions states:
“Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland”.
Many noble Lords have repeated those words and I believe quite rightly too. Given that another 26 years of sectarianism and wrecked lives across Northern Ireland would pass before the Saville inquiry started in July 1998, and given that the inquiry itself would be so controversial in its length and cost—we have heard about that from many noble Lords—it would be remiss of us not to reflect on the lessons both of the events themselves on 30 January 1972 in Londonderry—Derry—as well as on the public inquiry process and its future. In response to the publication of the inquiry report on 15 June 2010, the Prime Minister mentioned,
“the wholehearted support of Her Majesty’s Opposition”.
I commend him on that. But the conclusions of the report are absolutely clear:
“There is no doubt. Nothing is equivocal. There are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong”.
This was reiterated in our debate by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, in his welcome opening remarks.
Also in his June Statement, the Prime Minister expressed his immense pride in the skills of the British Army, and we have heard those expressions of pride repeated today by noble Lords and the noble and gallant Lord. They have talked of the difficult work undertaken by the Army over the years in Northern Ireland, where in 38 years, over 1,000 members of the security services lost their lives. Having been one of the longest serving Whips at the MoD—it certainly felt like that—I am keenly aware of the extraordinary sacrifices that the members of our Armed Forces undertake on our behalf. But the Prime Minister concluded that on that day, 30 January 1972:
“Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. The Government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces. And for that, on behalf of the Government—and indeed our country—I am deeply sorry”.
His apology was greeted with an outpouring of relief and pent-up emotion by the families of the dead and wounded, as my noble friend Lord Dubs has said. One would hope that, with the publication of the report, 38 years of bitterness, questioning and cynicism went some substantial way to being salved.
The report from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, is clear about the 13 mainly young people who were killed that day and the 15 others who were also injured by the Army. Saville concludes that none of the casualties shot by the soldiers of Support Company was armed with a firearm. Moreover, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, reiterated that conclusion. Saville also finds that the soldiers of Support Company reacted by losing their self-control, forgetting or ignoring their instructions and training. Given those stark findings, can the Minister give the House any information about the timetable in which the Director of Public Prosecutions will come to a view? I do not make any judgment about prosecutions, a point also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, but I would ask about coming to a view about the matter because I believe that that is hanging in the air and needs to be answered.
Noble Lords who, as I do, wish to see a modern, reconciled Northern Ireland striding forward, free of division and recrimination, will acknowledge the shocking findings of the Saville report and that there was a need for those families to find the truth. I take note of the wise words of my noble friend Lady Smith on the complexity of truth: truth is never simple. What contact since the publication of the report has there been with the families concerned by the Government? What discussions have taken place within the department on the way forward as far as the families’ needs are concerned?
It is clear that the Saville conclusions throw into stark relief the fact that many other families and communities across Northern Ireland have suffered loss and violence. We know that more than 3,000 people have died in the conflict in Northern Ireland and that closure for their loss has never been found. Every innocent life lost and family scarred is a tragedy. Therefore, it is important to look at the work of the excellent Historical Enquiries Team and to see what further support it requires in its endeavours to deal with the past. What financial settlement do the Government have in mind for the HET given its present limited budget? Do the Government believe that the HET can in the future run inquiries of the scope of anything like Saville, Billy Wright or any of the other outstanding cases? What about Ballymurphy, the Omagh bombing and Pat Finucane?
If large-scale open-ended public inquiries are to be ended, what is to be put in their place? The Minister will know that you cannot deal with the past just by closing it down. The Inquiries Act 2005 was an attempt to deal with the issue of open-ended inquiries; however, in the debates on that Act, the point was made continually and strongly by the Opposition that inquiries need to be independent. That independence comes at a cost. What is the future for independence if it is not the route of the public inquiry? That question, in many different forms, was raised by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, the noble and learned Lords, Lord Carswell, and Lord Lloyd, the noble Lords, Lord Davies and Lord Bew, who made a special plea for historians in his contribution, and many other noble Lords.
In terms of dealing with the burdens of the past, I reiterate the words of my noble friend Lady Royall in thanking the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and Denis Bradley for their work in the consultative group on the past. I suggest that noble Lords who have not taken part in this debate should look at that important work. The fact that a consensus was not found should not diminish its importance.
The Saville inquiry was costly, long and has been the source of heavy criticism. However, its value is incalculable, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, said, because the Government’s commitment to it over the years has built up trust in the community. Unless you have trust, which is a precious commodity, especially in Northern Ireland, you cannot move forward—and building up trust is about the future of Northern Ireland.
In looking to the future, on 20 October the Government will announce their views on the comprehensive spending review. Many are extremely worried at the effect of the cuts on the regions and nations that heavily rely on public sector spending; Northern Ireland is one such example. As economic well-being and political stability are so bound up in Northern Ireland, I implore the Chancellor to tread softly.
We welcome Saville. Our debate today will, I hope—along with further discussions in another place and in partnership with the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly—be part of a continuing conversation about the future stability, in both economic and security terms, of a modern Northern Ireland, without ever forgetting the sacrifices of the past.
My Lords, it has been an excellent debate. I welcome the wealth of experience and knowledge that noble Lords have brought to this serious and sensitive subject.
I thought that I knew why most people were here today and now I know why everyone is here. It is because in the Chamber today are those who have had a significant involvement at ministerial level, those who are resident and involved in Northern Ireland, those who represent, even personally, the victims, those who represent the Army and those who represent the law. Tone is important and there has been a splendid, measured tone.
Under the counter here, I have the 10 volumes of the Bloody Sunday report. I am delighted that no one has said, “What about that comment on page 538 in volume 10?”. Happily, they have not been needed and I am grateful for that.
I have heard noble Lords use the phrase, “It’s time to move on”. However, I have also heard, not necessarily in these words, “There are a lot of people still searching for the truth”. We have to mesh these together. If the search for the truth can be concluded for most people—I do not know about everybody—it gives the help needed to move on.
I made notes on all noble Lords’ contributions and I shall do my best to give some response to them. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, who until May had responsibility in this House for matters relating to Northern Ireland, asked about further inquiries and what is still to happen—it was raised also by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan. The Government are acutely aware of the sensitivity of a number of the contentious legacy cases. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is endeavouring to meet all the families concerned in the cases mentioned by noble Lords. He has already met Omagh and Ballymurphy families and intends to meet the Finucane family shortly—in fact, he may have met them already. He will carefully consider their views. The Government’s response to the report and to other recent high-profile cases, such as Claudy and Billy Wright, demonstrates that they are taking seriously their responsibilities for the past. There is no question of their hiding from the truth.
Many speakers have mentioned the number of lives lost—the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, was one of them. We are not supposed to show exhibits in the House of Lords, but I have with me a book called Lost Lives. I can quote from it. It is nearly three inches thick. It sets out the number of deaths in the period from 11 June 1966 to the end of the Troubles—8 May 2006 is the date that the book goes to. There were 3,712 deaths. It is quite interesting to see the disposition of them. The breakdown is: civilians 2,087, police 509, Army 503, republican paramilitaries 395, loyalist paramilitaries 167 and undefined 59. Those are the numbers, but the remarkable thing about looking at the book is that from 11 June 1966 to the date of Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, there were 242 deaths. That is enough. There were 13 deaths at Bloody Sunday, but the balance between 256 and 3,712 is since bloody Sunday. We will not know and we cannot rewrite these things, but had it not been for Bloody Sunday, could it be that there would have been somewhat fewer than 3,400 deaths since? That is an important point.
We all pay tribute to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, for his work with Denis Bradley particularly, and the work that he has done over many years in Northern Ireland ministering to the people and playing such a special role there. As one of the earlier speakers said, setting the tone was very important. He mentioned open-ended inquiries, but it is a matter of finding a way to replace the open-ended inquiry. He raised the problems of such inquiries and mentioned the possibility, as he did in his paper, of a legacy commission or truth and reconciliation commission. He also mentioned getting the people at Stormont to agree. That is something that many people have been addressing in terms of the Government here. Much is made of pursuing things that are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Government. Some things are joint matters but many things are now their responsibility.
At first, I did not understand the entry into our ranks of the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells, but we soon found out. Marriage brought him an interest in Northern Ireland, with his wife from Omagh. He also referred to the HET, peace and Martin Niemöller in Northern Ireland, showing the interest of the church in what has gone on in that place.
The noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, was concerned about healing the past in Omagh. We must look at healing. Healing really needs an answer.
The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was the first noble Lord to raise Widgery and then relate that to the position of Saville and the change. For many people, that is why we are here. We had to have the Saville report because of the Widgery report. That link is important because Widgery was quick and cheap, but it did not do the job. It was because of the concern that that job was not done properly that we are here having this debate today, following a report published earlier in the year.
Reference was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, to money. There is of course the police reserve. It is right to raise the question of resources for the police. I cannot say anything about settlements and how that is going to go—that is something for next week. Nevertheless, the Government are well aware of the need for resources and, indeed, there is the fact that there is the police reserve.
My noble friend Lord Smith of Clifton referred to lessons learnt by the Army in peacekeeping operations. As the Chief of General Staff said in the light of the Saville report, the ways in which the Army is trained and how it works and operates have all changed. The Armed Forces have detailed and formalised procedures to ensure that operational experience is examined and lessons are identified so that gaps are addressed, mistakes are not repeated and good practice is continued. Lessons were identified following deployments in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, operations in Afghanistan have benefited from lessons identified as a result of operations in Iraq.
With regard to military training for peacekeeping operations, I am advised that this is kept under regular review and tailored to the individual circumstances of each operation. Even during operations, the approach can be adapted to take account of experiences on the ground. There were and are significant differences between those internal security operations conducted in Northern Ireland and those counter-insurgency peacekeeping operations undertaken in Iraq and Afghanistan. The noble Lord, Lord Smith, mentioned the defence review, which will be announced next consideration in ensuring that we have dispensed capabilities that matched the task that we have planned to perform.
The noble Lord also raised the point about the £191 million spent on Saville and referred to what might be the budget of Derry City Council. I can say that the council’s present budget is £36 million for the year. I just caution the noble Lord a little because, although £191 million is a lot, £36 million is a lot. The comparison is not the same for someone living in Londonderry/Derry as it would be for any English person, because in Northern Ireland housing and education are not devolved to councils, unlike in local government here, for example.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, is not in his place, but he was concerned about the Army. I can understand the old Army man speaking in that way, but the report is the report—and sadly wrong was done and it has had to go into that report.
The contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Bew, was phrased in terms of “on the one hand, on the other”. I understand the historic perspective and understand his contribution in relation to where we started, before anything to do with the Saville report. But this is the dilemma of the report. It is the best effort; it is a summary and consideration of evidence, about which a view is taken. We are in a situation where one could say, “This is what somebody said to the police 38 years ago, this is what they wrote or said to Widgery, this is what they wrote or said to Saville, and they do not all quite match. Then this is what somebody else said and then there is another witness”. On balance, a view is taken, which is what has been written.
One thing about the report is that it was indeed incredibly interesting to read it page by page, but eventually it got monotonous in one sense—I hate to say that—in terms of the business of this view and that view but then, on balance, that is now what we come to. I understand how the noble Lord, Lord Bew, comes to his view of “on the one hand, on the other hand”, but the work has been done and we know what the conclusion has been.
I was delighted to hear the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Macdonald. Again, he clearly had the understanding about the difference between terrorist violence on the one hand and violence perpetrated by the state on the other. It came absolutely clearly through that speech and we look forward to his future contributions.
When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, spoke, I wrote down “inquiry fatigue … stop the inquiries” as his cause. This is the dilemma of wanting to move on, yet people are not ready to move on because, while they are not asking for multimillions, they do not feel that they have had satisfaction from some process or another. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, referred to the Written Answer that I sent him. What the noble Lord might not understand is that it was the third Answer that I eventually signed off. However, he mentioned—
The noble Lord got the third one. He does not want to know about the first and second ones. Reference was made to the private all-party briefings. Those will commence; I spoke to the Secretary of State about them and he is happy to come along. We will endeavour to arrange one of those meetings before too long.
I want to say this about the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. He has a personal position as a victim and because his concern is about an event in Brighton it is not covered by any procedures such as the HET. There is very much a serious case. It was interesting that he followed the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, with an entirely opposite view, because it was that of the victim saying, “No, I can’t yet move on”. I would like to find a way of moving on. I believe that there ought to be a way—I do not know what it might be—in which even the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, can eventually move on, because he feels that he has had some satisfaction. In one sense—
I admit to being somewhat anxious about this personalising of the contribution of my noble friend Lord Tebbit. We all know that he has a personal involvement, and a memory and experience which none of the rest of us would have wished, but can my noble friend address the policy point that my noble friend Lord Tebbit was trying to make? Rather than personalising his contribution, the policy point was: what is the basis for determining what should and should not be the subject of an inquiry?
My Lords, it is all about tone and using the right words. I am trying my best. I do not want any hurt in terms of what the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, might feel. I used that example only because in one sense his was a personal contribution, which leads on directly to a policy point. That which is in place to address what many believe to be hurt does not appear to be in place as far as the noble Lord is concerned, because of an event that took place in England. The Government should look at that, and I will take it back to the Minister. I do not believe that anything is in place at the moment, so in my view there is a policy point which an endeavour should be made to address.
Will the noble Lord allow me to explain for a moment, please? I am grateful to him. The point that I sought to make is that it seems to many of us that the Government and the previous Government were extremely anxious not to allow to be known to the general public with certainty the names of those who organised that particular attempt to murder the Prime Minister of this country.
I do not believe that that is necessarily the case; that is the noble Lord’s view. I do not think I am able to comment any further, and I will leave the point there.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, referred to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, and the tremendous work that has taken place. He could see as a lawyer himself the incredible service that a fellow lawyer had performed over 12 years. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, made reference to costly inquiries and the concern that that cost could turn people away from an inquiry when one was needed. I have to say that the words I used were, “No more open-ended inquiries”, and that is important. I was pleased to hear his own perception of the history in Northern Ireland. Much of the first of the 10 volumes is about the history. I was looking at it myself and thinking about Captain O’Neill, James Chichester-Clark and Brian Faulkner and the way in which the more liberal—with a small “l”—Lord O’Neill, as he eventually became, was replaced at Stormont. Yet at the same time in London—this is why it is important to see what was going on at the time—there was concern that somehow Northern Ireland should embrace other people. There was an effort to get other people in, but other unionist people did not want that to happen. That in itself means that I do not see the idea, which comes out in the report, that there was collusion in what happened. The London view at that time was to try to get a Stormont that was more inclusive, embracing and so forth.
I think I am at the point where I ought to call it a day in terms of this debate. To sum up: the challenge now is for us all to ensure that the past is dealt with in a sensitive manner that allows Northern Ireland, as has been said, to move forward in a genuinely shared future. We must all work to ensure that hope and reconciliation continue to overcome hatred and fear, and that those who would seek to undermine the progress that has been made will never succeed in doing so. Hope is the greatest weapon that we hold against those who peddle fear, and it was that hope that was so powerfully embodied by the recent success of Londonderry/Derry, the city by the Foyle, in being named the 2013 City of Culture. We must all acknowledge the strides forward that Northern Ireland has taken. As we look back on the terrible events of 38 years ago, we must be thankful that Northern Ireland is now a very different place.
In conclusion, the report from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, has—to use a quote that has been adopted by the families—set the truth free. In doing so, the report has, I believe, helped to close a long-running and painful chapter in Northern Ireland’s troubled past.
House adjourned at 8.10 pm.