A video of Cameron's apology is available here.
Some commentators opposed the whole idea of reopening the wretched episode. Why such a disproportionate focus on Bloody Sunday? they asked. What about Bloody Friday? What about Birmingham and Warrington and Shankill and Crossmaglen and a hundred other IRA murders? Why should we even consider of prosecuting British Servicemen when we have freed hundreds of Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries?
The answer, surely, is that our soldiers are not to be judged by the same standard as terrorist bombers. They operate according to the rule of law. This is basis of their legitimacy and, indeed, of Britain’s jurisdiction in Northern Ireland. When rules are broken, there must be consequences. It is creditable that we should support British Servicemen. But we do not support them by taking, as it were, an anti-Dreyfusard position, refusing to admit that our soldiers can ever be in the wrong. In any organisation as large as the Army, there are bound to be occasional failures. When we deny those failures, we perpetrate an injustice, and we cheapen ourselves.
While I agree that failures should be acknowledged, I don't buy Hannan's argument that the IRA are less culpable than the British Army. He seems to suggest that terrorists setting out deliberately to murder should be treated more leniently than soldiers who lost composure in front of a hostile mob. If an amnesty has been granted to murderous terrorists, it should certainly be granted to the soldiers sent in to keep the peace — while the IRA amnesty stands, there should be no talk of prosecutions.
Norman Tebbit's take on this is much closer to my own:
After 12 years and £200 million (which made a number of lawyers very, very rich) the Saville Inquiry report landed with an unwelcome thud on the desk of the Prime Minister. Its main conclusions were absolutely clear. First, that there was no policy, plan, conspiracy or plot or premeditation by Ministers, the Army, or others in authority to provoke a massacre or kill those guilty of nothing worse than participation in a prohibited demonstration or a riot. Second, that individual soldiers opened fire without due cause, thereby causing the deaths of 13 civilians.I am constantly amazed by the eagerness with which those on the Left support terror groups, such as the IRA and Hamas. It seems they cannot resist supporting the underdog, however mean a beast it is. As I've noted previously, the Guardianistas have a warped sense of morality, based not on universal principles of right and wrong, but on subjective, historical perspectives of weak and strong.
For my part, I hope that Mr Cameron’s unwillingness to contemplate any more costly open-ended inquiries will not exclude a public inquiry into the Brighton murders at the Conservative Party Conference in 1984. Just as the families of the victims at Londonderry had a right to know whether people in high places had plotted the killings, so the surviving victims and the families of the dead of Brighton deserve to know if the killer Magee acted on his own, or whether the murders were plotted by people in IRA/Sinn Fein – and, if so, who those plotters were.
The victims of Brighton are no less important than those of Londonderry. They should not be treated as second-class victims.
I think that as we study the details of the Saville Report there will be more pointed questions than those asked in the House of Commons. Although it was not mentioned there today, one of the innocent victims was probably carrying nail bombs, as one does on a peaceful protest. We know, too, that while Saville was able to conclude as a matter of fact that the Army should not have been ordered into the Bogside (a matter of opinion, I would have thought), he was less able to be unequivocal about Mr McGuinness. He, it seems, was present at the scene, but only “probably” carrying a submachine gun, which it was “possible” that he may have fired. (This McGuinness denies.)
On the other hand, Saville was able to conclude without qualification that “we are sure that Mr McGuinness did not engage in any activity which justified the shooting”. I may be a trifle old fashioned about carrying submachine guns around the streets and “possibly” firing them, but it does seem to me a practice which, had it happened, might provoke a sharp reaction from potential targets.
As Mr Cameron made plain, discipline broke down on that day and soldiers opened fire when they should not have done. As was pointed out, however, three RUC police officers had been murdered only two days earlier, which may have contributed to the understandable anxiety of the soldiers not to become victims of men with nail bombs themselves.
Tebbit concludes, as is his custom, with responses to readers' comments:
Lastly, thank you ‘dandelion’ for pointing up the letter from Baroness Scotland making it plain that her government would not use the Anglo-American Extradition Treaty to seek to bring IRA terrorists to justice.
After all, that would be to ask the USA to join us in our fight against our terrorists here in UK, would it not? And we could not have that – least of all today.
We should never forget that the IRA's reign of terror was largely funded by supporters in the USA.