#OTD in 1972 – Lord Widgery’s report exonerating “Bloody Sunday” troops was issued.

Publication of the Widgery Report into the events of Bloody Sunday brings an avalanche of criticism and incredulity amongst nationalist and independent commentators. The man who served as the Lord Chief Justice of England from 1971-80 found that British paratroopers were not responsible for the deaths of 13 civilians on the day and that “there would have been no deaths in ‘Derry’ on 30 January if those who organised the illegal march had not thereby created a highly dangerous situation in which a clash between demonstrators and the security forces was almost inevitable.” Despite all evidence to the contrary, Widgery stated “There was no general breakdown in discipline.”

Widgery’s finding would later be discredited by the Saville Tribunal and force Prime Minister David Cameron to issue an apology for the events of Bloody Sunday, stating the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable.” Some of his report bordered on the sycophantic: ”Those accustomed to listening to witnesses could not fail to be impressed by the demeanour of the soldiers of one Para. They gave their evidence with confidence and without hesitation or prevarication and withstood a rigorous cross-examination without contradicting themselves or each other.” On the other hand, Saville would write in his report: “In the course of the report we have considered in detail the accounts of the soldiers whose firing caused the casualties, in the light of much other evidence. We have concluded, for the reasons we give, that apart from Private T many of these soldiers have knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing.”

Widgery’s report violated any remaining trust (which was nominal at this stage) Irish nationalists had in British justice or impartiality. It provided one more effective recruiting arm for the IRA.

Tony Doherty who was 9 when his father was gunned down states:

”In some respects what actually happened after Bloody Sunday was a more embittering experience than the actual killings. There we were, under the full glare of the world’s media; people saw what happened, and attested before courts and tribunals as to what happened. But the final word was that everybody had got it wrong, the media had got it wrong, the people in the street had got it wrong, the relatives had got it wrong, and the only people who had got it right were the Brits. The most galling aspect of Bloody Sunday for me is the denial of truth.”

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