Findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry delayed until March 2010
The Irish Times Reports today that Lord Saville’s findings in relation the Bloody Sunday shootings have been delayed again and will not be with the Government until March 22nd. The Saville inquiry was set up to establish a definitive version of the events of Sunday 30 January 1972, superseding the tribunal set up under Lord Widgery which is widely regarded as a whitewash. The Tribunal was established as long ago as 1998, only started work in 2000 and heard from more than 900 witnesses before it ended and retired on 23 November 2004. Publication of the Inquiry’s Report was expected at the end of 2007, or possibly early 2008. Astonishingly, it has taken over five years to trasmit the findings
February 2008, the Secretary of State for NI (Shaun Wooward) revealed that the Bloody Sunday Inquiry was still costing £500,000 a month although it has not held hearings since 2005. The total cost of the Inquiry had reached £181.2m (by December 2007). Over half of the overall cost is believed to be legal bills for the Inquiry. The tribunal like so many others, has proven more beneficial for lawyers than the general public. The original Widgery tribunal reported on 19 April 1972, 11 weeks after the events. Haste may make waste perhaps, but it is difficult to understand why a happier medium could not have been struck between the expediency of the original and the laborious delay and procrastination of the successor. One may well question whether it was necesary to question 900 witnesses in particular – entire truth commissions in other countries with far more complicated patterns of abuse has used low multiples of that figure. Predictably, the Tories’ Northern Ireland spokesman has said the costs were “scandalous”. He would be asking in Parliament why there had been such a dramatic increase. Tory figures say the inquiry has cost everyone in the country £6.64; the total of £400 million would have paid for [a year’s salary for] more than 15,000 nurses, nearly 5,000 doctors and 11,000 policemen, or (less commedably) 13 extra Apache helicopters for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. As is often the case, the quest for truth commissions of dubious (and certainly unmeasurable) utility to the process of reconciliation and rapprochment hs taken predence over a reasoned consideration of where resources ight best be directed.
While it is important for citizens of the UK to understand why its security forces fired on innocent people in a public assembly, the delay can only occasion criticism. It marks a departure, albeit arbitrary, of sorts from the position advocated by Peter Oborne that “Most people… accept that in Northern Ireland the only way forward is by casting a veil of obscurity over the past.” It is a shame, however, that it has been so cack-handed.