Enshrining Impunity


30th January 1972: An armed soldier attacks a protestor on Bloody Sunday when British Paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians on a civil rights march in Derry City. (Photo by Frederick Hoare/Central Press/Getty Images)

Unlike most years, the recent Queen’s Speech did not pass without remark in Ireland. Delivered by the colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment, whose soldiers killed fourteen on Bloody Sunday and nine in the Ballymurphy Massacre, Prince Charles ventriloquised a Tory ultimatum: the Troubles are over, and our geriatric troops will be protected from ‘vexatious’ claims alleging illegality and war crimes.

This ultimatum came in the form of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill which, promising conditional amnesty for crimes committed during the period known euphemistically as the ‘Troubles’, cleared its first House of Commons hurdle yesterday by 285 votes to 208, sans support from all the parties based in the North of Ireland.

The day after the Queen’s Speech, the bereaved families of the Ballymurphy Massacre quietly marked the one-year anniversary of a landmark inquest which found all victims ‘entirely innocent’—more than fifty years after the British media ran credulous stories, fed by the British army, which cast civilian victims as death-deserving IRA gunmen.

What does this bill mean, then, to victims’ families, who protested yesterday—in Derry, Belfast and London—against what they are calling Britain’s ‘Bill Of Shame’?

‘It’s very disturbing,’ John Teggart, who was 11 when his father was shot 14 times by the Parachute Regiment during the Ballymurphy Massacre, tells Tribune. ‘They’ve made it quite blatant that they’re trying to black out the war crimes committed by state actors like the British Army and those involved in running paramilitaries who were state agents.’

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