Don Mullan, |
Eyewitness Bloody Sunday: The Truth
(Wolfhound, 1997; Merlin, 2002)
Eyewitness Bloody Sunday is a book for those who are willing to go that extra mile to read and understand the background and, more often than not, the reality of a given situation. It ranks with John Pilger's Heroes and Michael Moore's Stupid White Men as a must-have book to get an in-depth look at current history.
Today, media and instant news surround us. Television programs are interrupted with "breaking news." This means that we are hearing and often seeing news as it happens. That sounds great but unfortunately it deprives us of judgment, analysis and background. A few months ago we had instant notification that a plane from Canada to Paris had been the subject of a hijack attempt. Over the days all of the evidence proved false. Anyone looking at that initial broadcast had an impression of truth and if they did not see follow-up stories often hidden away in bulletins or newspapers, they may still believe a hijack was attempted.
In 1972, tensions in Northern Ireland were running very high. Since the "partition of the island of Ireland" had been seen as the way to give independence back in 1921, a combination of suspicion, prejudice and open agression had permeated the region. The civil rights marches in the USA had encourage the Catholic minority in the country to seek an end to prejudice and unfair treatment. The peaceful protest had been badly mishandled and the Irish Republican Army, which had been making sporadic raids in the province, stepped up their activity. By 1972 the country was in a state of very high tension. The British Army was patroling the streets. Armed raids, bombings and shootings were common from both sides of the divide. People were worried and like in Alabama and Bermingham they took to the streets. On that fateful day -- January 30, 1972 -- in Derry, shots were fired, civilians died and the myths developed. This book de-mystifies the myths.
Don Mullan has done a great service to truth with this book. This was another story that was reported almost as it happened because television cameras were present. In addition, the establishment had a version of the story that it needed to get out to the public. There were thousands of column inches written about Bloody Sunday at the time of the killings, when the Widgery Tribunal sat and reported and now with the Saville Inquiry. Unfortunately, much of it was rehashed and duplicated reports. Quantity of words did not necessarily elucidate the matter. By the nature of reporting we had the same story in every newspaper. Now, Mullan has 250 pages of print giving us background, eyewitness reports and documentation.
In fairness to many earlier reports, some of the material was not available to them.
Mullan gives us a step-by-step narrative of that fateful day and it's aftermath. At times it reads like a thriller but knowing that what we read is truth and that the characters were and are real people with families, lives and feelings turns into a horror story.
A look at the chapter titles gives an indication of the depth of the research. They include, "The Saracens are Coming"; "Stand Your Ground"; "Hindering the Healers" and "Gloating on Death." There are minutes of Downing Street meetings and other reports.
Many will condemn this book as an apology for Republican violence. That is how it has often been seen. I have no time for sectarian violence from any quarter and I approached the book in this spirit. Even at that I must admit to have had a fear of being hoodwinked. I do not believe that I was.
This book is a historical document that needs to be read by anyone who believes in truth. Today as our news media becomes homogenous with a few companies and individuals controlling what we read, we need investigative journalists even more. Sadly, their stories, should they question the establishment, big business or friends of the owners, may not see print in newspapers or magazines. That is why we need books like this one -- and they have to be read. You have a duty to make yourself FULLY aware of the events in the modern world and this book is an essential ingredient.
As I complete this review the cabinet papers of the UK and Ireland for 1972 are being released under the 30-year rule and even more information is becoming available to show the polarised views of the establishment of the day.