Today, nearly four decades after the terrible events on Bloody Sunday in Derry, Ulster, the British government has finally come clean, somewhat. The Saville report, 12 years and £190m in the making, acknowledges what had been pretty much self-evident to most of the world outside of Great Britain since 1972: that there was no justification for the killing of 14 demonstrators that day, all accounted for as unarmed now but for many years described as belligerents and provocateurs in the official narrative. In releasing the report, the new British Prime Minister David Cameron, standing before the House of Commons, chose not to "defend the indefensible":
"There is nothing equivocal. There are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong....What happened should never, ever have happened. The families of those who died should not have had to live with the pain and hurt of that day, and a lifetime of loss. Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces. And for that, on behalf of the government—and indeed our country—I am deeply sorry.”
At the same time, Cameron was quick to note some evidence of IRA return fire against British troops, that the report denied a government-military conspiracy to provoke the violence (with an eye to drawing the IRA into the daylight in response) and, somewhat paradoxically given the length of time it took to acknowledge wrongdoing, that it discounted an official coverup of the possible criminal acts of British paratroopers in Derry that day.
"Justice delayed is justice denied" is a legal precept that can be traced to the Magna Carta. The survivors of the victims of Bloody Sunday will be looking for a meaningful response in light of the Saville report from one of the world's oldest judicial systems. Despite the damning declarations of this last and presumably final word on Bloody Sunday, there remains a question of the political will in England to see that justice is, finally, done.