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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Bloody Sunday and ideology – once again journalists prefer not to look

The Irish Times carried an interview recently with that grand old man of British journalism Harold Evans. In keeping with our "paper of record’s" craven attitude to all things imperious, the paper’s London correspondent Mark Hennessey positively gushed over Harry’s stature. God the man is just…well, a God. This article, which contains a special section on Bloody Sunday, is fundamental to understanding how today's journalists see themselves and their work because, like Harold Evans, it purports to be free of that nasty, brutish thing called ideology. Real journalists you see, are impeccably impartial. They take no sides and just tell the truth. The article can be read here:

Article - Irish Times 

Furthermore, in an article which lionizes a “legendary” British journalist a few days before the Bloody Sunday report was due to be published, it ironically highlights the role of powerful states like Britain in suppressing basic rights and the failure of journalism to do its job as the Fourth Estate.

The Fourth Estate, more than anything, is supposed to act in the name of the people against powerful vested interests. Harold Evans in his own “disinterested” way, and cheered on by Mark Hennessey, shows exactly why it has been unable to do that. Now Harold Evans, it must be said, was actually a much better journalist than many of our home grown variety but then that is not much of a recommendation. But it must also be said, that the de rigeur “impartial”, devils advocate, “on the one hand but then on the other” type of journalism only gets you so far when trying to tell a story like Bloody Sunday. In fact, it has actually proven to be a very conservative form of journalism.

Here is what Harold Evans said about Bloody Sunday, where he refers directly to soldiers from the British Army's Parachute Regiment, which murdered and maimed scores of innocent people that day (30th of January 1972):

“I think the answer is that they panicked: not that they were following orders. If they wanted to murder innocent Irish people that was possibly the worst way they could have done it.”

My God that must be right. The British wouldn't just murder innocent people (it is inferred) in such a clumsy way. This is Harold Evans after all. Those hair trigger combat soldiers panicked and Evans is an Editor Emeritus. It’s all fine. A mistake. All those Irish Times readers can relax and not worry about puking up their breakfast muesli. The might of the British state is really quite benign. Evans even has the courage to admit that his "patriotic" slip might be showing somewhat in his analysis, which is a nice touch – a God who can show humility. Respectable Ireland breathes a sigh of relief.

Just to emphasise the reliability of Evans's account (and his role as Mr Dependable), Mark Hennessey comes rushing in with a break from his interview format to tell us that Evans and his team were so thorough that they looked at FIVE HUNDRED pictures of the Bloody Sunday massacre. And the conclusion from all that thorough, impartial research was that the paratroopers panicked and no order came from on high.

All of which shows that, with the right approach, you can look at a million pictures and still not see the big one that's right in front of you. It is bigger than any elephant. Another term for this type of journalism might be selective glaucoma.

Never mind then that people were shot in the back as they fled. Never mind the fact that people were murdered whilst trying to help others. Never mind the fact that none of the dead or injured were armed. But wait there's something wrong here....

Now I remember. The same thing that happened on Bloody Sunday happened in Ballymurphy in Belfast some six months before, when eleven unarmed people were killed outright, scores more were injured and a whole community was brutalised. And lo and behold it was the same British army regiment who then on went on to Derry and did exactly the same thing. Unless of course these finely honed and trained, revved up killing machines happened to panic twice? When the wider picture – the ideology - is looked at, what legendary journalists see as panicking begins more and more to look like a deliberate policy.

Now, good readers, I am going to ask you to do something - do not trust journalists for they have let us down badly. Yes it is true, I too am, or was, a journalist. Don’t trust me either. Not me. Not Harold Evans. Not Mark Hennessey. Go off and check what I am saying; then do something else that would have our illustrious scribes going into a tailspin – think IDEOLOGY. There is an ideology going on here.

In other words, what is presented as cool reasoning is in fact ideology. In fact, non ideological journalists are the most ideological of all. When journalists tell me, as they often have, that I am ideological and that they are not, I reach for my metaphorical baseball bat.

The refusal to look at the broader anti insurrection policy being pursued by the British is ideology. An ideological choice is made. If Evans and the Irish Times had looked at the conflicting ideologies and the broader pattern of shootings, the panicking soldiers idea becomes not an explanation but a pathetic cover up.

Back to Ballymurphy with us then and the 9th of August 1971.

Eleven people, including a priest going to the aid of a dying man, and a mother of eight children, shot dead over the course of 48 hours as internment without trial was introduced and Catholic "Irish Republican” areas were locked down by the elite Parachute Regiment.  

Go to the website, which tells you the story of the Ballymurphy Massacre - here

Read the stories of the unarmed people who were shot in the back, shot running or crawling for cover by the same regiment who did the same things on Bloody Sunday in Derry.

One story will suffice here - Father Hugh Mullan, a curate from Corpus Christi chapel, was killed as he went to the aid of his neighbour Bobby Clarke. Bobby was shot in the back as he tried to help children out of Springmartin (then a mixed British/Irish estate) as it came under attack from loyalist mobs. Before entering the field in an attempt to help Bobby Clarke, Father Mullan telephoned the Henry Taggart Army base to explain that he was going to help the wounded man. Father Mullan entered the field waving a white babygrow.

Let us now deliver the coup de grace to the argument that Harold Evans's forensic examination of 500 photographs led him to some journalistic nirvana before which we must prostrate ourselves.


Fr. Edward Daly trying to stop soldiers from firing in the vicinity of the dying Jackie Duddy

The above picture is of a priest (Fr. Edward Daly) waving a white handkerchief as he tried to obtain safe passage for the dying Jackie Duddy - the first victim of the Bloody Sunday massacre.What incredible bravery, knowing as Fr. Daly did (and understanding the power of ideology instinctively) what had happened six months before to his fellow priest in Ballymurphy. Harold Evans looked at the photograph of Eddie Daly but he never saw the shade of the executed priest Hugh Mullan and the ten other unarmed, innocent victims in Ballymurphy.

If Harold Evans, and indeed the rest of our so called Fourth Estate, bothered to look, they would see a colonial power bent on imposing its will. There was no need for an order to be given and there was no need to panic. It had all been done before with impunity.


Impunity indeed - the kneejerk reaction here in the UK has been to show extreme reticence at the results of the Bloody Sunday report, rather than a collective acceptance, and has also provoked no little finger pointing at those republican terrorist released under the Good Friday Agreement, (rightly) pointing out that the killers responsible for the Omagh bombing are still free. However, time and again the point is missed. For some reason, people seem to think that republican terrorists are on an even footing (in the terms of jurisprudence) as the British army, and that any ruling against the army should result in further rulings against these parties. This argument falls down, and will always fall down for a very simple reason: the British army is the military representative of a sovereign state. The factions of terrorism are illegitimate; this is de facto. The argument in many ways is also a non-sequitir - by carrying out a process of finger pointing and demanding some kind of parity in process would be to legitimise and therefore give legal weight to armed republicanism, making the UK's worst fears come true: realising that their armed forces were in a state of war, not dealing with 'troubles' in the north. They're in real trouble of being hoist by their own petard.
by: Niall Larkin (contact) - 18 Jun '10 - 13:47
Yes Niall - its is interesting that the "kneejerk" reaction in Britain has made an equivalence between "terrorists" and soldiers representing a sovereign state. However, it should be borne in mind that the right to bear arms against the occupier is a long-standing tradition in Ireland. Two things flow from this -
1) The dissidents claim this right and until there is a final settlement of our quarrel with Britain they will claim legitimacy (whether we like it or not). This leads me on to my second point.
2) Under capitalism at least (or Soviet style State Capitalism) jurisprudence is not based in inalienable rights but on contingency and precedence (and failing all that brute force). The essential question in the North (which journalism has refused to address) was whether Irish Catholics and nationalists could ever have achieved the gains they have now made without an armed struggle. My answer to that question is no and I have yet to hear a convincing argument to the contrary.

mo sheacht beannacht ort

by: Pol (contact) - 18 Jun '10 - 14:50
Apologies, evidently the site doesn't recognise Greek script!
by: Niall Larkin (contact) - 18 Jun '10 - 15:16
my backroom boys are working it on it!(<;

send it to me by ordinary mail a chara and I'll paste it in on this side
by: Pol (contact) - 18 Jun '10 - 15:22


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Title: Bloody Sunday and ideology – once again journalists prefer not to look
Date posted: 17 Jun '10 - 17:47
Filed under: General
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