British PM David Cameron’s apology for Bloody Sunday (2010)


In June 2010 the British prime minister, David Cameron, tabled the Saville Inquiry’s report into Bloody Sunday in the House of Commons and made the following apology for the events of January 30th 1972:


 

“Mr Speaker, I am deeply patriotic. I never want to believe anything bad about our country. I never want to call into question the behaviour of our soldiers and our army, who I believe to be the finest in the world. And I have seen for myself the very difficult and dangerous circumstances in which we ask our soldiers to serve.

 

But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong. Lord Saville concludes that the soldiers of the support company who went into the Bogside did so as a result of an order which should not have been given by their commander. He finds that, on balance, the first shot in the vicinity of the march was fired by the British Army. He finds that none of the casualties shot by the soldiers of support company was armed with a firearm. He finds that there was some firing by Republican paramilitaries but none of this firing provided any justification for the shooting of civilian casualties. And he finds that, in no case, was any warning given by soldiers before opening fire…

 

Lord Saville says that some of those killed or injured were clearly fleeing or going to the assistance of others who were dying. The report refers to one person who was shot while crawling away from the soldiers. Another was shot in all probability when he was lying mortally wounded on the ground. The report refers to the father who was hit and injured by army gunfire after going to attend to his son…

 

Mr Speaker, these are shocking conclusions to read and shocking words to have to say. But Mr Speaker, you do not defend the British Army by defending the indefensible. We do not honour all those who have served with such distinction in keeping the peace and upholding the rule of law in Northern Ireland by hiding from the truth…

 

I know that some people wonder whether, nearly 40 years on from an event, if a prime minister needs to issue an apology. For someone of my generation, Bloody Sunday and the early 1970s are something we feel we have learnt about rather than lived through. But what happened should never, ever have happened. The families of those who died should not have had to live with the pain and the hurt of that day and with a lifetime of loss…

 

Our armed forces displayed enormous courage and professionalism in upholding democracy and the rule of law in Northern Ireland. Acting in support of the police, they played a major part in setting the conditions that have made peaceful politics possible. And over 1,000 members – 1,000 members – of the security forces lost their lives to that cause. Without their work, the peace process would not have happened… Once again, I put on record the immense debt of gratitude we all owe to those who served in Northern Ireland…

 

Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland. Those are words we cannot and must not ignore. But I hope what this report can also do it is mark the moment where we come together in this House and in the communities we represent to acknowledge our shared history, even where it divides us. And come together to close this painful chapter on Northern Ireland’s troubled past. That is not to say we should ever forget or dismiss the past, but we must also move on…