Toxic Conservative Party and David Cameron’s Bloody Sunday apology

Earlier today, I was at the High Court in Belfast representing a client.  For the purpose of this post, I will use the pseudonym Eamon as if it was his real name.  After the hearing, we paid a visit to a coffee shop. 

Eamon is a Catholic businessman.  He very well understands the connection between Government revenue, taxation, spending, monetary policy and the economy.  He is exactly the sort of person whose vote the Conservatives and Unionists should have been chasing at the General Election. 

He has not voted since 2001 but would never have considered voting for a unionist party in any event.  He had a low opinion of politicians before the expenses scandal.  He knew that UCUNF existed but he felt no enthusiasm to vote for them at the General Election. 

We discussed the Saville report.  His attitude towards it was very interesting.  He said that before last night, he thought that £200 million spent on the enquiry was a complete waste of money.  Last night, he watched the TV broadcast showing David Cameron making an apology for the killings in the House of Commons and the reaction of the families of the victims to the apology.  He told me that his view now is that the enquiry was worth every penny.  And David Cameron?

He seemed to echo the words of Martin McGuiness on the Spotlight programme last night.  “For a Conservative Prime Minister to make that apology, the way he did, was incredible,” he said. 

‘If only you knew, there is no shortage of compassion in the Conservative Party,’ I thought to myself.  Then I realised that Eamon’s words are indicative of how toxic the Conservative brand is amongst Catholics. 

The good news is that David Cameron has shot up in Eamon’s estimation.  It lends credence to a suggestion that I made some time ago that Politicians can greatly help healing processes if they take responsibility for bad historical events by apologising for them.  It is not just what David Cameron said but the way in which he delivered the message which was crucial to its impact.  David Cameron has a gift for capturing the mood of large audiences through the delivery of his words and he will get better at it.  Perhaps he is a born rhetorician, just like Winston Churchill.   Did that mean that Eamon might now consider voting Conservative in the future?

“I don’t know about that now….,” he smiled “…..but sure, you never know.”    Perhaps we should not get too carried away.

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2 Responses to Toxic Conservative Party and David Cameron’s Bloody Sunday apology

  1. Seymour Major says:

    Over the Weekend, I came across an article written by Mario Ledwith in one of my local news papers – ‘The Impartial Reporter.’
    Mr. Ledwith is aged about 23. He is a former pupil at St. Michael’s College – the grammar school where my two sons were educated.
    As there is no link to this article on the internet. I have published the article in full below, having highlighted in bold a passage of the article which refers to David Cameron’s statement in the House of Commons. The reporting of that statement, particularly the words ‘un-Tory like’ once again highlight problems with the Conservative brand.

    *******************************************

    “For £191m the British Government could do quite a lot with this country. A few schools perhaps; maybe even a hospital. Our roads could be given a makeover – unless, of course, you enjoy the haemorrhaging experience of bumping along on our contorted, pothole infested dirt tracks. We could fund a revolutionary scientific programme aimed a developing a drug to cleanse the mind of bitter sectarianism. Or, failing that, we could just buy a plane, round up the country’s bigots, and drop them on a Lost-style island; watching on to see if their pathetic pride is swallowed as they toy with the idea of co-operative survival.

    What we actually go for this sizeable amount of public money though was something a lot more British. We got ourselves a report. Weighing 20kg, consisting of 5000 pages in ten volumes and incorporating approximately 30m words of evidence, the Saville report was rele4ased last Tuesday riding a wave of expectation. As the product of a twelve-year inquiry into one of Northern Ireland’s saddest but most defining days – Bloody Sunday – the report has certainly left a mark; even though nobody’s finished reading it yet.

    To judge the inquiry on the grounds of cost and time, as many defectors obviously have, is a very easy yet retarded enterprise. Public finance may be the talk of the town following this week’s slash and burn budget, but even the country’s most tunnel-visioned cheap-skates surely must appreciate that there are some things more important than a price tag.

    January 30, 1972 was long before my time as old timers like to remind me:
    “You don’t know what it was like back then,” they say, as if I’m carrying some kind of generational STI. Curiously, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in 1970s Northern Ireland. Maybe the old brigade is right; maybe I’d appreciate why the country has remained so schizophrenic, why people are thick-skinned and why a great big invisible line divides our land. But, with the release of the Saville report – a document that has both relived and re-contextualised the events of Bloody Sunday – I’ve found myself thanking the earth and the stars that I never had to experience our country when devoid of such humanity.

    The facts read like a scene from a warped political horror: 26 civil rights marchers shot by the British Army’s Parachute Regiment during a protest: fourteen of those people died. None of the victims posed a threat. Several were shot in the back or whilst crawling to safety.

    The victims weren’t marching to pre-empt years of murder and violence; they were doing so to fight for their rights as human beings. Discrimination bore heavily on the green side of Northern Ireland at this time and the introduction of internment without trial only reinforced the resentment of colonial Britain. The fact that public marches were prohibited in the first place helps one understand the heavy-handed, supposedly democratic, approach leaving folk feeling lie second-class citizens in their own land. Any people objectified because of their creed, be they in Sudan or America, deserve the right to challenge their human standing peacefully and the people of Stroke City were no different.

    Only a week before Bloody Sunday the Civil Rights Association organised a march after discovering a secret internment camp at Magilligan Strand. Upon arrival they were met by the Paras who dished out a severe battering – firing plastic bullets at the protesters’ faces and beating them with nail-studded batons. You then wonder why there were deployed to ‘keep the peace’ in Derry on that fateful day. Not only did they murder fourteen innocent civilians, the troops also ran the IRA’s biggest ever advertising campaign and made violence and murder acceptable devices for many. Stories tell how hoards of young men queued in nationalist bars to sign-up to the Provisional IRA in retaliation. Some even believe that Bloody Sunday ‘made’ the IRA.

    Obviously many victims of the Troubles have felt aggrieved by the levity of the Saville Inquiry, and their hurt is justified. Murder is never right, not least in pursuit of political ideals, and one person’s loss shouldn’t be prioritised over another’s. But, unlike the deaths at the hands of the IRA and other paramilitaries, the deaths of Bloody Sunday weren’t carried out by renegade citizens, but by paid, peace-keeping, law-enforcing soldiers, acting on behalf of their country: state terrorism. What insulted people most wasn’t that the soldiers were never prosecuted, but that the state went out of its way to divert reality; creating villains and excusing madness, led by Widgery’s not worthy of prison toilet paper’ report.

    Opening up old wounds and recounting this country’s past is something that’s never been easy, but the Saville Report has shown that it can be worthwhile. A serene sense of calm floated over Derry last week as David Cameron turned heads with his painfully honest and un-Tory like apology for the “unjustifiable” murders. But, in our land where progress is measured in tiny footsteps, rather than giant leaps, it’s important not to let things get ahead of themselves. The report may have heralded progress but its truths had lain dormant for many years. In response, there will now be a huge call for tribunals of a similar nature yet few, if any, will materialise. We’ve seen that revisiting the past can be productive, but the powers that be are unlikely to see it this way. Instead, we’ll find ourselves at the usual juncture of whether to pursue peace of justice. In an ideal world both goals could be strived for with equal vigour, but Norn Iron is far from an ideal place where peace and justice are miles apart.

    Still though, events in Derry have shown that pain can begin to be transcended. In a small city that’s borne the car of one day for decades, one could feel relief peter through its walls. ‘We shall overcome’ chanted some members of the crowd. Indeed, it seemed they had, and hopefully, we just might.”

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