Kevin Myers: The IRA had no better friend than the Paras -- wherever they went, IRA recruitment rose
Published 16/06/2010 | 05:00
YOU would have to be an idiot, psychopath or militaristic bigot to think that anything other than mass murder occurred on Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972. But that day was not totally unique: it was merely an extravagant example of what the Parachute Regiment was already doing -- and would continue to do -- in Northern Ireland. And the real crime was not just the killings that Lord Saville has been investigating in his insanely wasteful enquiry, but the tolerance of the Parachute Regiment's conduct by both the British army and successive British governments.
That is the real mystery. Because the IRA had no better friend than the Parachute Regiment; wherever the Paras went, IRA recruitment subsequently rose. The price to be paid for their random and reckless brutality was the lives of other soldiers and the many, many more civilians killed by the IRA. So I want no lectures about Para brutality from those whited sepulchres of Sinn Fein-IRA, whose murders were far more terrible than anything the Parachute Regiment did and some of which I mention here.
These include the Birmingham pub bombings, which left nearly two dozen dead; the 10 Protestant workmen taken off a bus in South Armagh by IRA gunmen and massacred; the 12 Protestants burned alive in an IRA firebomb attack on La Mon House; and the IRA's M62 coach-bombing, in which 10 people, including an entire family -- Linda Houghton (23) her husband, Clifford (23) and their two children Lee, aged five, and Robert (2) -- were murdered.
So. Not a word from you murdering IRA bastards: not a fucking word -- do you understand?
Which still leaves us with the larger issue of why the Parachute Regiment was deployed in Northern Ireland and why its often evil conduct was tolerated as it was. Something like 90pc of clearly unlawful army killings throughout the Troubles were by the three battalions of the Parachute Regiment. Both Catholic priests who died in the Troubles were shot by the Paras and were, to my mind, murdered. So too were the dozen or so civilians who were killed alongside them in New Barnsley/Ballymurphy in the shooting gallery that the Paras made of those estates in August 1971 and July 1972.
Other Para killings have totally vanished in the sea of blood that was to inundate Northern Ireland and spread to the Republic and Britain.
I remember -- because I was there -- Paras shooting dead Patrick Magee, an innocent 20-year-old student teacher on the steps of St Comgall's school on the Falls Road as he left teaching practice. The same day, the Paras shot dead one-eyed Patrick Donaghy, aged 86, one of the oldest victims of the troubles.
He was killed as he stood at his window, eight storeys up in Divis Towers. Paras who gave evidence -- entirely unrehearsed, of course -- at his inquest said they had fired at a "gunman" in the window. Of course they did. The coroner -- wise fellow -- told the jury that one-eyed 86-year-old Patrick Donaghy was unlikely to have been "the gunman".
The list is not endless but it is long and, worse, it is inexcusable. And it was not Northern Ireland that did this to the Parachute Regiment but what the Parachute Regiment did to Northern Ireland.
For they had shown comparable murderousness while they were 'policing' the sunset days of the empire in Aden and Cyprus. Moreover, we now know that British Paras massacred captured Egyptian militiamen in Port Said during Suez in 1956.
But the many murders by Paras should not blind us to murders of the security forces.
Five months after Bloody Sunday, Lt John Wilson, Royal Artillery, was leading a foot patrol near Rosslea in Co Fermanagh when a claymore mine blew up, killing a couple of soldiers, both of them 23-year-old fathers of two: Gunners Victor Husband and Brian Robertson.
Everything below the line of Brian's flack jacket was blown away, as was his right arm. Only a one-armed torso, plus head with eyes wide-open, remained. Nearby trees were festooned with body parts. Brian's fellow gunners had to climb up to retrieve these in hessian sacks, all the while fearing they might be shot as they reached for yard of guts and shard of shin.
Victor's body was never found and his coffin was returned to his young widow in Middlesborough, ballasted with sandbags.
No police officer ever questioned Lt Wilson -- later British military attache in Dublin and a close friend of mine -- about the events of that day or what, or whom, he might have seen. These two soldiers of the queen were killed doing their duty to their country and their country thanked them by not even investigating their murders.
Many today recollect the murdered dead of Bloody Sunday -- and rightly so. But let us also remember the many completely uninvestigated killings of the North, represented here by two men whose names have never appeared in a newspaper since their murders that warm summer's day in July 1972: the late Gunner Victor Husband, RA, and the late Gunner Brian Roberston, RA.
Rest In Peace.