New edition of the ‘Sunday’ book that helped spark the Saville investigation
Based on ignored eyewitness testimony to the events in Derry’s Bogside on January 30, 1972, Don Mullan’s ‘Eyewitness Bloody Sunday’ helped spark what has become the longest and most expensive public inquiry in history British legal.
The new 25th anniversary edition of the book includes contributions from Michael Mansfield QC and local solicitor, Des Doherty, who represented some of the families at the Bloody Sunday inquest.
It also features discussions of the making of the film, ‘Bloody Sunday’, and the mystery of what Mullan calls Derry’s ‘grassy knoll’ – provocatively wondering whether the inquest has indeed resolved the suspicion that three of the victims Bloody Sunday were shot by a British Army sniper.
The author – who hails from Derry’s Creggan and witnessed the terrible events of the Bogside half a century ago himself – says the power of ‘Eyewitness Bloody Sunday’ is that it is a “community testimony”.
“Its power is amplified by the consistency of the testimonies – around 100 published in the book – some four hundred others, equally consistent, which are part of the Bloody Sunday archives”, adds the native of Derry. “Testimony which was deliberately ignored by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Widgery, in 1972, but which proved essential in forcing a historic second public inquiry in 1998.”
Don Mullan thinks the testimonies presented in the book are so powerful for two very compelling reasons.
“They record traumatic events hours after they occur, leaving an imprint of factual truth that even the most resilient establishment, versed and practiced in the cunning of cover-up, could no longer ignore.
“The second reason is that it’s just not possible to get an entire community to agree on a collective lie.”
The book, he believes, is testament to a “fierce and unbreakable” community spirit that grew through adversity.
“At the heart of the hard-won victories are the families and those injured on Bloody Sunday. They never abandoned their singular goal of having the dead and injured declared, as they most certainly were, entirely innocent.
In the foreword to the 25th anniversary edition of ‘Eyewitness Bloody Sunday’, Michael Mansfield QC states that Don Mullan’s book “remains squarely in the annals of history as one of the chief catalysts of a new public inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday”.
Mullan’s chronicle of eyewitness accounts, the lawyer says, makes a major and timely contribution to understanding and remembering the lessons of the past rather than having to relive them.
He adds: “The magnitude of the judicial task [Widgery] and now the thought of immunity demonstrates both the relevance and the genesis of this work.
“A community neglected then and ignored now. Thirteen unarmed innocents were shot that day and fourteen others were injured. There were approximately 500 eyewitness accounts, of which only 15 were called prior to the Widgery inquest. These numbers alone tell you all you need to know about the sham exercise conducted with excessive haste in the weeks following the 1972 killings.”
Michael Mansfield writes that he was privileged to be among the first to see the product of Don Mullan’s efforts to set the record straight when the Saville Report was released in June 2010.
“We were inside the Guildhall,” he recalls. “The tension was palpable. There were audible nervous crowds outside in the square. Prime Minister David Cameron was due to address the House of Commons around noon. The report was voluminous but had to be distilled in record time. No one can afford to make an erroneous assessment or draw an erroneous conclusion.
“Slowly, as the minutes passed, each reader was uncovering the same discovery – wrongful murder. It could not be communicated at this stage to the outside world until public announcement. Instead, a shaking hand was pressed through a small window opening, enough to signal a thumbs up to an uproar of cheers.
Don Mullan concludes that, although the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment succeeded in traumatizing the community of Derry, “they failed to break us”.
“Instead, they have only succeeded in strengthening our resolve to hold them and their government accountable. And we did, despite their attempts at obfuscation and weasel.
○ “Eyewitness Bloody Sunday: 25th Anniversary Edition”, by Don Mullan, is available now in bookstores and online at www.redstripepress.com