The parallels between the assessment of the Widgery Inquiry and the emerging assessment of the Hutton Inquiry here: Bloody Sunday and the Rule of Law in Northern Ireland, are chilling.
The historical importance of Brian Hutton's success in persuading Lord Widgery to conceal 14 murders by the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment are summarised in this statement:
One can argue, therefore, that much of the death and suffering in the decades that followed, be it at the hands of Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries or the security forces, can be either directly or indirectly attributed to the fallout from Bloody Sunday.
There was evidence of the Police tampering with evidence and perverse interpretation by the Inquiry:
In Walsh's account the tribunal's reading of the evidence frequently strikes the reader as perverse. An illustrative example is the case of Gerald Donaghy, one of the men who was shot in Glenfada Park and who died en route to hospital. While Donaghy's body was lying in the back seat of a car at the army medical post on Craigavon Bridge, a search by an RUC sergeant revealed that there was a nail bomb in one of Donaghy's front trouser pockets; a further search at the bridge found three more nail bombs on his person, one in his other front trouser pocket and two in his jacket pockets. Unfortunately for the security forces' claim that Donaghy was clearly a nail bomber, the 'proof' lying in the fact that four nail bombs had been found on his body, Donaghy had earlier been treated by a civilian doctor and an army doctor, neither of whom had noticed any nail bombs. The civilian doctor had actually searched Donaghy's pockets for evidence of identification, and the army doctor had examined the body twice, opening the front of the trousers in the process. It is baffling that these two doctors failed to notice nail bombs in Donaghy's trousers - unless, of course, there were no bombs in his trousers, and these were planted on his body afterwards. Nevertheless, the tribunal still announced that it was satisfied that the bombs had been in Donaghy's pockets all the time. How it could have had no reasonable doubt in this case is mystifying to a fair-minded reader of Walsh's evidence.
The parallels are evident here too:
The author of this book, Dermot J.P. Walsh, has been a key figure in the long-running search for justice for the Bloody Sunday victims. His The Bloody Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry: A Resounding Defeat for Truth, Justice and the Rule of Law, a work which subjected the transcript of the Widgery tribunal to minute scrutiny in the light of recently released documents in the Public Record Office, was one of several new publications in the 1990s that the Irish government relied on when seeking to convince the British government of the utter unreliability of the Widgery tribunal and of the need for a fresh tribunal of inquiry.
It seems to me that the Internet and the Hutton Inquiry web site have made easier the unpicking of the nonsenses which Lord Hutton succeeded in foisting on a surprisingly naive media. Compared to the work done by Dermot Walsh on the Widgery Report we've had it relatively easy.
Lord Widgery was an ex-Army officer. How could he fairly arrive at a conclusion about the misdeeds of soldiers?
Lord Hutton is a former counsel for the Ministry of Defence? How could he fairly consider the evidence presented to him?
Will the Attorney General be convinced of the need for an inquest based on the evident deficiencies of the Hutton Inquiry? Will a properly conducted inquest have a devastating verdict comparable to that of the Saville Inquiry?
I, for one, certainly hope so.