The Inquiry in London into undercover policing has shown how far we still have to travel to find the truth about Bloody Sunday.
The remit of the “SpyCops” Inquiry under Lord Mitting doesn’t extend to Bloody Sunday. But the overlap between the issues raised has been striking.
The Mitting Inquiry was set up by Theresa May’s government in 2014 in response to complaints from political activists and a series of articles in the Guardian exposing the working of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. The NPOIU was an undercover group attached to the Metropolitan Police which infiltrated political organisations and campaigns over a number of decades not to seek evidence of illegality but to disrupt and discredit campaigners and the causes they espoused.
Among the groups infiltrated was the family-led Stephen Lawrence campaign which sought the truth about Stephen’s murder by racists in 1993 and about the failure of London police to pursue the killers with any semblance of seriousness.
The long-term infiltration of single-issue, anti-war and rank-and-file trade union groups involved undercover officers luring campaigners into phony relationships and, in a number of instances, fathering children with those they had targeted. The ruthless cynicism of the State, the contempt for the lives and bodily integrity of ordinary citizens, was never more evident.
The link to the Derry massacre emerged when a member of the SpyCops operation was revealed as having also infiltrated the organisers of the Bloody Sunday march.
When the Bloody Sunday report was published in June 2010, many in Derry, including the leaders of the main Nationalist parties, took it as the last word. The key finding was that all of the dead and wounded had been innocent of any wrongdoing – one of the central demands of the families and their supporters. After wearying decades of lobbying, marches and meetings, this seemed sufficient unto the day.
But we know now it was far from the full story.
Evidence to Mitting revealed that NPIOU agent “Sean Lynch” had graduated from spying on Irish political groups in London in the late 1960s to membership of the NI Civil Rights Association and had been active in the organization, travelling between Britain and the North in the months leading up to Bloody Sunday.
The bereaved of Bloody Sunday are entitled to know what role “Sean Lynch” played. How come he wasn’t mentioned either by name or code-name over the 404 days of evidence to the inquiry under Lord Saville? How come that the involvement or even the existence of the NPIOU didn’t rate a footnote in Saville’s findings?
Did “Sean Lynch” have a direct role in organising the march? Did he take part in the march? What were his orders? To whom did he report?
How many other agents of State institutions whose existence has never been admitted were involved in Bloody Sunday?
“Lynch” was no ten-pound tout or low-level gatherer of tittle-tattle. He is recorded as having served as a “manager” within one of the NPIOU’s associate organisations, the Special Demonstration Squad, between 1982 and 1984.
“Lynch” has since died. But the information he and others will have reported to their superiors will have helped dictate the Bloody Sunday paratroopers’ orders of the day. This information must now be produced for the people to inspect.
The families who lost loved ones were promised the truth and are entitled the truth.
So also are the people of the North who have had to live with the cataclysmic consequences of Bloody Sunday.
The British people are entitled to know what was done in their name.
After almost half a century, the long march towards the truth of Bloody Sunday continues to shed light along the way on the sinister role of Britain’s security agencies in trying to cover up the egregious abuse of State power in Britain as well as in the North.