Socialist Worker

Bloody Sunday play holds state to account

A dramatisation of the Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings uncovers the truth, says Eamonn McCann

Issue No. 1949

Civil rights leader Bernadette McAliskey (formerly Devlin) is played by Sorcha Cusack. In this scene she is questioned as part of the Saville Inquiry (Pic: Tristam Kenton)

Civil rights leader Bernadette McAliskey (formerly Devlin) is played by Sorcha Cusack. In this scene she is questioned as part of the Saville Inquiry (Pic: Tristam Kenton)


The reality that Bloody Sunday the play depicts is not that of Bloody Sunday itself, but of the tribunal.

Richard Norton-Taylor has done a marvellous job of distilling four years of evidence into two hours on stage. He has drawn out all the main themes, such as the extent to which British soldiers had suffered total amnesia in circumstances in which they had opened fire and killed people. British generals were also absolutely unable to justify the situation.

The play also brings out the tensions. The relatives of the dead had fought to get a tribunal, but were also wary about it because of attacks on it by Conservatives and Unionists.

People are still waiting to see if Saville will tell the truth. They are not convinced, and that is a subtle thing to get across. There are particular moments which get across the reality of people listening to evidence of how their relatives died.

The tribunal dredged up memories. A lot of people gave evidence who had not spoken about Bloody Sunday for nearly 30 years.

A number of relatives are wondering whether the play will come to Derry and be shown in the Guildhall, where much of the inquiry took place. It would interesting for a play to be performed in the location where the reality it is based on took place.

The play alerts people and is useful in drawing out the main facts. It refocuses attention on the inquiry and the Bloody Sunday killings.

Bloody Sunday was the biggest loss of civilians at the hands of state forces in Northern Ireland. Unlike all the other atrocities in Northern Ireland, it took place in broad daylight with hundreds of witnesses. The people of Derry know what happened on Bloody Sunday. They saw it. I saw it.

The inquiry was not a search for the truth, but a search to discover whether the British ruling class can admit what it has done to its own citizens.

The key question when the state murders its citizens is whether it can be brought to account for its actions. This play is part of doing that.

Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry is at the Tricycle Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 (Kilburn tube) until 7 May. Phone 020 7328 1000.


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Reviews
Sat 30 Apr 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1949
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