Keir Starmer just betrayed the Bloody Sunday victims

A picture of the Bloody Sunday mural in Derry with Keir Starmer looking at it

It’s been 50 years since British troops murdered 14 unarmed civilians in the north of Ireland. Some former Labour leaders have properly acknowledged the massacre. But Keir Starmer managed to whitewash the British state’s responsibility for it. And his position sums up that of the establishment towards Bloody Sunday 1972 and Ireland more broadly.

Bloody Sunday 1972

British forces committed the Bloody Sunday massacre on 30 January 1972. It was when British paratroopers entered the Bogside in Derry and shot and ultimately killed 13 civil rights protesters. One victim died four months later. British paratroopers injured another 14 people. The massacre, in some respects, is fairly clear cut: British soldiers killed 14 unarmed civilians. But justice for the victims and their families has never happened. You can read more on Bloody Sunday here

In 2010, the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday cleared the 14 dead of any wrongdoing. Since then, the UK government and judicial system has not given the victims and their families justice. As The Canary previously reported, in 2019 the British state said that just one of the 17 surviving soldiers who committed the killings would face prosecution. Soldier F was allegedly responsible for the murders of William McKinney and James Wray.

In July 2021, however, the north of Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service dropped the case. The brother of McKinney, who was killed by British troops, can appeal the ruling. Those in the army who gave the orders to the paratroopers, and their colleagues in the UK government who oversaw the operation, have still not faced any form of inquiry or prosecution.

The British government: the “catalyst in the war in Ireland”

In the days leading up to 30 January 2022, people were paying tribute to the victims. People took part in a remembrance walk on the day. They then gathered at the Bloody Sunday Monument in Rossville Street, where the annual memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony took place.

McKinney’s brother Michael said in a speech:

The British government intend to announce an end to all legacy investigations. They intend to announce it because they’re scared. Scared that their soldiers, spooks and civil servants will be exposed, and that their role as a combatant and catalyst in the war in Ireland will be highlighted around the world. They are trying to deny us justice because they are scared to face justice.

Read on...

But we want to send a very clear warning to the British government. If they pursue their proposals, the Bloody Sunday families will be ready to meet them head on.

Starmer: omitting the state’s involvement

As The Canary‘s Peadar O’Cearnaigh tweeted, much of the commentary and coverage failed to mention who killed the 14:

One of those people absolving the British soldiers and the state of any responsibility was Starmer.

He tweeted his tribute for the victims. And it failed to mention anyone as a perpetrator:

So, as Young Labour rightly summed up:

Meanwhile, on Saturday 29 January, former Labour leader and MP Jeremy Corbyn was in Derry. He was giving the annual Bloody Sunday lecture. Corbyn said:

it’s an outrage that nobody has been prosecuted for the deaths of 14 innocent civilian protesters. And it’s a double outrage that the British government is now planning legislation to make it even harder for such an effort to succeed.

Nothing changes

But Corbyn’s view is in isolation. The British establishment and state’s attitude to Irish people has been vile throughout history. As The Canary‘s Peadar O’Cearnaigh previously wrote:

A recorded telephone conversation between two British army officers on Bloody Sunday, where they make light of the numbers killed, gives an insight into their thinking.


The Black and Tans were the paratroopers’ predecessor. They were responsible for part of the previous Bloody Sunday in Dublin in 1920. That day they murdered 13 Irish civilians watching a football match. After the Irish rebels defeated them, some of the Black and Tans served in the British Palestine Gendarmerie.

And as The Canary also reported, the attitude by the British establishment towards Irish suffering during the famine in the 1840s has changed little.

So, why would former director of public prosecutions and knight of the realm Starmer behave any differently?

“Planned” and “calculated”

As LibCom noted, ex-British Army intelligence officer Fred Holroyd said that the establishment often paints Bloody Sunday 1972 as:

an act of undisciplined slaughter perpetrated by blood-crazed Paras. This assumption though is wrong and to a large extent lets the British establishment off the hook. By assuming that soldiers “ran amok” it puts the blame on individual soldiers who pulled triggers and killed people. Bloody Sunday was a planned, calculated response to a demand for civil rights, designed to terrify organised protestors away from protesting. It fits easily into the catalogue of British involvement in Ireland as a quite logical and even natural event.

Starmer is the British establishment. Therefore, his attitude to the victims and their families is also “quite logical” – even if it utterly betrays them in the process. Meanwhile, these families are still fighting for justice after half a century. Sadly, given the British state’s history, it seems that fight will continue for many years to come.

Featured image via Joseph Mischyshyn  – Geograph, resized to 770 x 403 pixels under CC BY-SA 2.0, and Sky News – YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. Lets call it what it was – deliberate State-terrorism.

      The scene with Cruise and Nicholson springs to mind. Crystally clear…

      Terrorist orgs notably do not have respect for ‘Law’ – how does the British state behave? Or Israel? Or the USA?

      Steal everything you can, shoot anyone who objects, stonewall until the perps have enjoyed the rest of their lives.

      But “steal” an extra £10 quid of benefits, or actually do proper Journalism, and you’ll be hounded to the end of YOUR days.

      No wonder the social sciences have been deliberately underfunded for decades. Critical insights are pains-in-the-arse for the power-mongers.

    2. What is often forgotten is that in the days following Bloody Sunday there were numerous mass protests in British cities, and many arrests (including me) of participating Irish exiles, students and other socialists. Their personal details were held by the British state in perpetuity.

    3. In the British army the parachute regiment is kept at the highest state of preparedness to enter a shooting war. The training they receive drums into them to be aggressive and to attack any resistance. To send these troops into a civilian area in a policing role was a disaster waiting to happen, as soon as those troops believed they were under attack they followed their training disastrously. I don’t think they are murderers. The politicians that sent them there should answer for this crime.

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