The importance of truth

9 November 2012

The words ‘Saville’ and ‘Inquiry’ have taken on a somewhat different meaning in recent weeks. But this is just to tell interested readers that my book on the original Saville Inquiry, Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry is out now in paperback. If you can still find a bookshop then you might find it there. Otherwise it is of course available on Amazon etc. Priced at £12.99, it includes updated material on the recently-announced police investigation.

The book has been described by the Spectator magazine, no less, as ‘a real-life whodunit’, by the New Statesman as ‘compelling’, by the Literary Review as ‘indispensable’, by the Irish Independent as ‘riveting’, by Kevin Myers as ‘superb’. Several of my regular readers who have not read it, meanwhile, have described the very idea of me writing the book as ‘baffling’.

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Quite a few people have asked me to explain why I wrote it. People tend to think that there are clear reasons why you write a particular book. I never find this. For instance many people hold the belief that people write biographies and histories of people or times that they admire. For my own part I do not think that is the case. I write books about subjects which interest me, and I hope will interest others, but the only thing I can discern that any of them have in common is that they all aim to correct some lie. The only time I have written a biography it was to correct what I thought was a mistaken historical impression. My book on neo-conservatism aimed to correct some then very prevalent myths about a particular political worldview. My book on Bloody Sunday tries, among other things, to correct the popular misunderstandings on all sides about an event covered in propaganda and counter-propaganda and simply aims to get to the very uncomfortable truth.

Some regular readers of my political comment have been surprised that I should write a book which is highly critical of, among other things, parts of the British army. But there it is. I couldn’t write a book about Bloody Sunday which praised them over-much. The book is also highly critical of the IRA and exposes their own doings on the day as much as it does those of the British army. But the implication is that everybody knows something bad happened on Bloody Sunday but ‘why dwell on it?’ I suppose my short answer would be that we didn’t dwell on it enough at the time, didn’t sort out the real problems that arose from the failings and outrage of the day, and that we perhaps ought to learn the lessons now that we did not learn at the time.

In any case, the idea that books are written to support a certain side or argue a persistent and clear line seems awful to me. This may sound priggish, but the only point of writing seems to me to try to get to a truth. Sometimes it might serve one person’s political or personal interest, sometimes another’s. But the truth seems to me to be a subject worth pursuing, even – or perhaps particularly – in obscure byways.

Anyhow – the book would make a fine, if slightly unfestive, Christmas present.

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Show comments

    I have read this book and I admire Murray for being so scrupulous, but neither his care nor Lord Savile’s in presenting the truth can really remove the impression, mine at least, that the whole exercise was £200,000,000 worth of propaganda. Didn’t we all know from the day that Blair announced this Inquiry what the outcome was going to be, and couldn’t we all have written the subsequent headlines on that day too?

    The press and the Prime Minister in his statement in the HoC on the Inquiry’s publication simply confirmed the unqualified Republican narrative, and I doubt if anyone thinking about this particular day would have any idea that Republicans that day had guns in their hands, and knowingly put at risk those on whose behalf, they say, they murdered and maimed and terrorized over decades.

    And despite the honest intention of Savile and Murray in revealing the truth, and not withstanding their physical proximity to those who gave evidence and thence their better judgement of the worth of that evidence, how could such evidence re-run, re-told, re-formed over such a length of time reveal more than a kind of truth?

    The British Army did not begin that day with the intention of murder though people were, but so were 3000 others. Their murders, seemingly lesser crimes, were pre-planned, pre-meditated, wholly avoidable, wholly unnecessary, mostly funded by an unhampered charity in the USA, a majority of the perpetrators, the IRA, protected from justice by another sovereign state.

    The IRA used the participants of that day’s march in Derry as a pretext for trouble and mayhem, and that innocents were killed didn’t matter a damn to them, and as it turned out, those dead were thus more useful to the IRA than they could ever have been alive.

    • Kennybhoy

      All true man but… just who do you think were the original rebels of 1968…?

  • Christopher Ward

    I am shocked by Murray’s moral inconsistencies.

    From his book: “All of these people (the victims’ families), and many others, realised that they had a choice. They made the most important decision of all. They decided that in response to murder they did not have to become murderers themselves.”

    Murray correctly calls it “murder”.

    The book describes in detail the mortuary photos, of how and where the bullets entered, and the damage they caused. The victims and their families are covered, and, like the passage quoted above, it is justifiably sentimental, and morally forthright.

    Juxtapose this with what Murray is most famous for: his neo-conservative sensibilities. Here’s a passage from one of his recent articles:

    “It is greatly to the President’s credit that he has increased the use of unmanned drone-attacks. He has used the technology to unceasingly kill America’s enemies. We should be glad to have such an ally.”

    That the drone strikes have killed mostly civilians (including a 16 year old child, an American, no less) goes unmentioned. Why does it go unmentioned? No account here of the damage to the victims’ bodies. No account of how the 16 year old’s family feels, no proud journalistic attempt to: “correct the popular misunderstandings on all sides about an event covered in propaganda and counter-propaganda”.

    And certainly no attempt to “get to the very uncomfortable truth”.

    The only distinction I can see, is that one group of people are white, and so therefore they matter. The British army then, just like today’s America, are up against a terrorist threat. The contexts may not be identical, but our moral and legal responsibilities as a civilised society remain the same (the moral and legal responsibilities Murray holds dear, but only when it’s British civilians being murdered, and not when it’s nameless 16 year old children with brown faces – in that circumstance, Obama gets his vote).

    • victor67

      Indeed will it take 40 years for the true extent of the crimes comitted by America in the so called war on terror. For example the the children of Fallujah born with horrific birth defects due to the use of depleted uranium shells in the war crimes comitted their in 2004.

  • edlancey

    It you renamed it Savile: The Truth you could retire on the profits in January.

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