In part two of an interview with the commentator Douglas Murray, who has just written a book about immigration and Islam, he tells Ben Lowry about his earlier work on Bloody Sunday (link to part one is at the bottom of this article):
It was when Douglas Murray was starting off as a writer in his early 20s that the Bloody Sunday Inquiry moved to London.
Murray, now aged 37, was “already very interested in events to do with Northern Ireland,” although he had no links with the Province apart from some friends here.
The inquiry “started hearing from Edward Heath and others, and then all of the soldiers and all the intelligence witnesses and first of all I just got fascinated by the whole thing”.
There had, the associate editor of the Spectator magazine says, never been an inquiry so comprehensive “ ... and you know every day the transcripts were there ... it was sort of a journalist’s dream”.
He adds: “The second thing that made me interested was that there was nobody there from the media. I mean on the big day when Edward Heath testified it was busy, but most days with the exception of star witnesses, people didn’t follow it.”
Murray read through all the witness testimony.
“I have a whole room of files on it,” he says. “One of the things that I found most interesting about it was that it’s partly an investigation into the nature of truth ... for me an archetypal demonstration of it, that something happens and quite shortly afterwards people have different memories.”
The result was his book (Bloody Sunday: Truth, lies and the Saville Inquiry). Does he think the Bloody Sunday Inquiry was worth doing?
“Yes, I think it was actually and I think for all of the criticisms, whenever people made them I tended to think well, what’s your alternative to this?”
Murray was impressed with Lord Saville’s courtesy and competence.
“In the final report there is something slightly strange that Lord Saville does, which is very unusual for him, which is that he mentions in the conclusion that he thinks that although Martin McGuinness didn’t fire the first shot ... nevertheless he thinks that he was probably armed with a weapon on the day.”
Murray says: “I know of no source, of all the people who gave evidence, from civilians, from any wing of the IRA, or anyone else who plausibly testified that Martin McGuinness was carrying a gun on the day and, I mean now he’s dead it’s perhaps easier to say this, but I hint at it in the book ... there were a couple of bits of intelligence information which the three judges were allowed to see which were not made public”.
The inquiry is a good source on how intelligence operations happened in the 1970s, he says.
“I think – this is pure speculation – I think that one of the things [Saville] saw, persuaded him that Martin McGuinness had done something that day, and that he needed to nod to it ... in part because he knows that at some point in the future something will come out about Mr McGuinness and he, Lord Saville, doesn’t want the inquiry to be rubbished posthumously after all these years of work.”
Turning to Northern Ireland today, Murray was “dismayed that everything we know about Jeremy Corbyn had not counted against him more” in the recent election.
The left is not prepared to “exercise moral hygiene” he says.
Drawing an analogy with Corbyn inviting Sinn Fein to the House of Commons weeks after the IRA Brighton bomb, he says: ”Imagine if tomorrow there was an attempt by some right wing militia to assassinate Jeremy Corbyn and instead of successfully murdering Jeremy Corbyn they killed Seumas Milne and John McDonnell, and John McDonnell’s wife was paralysed and imagine after that if the Conservative party had MPs who were inviting the people who had planted the bomb.
“Good, you’ve a glimpse of what some of us still feel about Mr Corbyn.”
Murray adds: “Imagine if this lack of moral hygiene on the political left now were replicated ever on the political right, I very much hope it isn’t, but you can’t help thinking that at some point in the era of Corbyn there will be other people who will think, it seems that on the political left pal-ing around with murderers and sadists and terrorists and brutes doesn’t cost you anything, so why don’t we play the same game?
“That’s what I worry about.”
• DUP should not look like ‘whores’
Mr Murray is well connected in Conservative-inclined intellectual circles in London. Does he have advice for the DUP now it holds the balance of power?
He says it is not his place to issue advice, but (speaking 10 days before Monday’s Tory-DUP deal is confirmed) he adds: “One thing I would think is that it’s really important for Northern Ireland and for British politics as a whole that the DUP support what is the majority will of the people and the party that has won the most seats, and secondly that they don’t spend the period looking like whores.
“If they look like they are simply after money, it’s further poison to our politics.”
Murray was “a mild Brexiteer” but now wonders if it can be delivered.
“I was a moderate leaver. I don’t like the power structure of Brussels, I don’t like the lack of accountability, I never have.
“I’ve always thought we’d be better off wishing them well and doing our own thing, in order that we have accountability in our politics and my view on that hasn’t changed.”
Murray adds: “I think we are now in a really big mess and by the way I mean again, an example of how our politics could go toxic.
“I mean the British people voted to leave the European Union and we’ve now voted in a government that probably can’t deliver that. This is how politics goes bad. It worries me very much.”
It is, he says, “going to be a rough five years” politically.
“We can already see with this tragedy in London, this fire. Everything is going to be politicised over this period, absolutely everything.
“All of what we had as basic decencies in politics are going to go out the window ... you know like the fundamental presumption that your political opponents don’t want the citizens of the nation to burn to death.”
• Part One of interview with Murray: ‘I’d sensed for a long time that we were doing something crazy to Europe’