His remarks drew murmurs of dissent from the House of Commons, with Sammy Wilson interrupting Mr Eastwood with a comment about republicans (though it is hard to hear what he said – listen to the clip to hear for yourself).
Colum Eastwood was speaking in a session just before Prime Minister’s Questions, during which NI Secretary Brandon Lewis re-stated David Cameron’s famous apology for Bloody Sunday – the 50th anniversary of which is this coming Sunday.
Mr Lewis told the House: “The killing of 14 people on that day began what was the most brutal and tragic year of the troubles in terms of lives lost.
“I echo the words of the then Prime Minister David Cameron, who, following the publication of the Saville report in 2010, stood at this Dispatch Box and apologised on behalf of the British Government, describing the events of Bloody Sunday, rightly, as ‘unjustified and unjustifiable.’”
Colum Eastwood then went on to say: “Can I welcome the Secretary of State’s words at the outset?
“Fifty years ago this week, the Parachute Regiment were sent to my city to murder 14 people – people who were unarmed, marching for civil rights...
“Last weekend, Parachute Regiment flags were flown on the outskirts of Derry.
“The Parachute Regiment rightly condemned the flying of those flags as a grossly offensive act against the victims of Bloody Sunday, but they have yet to apologise for and condemn the actions of their soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.
“Does the Secretary of State think they should?”
The response came: “We as the Government must accept responsibility for what has happened in the past. When things are wrong, we need to be clear about that, as we have been.
“It is right that we have apologised for that, and I have added my own personal apology to that of the Government.”
The News Letter has asked the SDLP if Mr Eastwood intended to say that troops were deployed on Bloody Sunday by Army command with the pre-meditated intention of murdering demonstrators, or if he just mis-phrased the sentence.
TWO RUC MEN REMEMBERED AS WELL:
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson went on to say: “Every life lost in Northern Ireland matters, and we remember the two very courageous Royal Ulster Constabulary officers murdered in Londonderry 50 years ago tomorrow.”
This is in reference to Peter Gilgun (26) and David Montgomery (20), were shot dead in an attack on their patrol car in the Creggan Road.
“As a proud former member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, I want to ensure that whatever proposals the Government bring forward do not create a moral equivalence between the brave men and women who served in our armed forces and the police service and those who took the law into their own hands, engaged in acts of terrorism and sought to bring Northern Ireland to its knees,” added Sir Jeffrey.
“Will the Secretary of State be clear that there will be no moral equivalence between our armed forces and police and the terrorists of the IRA and other paramilitary groups?”
Mr Lewis responded: “The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point.
“I can be very clear, and as a Government we are clear, that we will never accept any moral equivalence between those who upheld the law in Northern Ireland—those who, as I say, went out every day to protect life and to do their service—and those who, from any point of view, went out every morning to destroy life and to destroy Northern Ireland.
“They must never be allowed to win, and there can be no moral equivalence.”
However, Mr Lewis is at the forefront of pushing forward the idea of a blanket amnesty for Troubles crimes, which would indeed place paramilitaries and police in the same bracket, in that alleged crimes committed by people both on the side of upholding the law and on the side of breaking it would be closed to further investigation.
Mr Lewis said that “we must deliver a process and a structure of investigations and information recovery that helps people to get to the truth,” but also that we “have to be honest with people about what is achievable and the reality of what we can do”.
More from the News Letter:
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