Helen Martin: Who’s a winner in blame game?

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TRYING to right the wrongs of the past is never easy. The arrest of a former paratrooper on suspicion of killing some of the 14 victims of Bloody Sunday in Londonderry 43 years ago and the news that another ten of his former colleagues are likely to be questioned, has predictably offended and angered veterans and serving soldiers.

They all feel soldiers in any 
battle-ground to which they have been sent should be spared being dragged through court almost half a century later when, after all, they were there in the service of Britain.

They’re right. Soldiers are just pawns. The people who should be in the dock are the politicians who created such a mess in Northern Ireland in the first place, and Mrs Thatcher who deliberately held fast to the sins of her predecessors, refused to discuss or negotiate, making things worse and leading to the bombings in Brighton at the Tory conference and Hyde Park and Regent’s Park killing horses and military bandsmen.

History can offer us a little clarity. Before The Troubles, the UK had allowed a very strange system of “apartheid” to operate in Ulster. Voting rights were based on ownership or rental of multiple houses. Social housing was, in the main, for Protestants only, as was a job in the police who, like other major employers was virtually a Protestant closed shop so that inevitably meant a Protestant vote. Catholic areas were split to further ensure no representation in parliament. It wouldn’t have been permitted in the UK but that was 1960s Northern Ireland. With few votes, civil rights marches were the only forms of peaceful protest possible, even though they had been staged many times with no success. Meanwhile anger grew, feeding in to those who wanted to resort to violence to fight for their rights. By today’s standards, an uprising was only to be expected.

Paramilitaries on both sides armed up and it was in this tinder box that British soldiers opened fire on a civil rights march, going on to shoot at the parents of victims who ran to their wounded teenagers and leading to the often shown film of a priest waving a white handkerchief as the bloodied and dying were carried out of the line of fire. Amidst all this, British television carried stories of IRA atrocities, while RTE carried just as many of Unionist paramilitary outrages – 
neither carried both.

British soldiers had originally been sent to Ulster to protect the Catholic community but, not surprisingly, the Catholics being nationalists, that arrangement wasn’t going to last long, especially with the IRA taking to bombing, blasting, shooting and 
murdering in mainland Britain.

Just how can anybody, or any court, follow a thread of justice through that lot, never mind hold individual soldiers, some of them teenagers themselves, responsible? It was an unholy mess created by the negligence and stupidity of politicians which is after all, the origin of most wars and conflicts.

The soldiers, as well as those who live there, of either side or none, pay the price. The politicians involved and responsible always get off Scot free.

Supermarkets must shape up

SAINSBURY’S and Morrisons are right to point out that some customers don’t want strangely-shaped vegetables. But the answer is not to pressure suppliers to provide cosmetically perfect produce. Stock them all. And charge the idiots who care what shape a carrot is and who cause such criminal waste, twice as much as those of us who only care about taste and quality.

A balancing act on way to Tollcross

I KEEP trying to resist complaining about cyclists – without success. I thought I’d seen it all until Wednesday when I was driving along in the rush hour towards Tollcross. Was I hallucinating?

Nope . . . there really was a helmeted, back-packed, commuter pedalling furiously down Lothian Road – on a unicycle.

No light, no handlebars, just one hand on the front of the saddle and the other dangling like a rudder to maintain balance on his one and only wheel. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch sight of him at a red light because I was eaten up by curiosity.

Would he wobble backwards and forwards waiting for the green, or dismount and hop on again? Is there a law against it or is it one of those things considered so ludicrous and unlikely that no legislation exists?

Who cares what Gordon thinks.. except Gordon?

I HAD to laugh at Gordon Brown’s criticism of the current Labour Party (presumably meant as a pop at Jeremy Corbyn) saying it needs a “credible programme capable of winning power”, “making the the desirable popular, electable, credible and something that people want to hold on to”. At least Corbyn won the party votes by a landslide.

For some reason Brown seems to think he is viewed as a distinguished and successful elder statesman rather than the Chancellor who sold off Britain’s gold reserves on the cheap, raided pension schemes in the boom times leaving them strapped in the crash, was barely in No 10 long enough to change the toilet roll, lied about the “closest thing to federal” vow, and now, except for his own back yard, has all the personal electoral appeal of a stale bannock. Jealous, delusional . . . or both?