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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: SIR LOUIS BLOM-COOPER QC JANUARY 27TH, 2002
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: Thirty years ago this week in Londonderry 13 members of the public were killed by the 1st Parachute Regiment on the day that has become known as Bloody Sunday, a dozen others or more were injured one of whom later died. A second inquiry into what happened is still going but are we any nearer to finding out the truth. I'm joined this morning by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper who's representing the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in the inquiry. Louis good morning.
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: Good morning.
DAVID FROST: Everyone says the costs to-date have been £50 million plus, the final cost of the inquiry going on for another year at least and then the report may well be over £100 million, will we, the taxpayers, the government whoever, will we get value that is value of £100 million out of this inquiry?
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: Well I think that's very difficult to tell but one has to say that it was of course the government that took the view that there had to be a second inquiry, the first one having been fatally flawed and no doubt there was a calculation made then what the total costs would be. If a government decides in the name of the public that there should be an independent and impartial inquiry then I'm afraid the public has to pay for it and it is an expensive exercise.
DAVID FROST: And when the report comes out do you think the truth will out or do you think we'll never know what really happened?
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: I think that's impossible to say at the moment, I certainly think that one thing one can say about this inquiry is that it has been entirely thorough, that is to say no stone has been left unturned and in that sense we will know as much as we will ever know at the end of it and we have to wait and see what Lord Saville and his colleagues say.
DAVID FROST: But we may, we may not get the truth?
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: Well that's always the case isn't it, and particularly looking back on an event thirty years ago is maybe difficult but not impossible, as I said, the inquiry is being thoroughly conducted so that I think one can be safe in saying that every attempt to arrive at the truth is being made.
DAVID FROST: Some people say obviously too thoroughly because of the cost and so on
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: Yes indeed
DAVID FROST: In particular seven, seven million I think for 22 barristers and so on.
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: Yes.
DAVID FROST: Then they announce that you and Michael Mansfield have made £400,000 each so far and he said no it was only half that, and I think your office said it was £140,000 for you so far?
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: That's right, and I mean again I think this is a calculation which government must make when it sets up these inquiries, if it wants it to be independent and impartial then of course lawyers are going to be involved inevitably. But there is, I think, a real issue about which I think we haven't resolved the problem and that is the question of legal representation in front of these inquiries. No doubt people will remember the Arms to Iraq inquiry which was conducted by Lord Scott, Sir Richard Scott and he actually dispensed with lawyers at his oral hearings and he was very heavily criticised for it, rightly or not I can't say at the moment but I think there is a real issue about the extent of legal representation in front of these tribunals. After all they're not courts, they are an investigation, they don't determine anybody's rights or interests, they just simply seek the truth about the particular scandal or disaster.
DAVID FROST: Are you worried by the fact that the witnesses are talking about events thirty years ago, does that make their, their evidence less safe?
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: I don't think necessarily less safe, there's a great complication, I think, about people talking about events thirty years ago but we have to remember that at the time of the incident there was an enormous amount of coverage and people made statements at the time, a lot of the people so they are simply repeating or elaborating upon what they said at the time. Of course the problem of taking evidence of anybody about an event like this was always difficult.
DAVID FROST: And Tony Blair said that one of the reasons this was needed was for the peace process but isn't there a possibility, in fact almost a near-certainty that in fact the result of this report, whichever way it goes, will cause immense uproar and ill-feeling by at least one side in this inquiry?
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: Well I think that's a political judgement, I think it is an important element in the peace process, of course what will have happened to the peace process by the time that Lord Saville and his colleagues report will be very different and it may be that the importance of the inquiry was having the inquiry rather than the end result.
DAVID FROST: Well that's, that's an interesting point because the other thing that that raises is do you expect, is it intended that this will just ventilate the subject, as you said, or if there are people found to have acted criminally should they be tried and then sent to prison if guilty?
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: Well I, I express a personal view, I would have thought not, I would have thought the fact that anybody who's blamed for what happened on Bloody Sunday, the fact that their blame is disclosed as a public report ought to suffice. I do not think that it would be sensible or wise to take proceedings against anybody for what happened and of course a lot of the people who were involved in the event aren't even alive today.
DAVID FROST: Well if it's just a fact-finding exercise maybe it would've been cheaper to hire the Insight team from the Sunday Times, they would, they would have come a bit cheaper perhaps?
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: Well they, they did a job at the time and we shall see no doubt how near they came to finding out the real truth. Incidentally could I just add, a lot of people think that the tribunal is in the process of reconciliation rather like Desmond Tutu in South Africa, I don't think our tribunals of inquiry are set up to deal with reconciliation, I think that's a different exercise.
DAVID FROST: And a very lengthy and difficult one, Louis thank you very much indeed for being with us this morning.
LOUIS BLOM-COOPER: Not at all.
DAVID FROST: Louis Blom-Cooper.
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