Paul Foot: The old Orange judge

Paul Foot: In August 1973, the Derry coroner, retired Major Hubert O'Neill, completed the inquest into the 13 unarmed people killed by the British army on Bloody Sunday.

In August 1973, the Derry coroner, retired Major Hubert O'Neill, completed the inquest into the 13 unarmed people killed by the British army on Bloody Sunday. The jury returned an open verdict. Off the cuff, Major O'Neill described the killings as "sheer unadulterated murder".

That was too much for the young barrister representing the Ministry of Defence. He lectured the coroner as follows: "It is not for you or the jury to express such wide-ranging views, particularly when a most eminent judge (Lord Chief Justice Widgery) has spent 20 days hearing evidence and come to a different conclusion." The barrister's name was Brian Hutton.

Whatever the outcome of the Saville inquiry, set up in 1998 to investigate the Bloody Sunday killings, everyone now accepts that the one-man Widgery tribunal was seriously flawed. So it follows that Brian Hutton quite early in his career was sticking up for one judicial whitewash and that, 30 years on, was playing the lead role in another one.

Reading the Hutton report I found myself humming a tune I learned in Glasgow 40 years ago. It's called the Old Orange Flute, and it tells the story of a flute that is so stuck in its Orange repertoire that it can only play Orange tunes. The story is so shocking, and the song impaired by such dreadful rhymes, that I have dared to compose a parody on it, entitled The Old Orange Judge. The tune is very familiar even outside Belfast. So sing it out loud when you next go to a Gilligan's Wake.

In Orange Belfast, way back in '31,

Was born a young genius called Brian Hutton.

At Shrewsbury and Oxford (where better to learn?)

He worshipped his God, and the Law and the Crown.

At an inquest in Derry in '73

He ordered a coroner and a jury

To keep out of things which are not their concern,

For only the judges know how to discern.

In case after case he wrestled with facts

But was always enraged by inquisitive hacks.

When Kelly lay dead it was time for a fudge,

so the premier called up the old Orange judge.

And try as he did to make some other sound

The song he kept singing was "Croppies Lie Down".

Chief Croppy was Gilligan, Hutton surmised -

His luncheon with Kelly was not authorised!

He'd the cheek to broadcast what he'd heard, and of course

What he said was quite true - but had only one source.

Now Gilligan's out, and no one can impugn

The spotless good names of Blair, Campbell and Hoon.

The BBC's safe with the Tories once more

Under Ryder and Hogg, not a croppy will stir.

Weasels Davies and Dyke are back in the woods

And the old Orange judge has come up with the goods.

· The government's other triumph last week, reversing its manifesto pledge on top-up university fees, has caused even more exasperation among its supporters in the trade unions. Without even warning the rail, transport and seafarers' union, the RMT, the national executive of the Labour party has decided to expel the RMT if it continues to endorse the decision of its Scottish region to support the Scottish Socialist party.

The RMT and its predecessors have been in the Labour party for a hundred years but, as in the Fire Brigades Union, many branches are sick to death of government policies that are, in their view, hostile to the social democratic and trade union traditions of the party and its affiliates.

Labour party chairman Iain McCartney, who still insists that the letters TU (for Turncoats United?) are engraved on his heart, has been busy writing letters to individual members of the Labour party in the RMT denouncing their union's decision on the SSP. Bob Crow, the union's general secretary, tells me: "No one has yet told us what rule we've broken. They suggest we have acted against the Labour party's programme but it's difficult to tell what that programme is.

"What about tuition fees, for instance? Are they still in the programme (in which case ministers should be expelling themselves) or are the fees no longer in the party programme, in which case are they going to expel all those MPs who voted against them?

"Our members are entitled to make their own decision about who they support, and more and more of them are getting increasingly fed up with a government which regularly takes money from big business, and then threatens to expel unions because some of their members want to support a socialist organisation".


Paul Foot

The GuardianTramp

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