TODAY'S expected publication of the Saville Inquiry's findings on the events of Bloody Sunday in Londonderry thirty years ago have already been anticipated and criticised by those who fear that they could re-ignite sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. It is better to wait to know exactly what the report says about the apparent killing of thirteen civilians by British troops on 30 January 1972, but from the start it is important to try to recall how different everything looked before the Good Friday agreement of 1998 and to remember the part that the decision to hold the inquiry probably played in reaching that agreement.

There is a quite different aspect of the Saville inquiry that needs examination. It has taken twelve years for the report to be finalised, from inception to publication (at a retail price of 572 pounds!). It has cost almost 200 million pounds and, allegedly, made millionaires out of some of the lawyers involved. This brings official inquiries into disrepute at a time that there seems to be a greater readiness by governments and other responsible bodies to appoint them. Clearly, the Saville formula was wrong but its shortcomings should not be allowed to turn public and official opinion against the idea of inquiries as such. They are often the only way of getting at -- or somewhere near -- the truth. But the idea of an inquiry into the Saville inquiry should be rejected out of hand.