Bloody Sunday

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Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday (Irish: Domhnach na Fola)—sometimes called the Bogside Massacre—was an incident on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry,Northern Ireland, in which twenty-six unarmed civil rights protesters or bystanders were shot by the British Army Parachute Regiment during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march. Thirteen men, seven of whom were teenagers, died immediately or soon after, while the death of another man four and a half months later has been attributed to the injuries he received on that day. Two protesters were injured when they were run down by army vehicles.[5] The report of the Saville Inquiry, which has been accepted by the British government, found that all of those shot were unarmed, and that the killings were "unjustified and unjustifiable." Five of those wounded were shot in the back.

Mural by Bogside Artists depicting all who were killed by the British Army on Bloody Sunday

Source: Wikipedia contributors. "Bloody Sunday (1972)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Jun. 2010. Web. 16 Jun. 2010.

John Kelly, centre, brother of Bloody Sunday shooting victim Michael Kelly, reacts as he leaves the Guildhall after reading the Saville report in Londonderry on June 15, 2010.

Bloody Sunday attack ‘unjustified,’ British report says

June 15, 2010 Written by Olivia Ward of The Toronto Star

Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside area of Londonderry to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The long-awaited report from the Saville Inquiry, will be released Tuesday.

Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside area of Londonderry to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The long-awaited report from the Saville Inquiry, will be released Tuesday. Oli Scarff/Getty Images

It was a scene of chaos and panic as Catholic civil rights marchers fled from British troops. Stones flew, water cannons blasted, and paratroopers opened fire with live ammunition. After 30 minutes, 13 protesters were dead, and one would later succumb to his wounds. Fifteen others were injured.

The most fateful event in Northern Ireland’s recent history, known as Bloody Sunday, took place Jan. 30, 1972 in Londonderry, unleashing a floodtide of sectarian violence known as The Troubles. In three decades, more than 3,600 people would lose their lives.

On Tuesday, Britain’s longest and most expensive inquiry drew a line under the dire event with a long-awaited verdict of innocence for the victims. British troops were blamed for taking undisciplined action.

“What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable,” said Prime Minister David Cameron. “For that, on behalf of the government, and indeed our country, I am deeply sorry.”

It was a historic moment of closure in Northern Ireland.

Sectarian strife no longer dominates the political landscape. But the peace is still fragile enough to raise anxiety about the repercussions of the report in a Catholic community that may demand the soldiers’ prosecution, and among Protestants who feel their grievances have not been addressed. Photo
JUNE 15: Members of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign march with banners depicting the victims of the shootings on their way to the Guildhall to hear the findings of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The long-awaited report from the Saville Inquiry, which was set up in 1998 and is estimated to have cost 191m GBP, will be announced by British Prime Minister David Cameron in the Commons today and stated that all victims were innocent. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

On Tuesday thousands of Catholics cheered and applauded Cameron’s apology, broadcast on a giant screen in Londonderry’s Guildhall Square, near the scene of the killings. Relatives who had read the encyclopedic 5,000-page, $300 million (Cdn.), report said they felt vindicated.

“The great lie has been laid bare,” said Mickey McKinney, whose brother Willie was among the dead. “The truth has been brought home at last.”

The report described nervous, trigger-happy soldiers opening fire without warning, in some cases on people fleeing or trying to help the wounded or dying. And it said some of the soldiers had lied about their actions.

The document, taken from 2,500 statements over 12 years of investigation, is in contrast with the result of a 1972 inquiry, which said the soldiers were fired on first, and the victims had been handling weapons. Relatives declared it a whitewash and campaigned to make a new probe part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

The new report has both reopened and healed old wounds.

“Overall, it has helped rather than hurt,” says Adrian Guelke, a professor of politics at Queen’s University in Belfast. “It seems to have satisfied the families of the victims, and it would be difficult to prolong the controversy if they believe it represents closure.”

And, he added, a recent agreement has moved the political process along to the point where many of the inflammatory issues have been settled. A timetable for devolution of power to Northern Ireland’s assembly has been set, and a new policing board and department of justice agreed. Catholics and Protestants sit side by side in government.

But raw feelings remain.

“They can’t just tell people to ‘get over it’ when the first deputy minister of Northern Ireland has blood on his hands,” says Protestant William Frazer, of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, who lost five family members, including his father, to republican attacks. “He should resign if he’s serious about seeking peace.”

The report said that Sinn Fein political leader Martin McGuinness, then a senior IRA commander, was in the area of the demonstration and probably carrying a machine gun on Bloody Sunday — a statement McGuinness denies. But it said he did not provoke the soldiers into opening fire.

“The citizens of Derry . . . want (English judge Lord) Saville to make it absolutely clear that the 27 people who were shot on that day . . . were completely innocent people and that those who inflicted those deaths and injuries were the guilty parties,” McGuinness said before the report was released.

But for Protestants, Frazer said, there is also anger that the massive report would be the last on Northern Ireland’s violence, while murders of their relatives have not been investigated.

For many in the new Northern Ireland, however, the events of 1972 are a distant memory, and the young have grown to adulthood scarcely remembering the dark days of the Troubles.

“For them, money is more important than that history,” says Chris Anderson, an author and journalist who is chronicling Protestant deaths. “They are from a different generation with a different set of priorities.”

Source: The Toronto Star. 16 June 2010 < The Toronto Star>


External Sites

  • The Government of Ireland Act (1920) created Northern Ireland (N.I.) by dividing the 6 north-eastern counties of Ireland from the other 26 counties. These 6 counties, Fermanagh, Antrim, Tyrone, Derry, Armagh and Down, had a majority of Unionists. The other 26 counties, and Ireland as a whole, had a Nationalist/Republican majority and had supported Sinn Féin in its attempts to establish an independent Ireland.

The northern Unionists refused to live in an Ireland that would be controlled by Nationalists/Republicans. As a result of this the British Government created Northern Ireland. One third of the population of Northern Ireland were Nationalists/Republicans, who did not want to be divided from the rest of Ireland.

Throughout its history NI was unstable. Unionists, fearing attack from the Irish Republic and their Nationalist neighbours, would not share power with Nationalists and gerrymandered electoral boundaries in areas in which Nationalists were in the majority to ensure that Nationalists were denied power.

Nationalists resented being governed by the Unionists and saw little hope in elections, because they were unable to win power. The Unionist party could not be defeated by the Nationalist party because when NI was created it was designed to always have a Unionist majority.

The state of NI was attacked by militant Republicians - the IRA, in the 1920's, 1930's, 1940's, 1950's and 1960's. Between 1956 - 1962 the IRA had attacked NI but in 1962 they stopped because they had no support from Nationalists living there. <>

  • The Bloody Sunday Trust is a community based education and human rights organisation. It was established in 1997 with the aim of encouraging support for human rights, conflict transformation and increased understanding between people both internationally and in Ireland. The Trust aims to remember and better understand the recent history of Derry and the North West of Ireland as a means to achieving these goals. <>.
  • The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign. In 1992, 20 years after Bloody Sunday, the victims' families began a concerted effort to establish a new inquiry into what happened on Bloody Sunday, as they did not agree with the findings of the original Widgery Inquiry.<>.