What was Bloody Sunday in Derry Ireland?
Bloody Sunday (1972)
On Sunday January 30, 1972, in an incident since known as Bloody Sunday, 26 Irish Civil Rights protestors were shot by members of 2nd Batallion of the British Parachute Regiment during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march in the Bogside area of the city of Derry, Northern Ireland. Thirteen - six of whom were minors - died immediately, while the death of another 4� months later has been attributed to the injuries he received on the day. Two protesters were injured when run down by army vehicles. Many witnesses, including bystanders and journalists, testify that all those shot were all unarmed. Five of those wounded were shot in the back.
Two inquiries have been held by the British Government. The Widgery Tribunal in the immediate aftermath of the day largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame, but was criticized as a "whitewash" by many. The Saville Inquiry, established in 1998 to look at the events again (chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate), has yet to report. The cost of this process has drawn criticism. In June 2003, the cost incurred so far in pursuit of the inquiry was given as �113.2 million. One year later in June 2004 the cost was given as �130 million. The total cost is expected to be around the �150 million pound mark. All costs are met by the British Government.
The Provisional Irish Republican Army's (IRA) campaign against Northern Ireland being a part of the United Kingdom had begun three years prior to Bloody Sunday, but perceptions of the day boosted the status of and recruitment into the organisation. Bloody Sunday remains among the most significant events in the recent troubles of Northern Ireland, arguably because it was carried out by the army and not paramilitaries.
Events of the dayMany details of the day's events are in dispute, with no agreement even on the number of marchers present that day. The organisers, Insight, claimed that there were 30,000 marchers; Lord Widgery in his Inquiry, said that there were only 3,000 to 5,000. In The Road To Bloody Sunday, local GP Dr. Raymond McClean estimated the crowd as 15,000, which is the figure used by Bernadette Devlin McAliskey in Parliament.
A wealth of material has been produced relating to the day. There have been numerous books and articles written, as well as documentary films made on the subject.
The march's planned route had taken it to the Guildhall, but due to army barricades it was redirected to Free Derry Corner. A small group of teenagers broke off from the main march and persisted in pushing the barricade and marching on the Guildhall. They attacked the British barricade with stones and shouted insults at the troops. At this point, a water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse the rioters. Such confrontations between soldiers and youths were common, though observers reported that the rioting was not intense. Two people were shot and wounded by soldiers on William Street.
At a certain point, reports of an IRA sniper operating in the area were given to the British command centre. The order to fire live rounds was given and one young man was shot and killed whilst he ran down Chamberlain Street away from the advancing troops. This first man shot, Jackie Duddy, was among a crowd who were running away. He was running alongside a priest, Father Edward Daly, when he was shot in the back. The aggression against the British troops escalated, and eventually the order was given to mobilise the troops in an arrest operation, chasing the tail of the main group of marchers to the edge of the field by Free Derry Corner.
Despite a cease-fire order from British HQ, over a hundred rounds were fired directly into the fleeing crowds by troops under the command of Major Ted Loden. Twelve more were shot and killed, many of them killed whilst attempting to aid the fallen. Fourteen others were wounded, twelve by firing from the soldiers and two knocked down by armoured personnel carriers.
The deadJackie Duddy (17). Shot in the chest in the car park of Rossville flats. Four witnesses stated Duddy was unarmed and running away from the paratroopers when he was killed. Three of them saw a soldier take deliberate aim at the youth as he ran. Patrick Doherty (31). Shot from behind whilst crawling to safety in the forecourt of Rossville flats. Doherty was photographed by French journalist Gilles Peress seconds before he died. Despite the evidence of "Soldier F" at the Widgery Tribunal, the photographs show he was unarmed. Bernard McGuigan (41). Shot in the back of the head when he went to help Patrick Doherty. He had been waving a white handkerchief at the soldiers to indicate his peaceful intentions. Hugh Gilmour (17). Shot in the chest whilst running away from the paratroopers on Rossville Street. A photograph taken seconds after Gilmour was hit corroborated witness reports that he was unarmed. Kevin McElhinney (17). Shot from behind whilst crawling to safety at the front entrance of the Rossville Flats. Two witnesses stated McElhinney was unarmed. Michael Kelly (17). Shot in the stomach whilst standing near the rubble barricade in front of Rossville Flats. Widgery accepted Kelly was unarmed. John Young (17). Shot in the head whilst standing at the rubble barricade. Two witnesses stated Young was unarmed. William Nash (19). Shot in the chest near the barricade. Witnesses stated Nash was unarmed and going to the aid of another when killed. Michael McDaid (20). Shot in the face at the barricade whilst walking away from the paratroopers. The trajectory of the bullet indicated he was killed by soldiers positioned on the Derry Walls. James Wray (22). Wounded and then shot again at close range whilst lying on the ground. Witnesses who were not called to the Widgery Tribunal stated that Wray was calling that he was unable to move his legs before he was shot the second time. Gerald Donaghy (17). Shot in the stomach whilst running to safety between Glenfada Park and Abbey Park. Donaghy was brought to a nearby house by bystanders where he was examined by a doctor. His pockets were turned out in an effort to identify him. A later police photograph of Donaghy's corpse showed nail bombs in his pockets. Neither those who searched his pockets in the house nor the British army medical officer (Soldier 138) who pronounced his death shortly afterwards say they saw any bombs. Donaghy had been a member of Fianna �ireann, an IRA-linked Republican youth movement. Gerald McKinney (35). Shot just after Gerald Donaghy. Witnesses stated that McKinney had been running behind Donaghy, and he stopped and held up his arms, shouting "Don't shoot!", when he saw Donaghy fall. He was then shot in the chest. William McKinney (26). Shot from behind as he attempted to aid Gerald McKinney (no relation). He had left cover to try to help the older man. John Johnston (59). Shot on William Street 15 minutes before the rest of the shooting started. Johnson died of his wounds 4� months later, the only one not to die immediately or soon after being shot.
The perspectives and analyses on the day
Mural by Bogside Artists depicting Father Daly waving a white handkerchief whilst trying to escort the mortally wounded Jackie Duddy to safety.Thirteen people were shot and killed, with another man later dying of his wounds. The official army position, backed by the British Home Secretary the next day in the House of Commons, was that the Paratroopers had reacted to the threat of gunmen and nail-bombs from suspected IRA members. However, all eye-witnesses (apart from the soldiers), including marchers, local residents, and British and Irish journalists present, maintain that soldiers fired into an unarmed crowd, or were aiming at fleeing people and those tending the wounded, whereas the soldiers themselves were not fired upon. No British soldier was wounded by gun-fire or reported any injuries, nor were any bullets or nail-bombs recovered to back up their claims. In the rage that followed, irate crowds burned down the British embassy in Dublin. Anglo-Irish relations hit one of their lowest ebbs, with Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Patrick Hillery, going specially to the United Nations in New York to demand UN involvement in the Northern Ireland "Troubles". However, as Britain had a veto on the UN's Security Council, this was never a realistic option.
Although there were many IRA men - both Official and Provisional present at the protest, they were all unarmed, apparently because it was anticipated that the Paratroopers would attempt to "draw them out". MP Ivan Cooper had been promised beforehand that no armed IRA men would be near the march. Many of the Paratroopers who gave evidence at the Tribunal testified that they were told by their officers to expect a gunfight and had been encouraged to "get some kills".
The official coroner for the City of Derry/Londonderry, retired British army Major Hubert O'Neill, issued a statement on August 21, 1973, at the completion of the inquest into the people killed , he declared:
It strikes me that the Army ran amok that day and shot without thinking what they were doing. They were shooting innocent people. These people may have been taking part in a march that was banned but that does not justify the troops coming in and firing live rounds indiscriminately. I would say without hesitation that it was sheer, unadulterated murder.
In the immediate aftermath of Bloody Sunday, the British government under Prime Minister Edward Heath established a commission of inquiry under the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery. Many of the witnesses were prepared to boycott the inquiry as they lacked faith in his impartiality but were eventually persuaded to take part. His quickly-produced report (published within 11 weeks on April 19, 1972) supported the Army's account of the events of the day. Among the evidence presented to the inquiry were the results of paraffin tests, used to identify lead residues from firing weapons, and that nail bombs had been found on the body of one of those killed. Tests for traces of explosives on the clothes of eleven of the dead proved negative, while those of the remaining man could not be tested as they had already been washed. Most Irish people and witnesses to the event disputed the report's conclusions and regarded it as a whitewash. It is now widely accepted that the nail bombs photographed on Gerard Donaghy were planted there after his death, and firearms residue on some deceased came from contact with the soldiers who themselves moved some of the bodies, or that the presence of lead on the hands of one (James Nash) was easily explained by the fact that his occupation involved the use of lead-based solder. In fact, in 1992, John Major, writing to John Hume stated:
The Government made clear in 1974 that those who were killed on 'Bloody Sunday' should be regarded as innocent of any allegation that they were shot whilst handling firearms or explosives. I hope that the families of those who died will accept that assurance.
In January 1997, the United Kingdom television station Channel 4 carried a news report that suggested that members of the Royal Anglian Regiment had also opened fire on the protesters and could have been responsible for 3 of the 14 deaths.
The Saville Inquiry
The city Guildhall, home to the Inquiry.Although British Prime Minister John Major had rejected John Hume's requests for a new inquiry into the killings, his successor, Tony Blair, decided to start one. A second commission of inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville, was established in January 1998 to re-examine 'Bloody Sunday'. The other Judges were John Toohey QC, a Justice of the High Court of Australia with an excellent reputation for his work on Aboriginal issues (he replaced New Zealander Sir Edward Somers QC, who retired from the Inquiry in 2000 for personal reasons), and Mr Justice William Hoyt QC, former Chief Justice of New Brunswick and a member of the Canadian Judicial Council. The hearings were concluded in November 2004, and the report is currently being written. The Saville Inquiry was a far more comprehensive study than the Widgery Tribunal, interviewing a wide range of witnesses, including local residents, soldiers, journalists and politicians. The evidence so far has undermined to some extent the credibility of the original Widgery Tribunal report. Allegations were made that some bodies were placed next to guns and explosives, and other substances (including playing cards) have been found to cause false positives in tests for explosives. Some of the scientists responsible for the original reports to the Widgery Tribunal now dismiss the interpretations that were put on their findings by the Ministry of Defence. Lord Saville has declined to comment on the Widgery report and has made the point that the Saville Inquiry is a judicial inquiry into 'Bloody Sunday', not the Widgery Tribunal.
Evidence given by Martin McGuiness, the deputy leader of Sinn F�in, to the inquiry stated that he was second-in-command of the Derry branch of the Provisional IRA and was present at the march. He did not answer questions about where he had been staying because he said it would compromise the safety of the individuals involved.
Many observers allege that the Ministry of Defence acted in a way to impede the inquiry. Over 1,000 army photographs and original army helicopter video footage were never made available. Additionally, guns used on the day by the soldiers that should have been evidence in the inquiry were destroyed by the MoD. The MoD claimed that all the guns had been destroyed, but some were subsequently recovered in various locations (such as Sierra Leone, Beirut, and Little Rock, Arkansas) despite the obstruction.
By the time the inquiry had retired to write up its findings, it had interviewed over 900 witnesses, over seven years, at a total cost of �155m, making it the biggest investigation in British legal history.
In mid-2005, the play, BLOODY SUNDAY: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry, based on the drama of the Saville inquiry, opened in London, and subsequently travelled to Derry and Dublin . The writer, the journalist Richard Norton-Taylor, distilled four years of evidence into two hours of stage performance by Tricycle Theatre . The play received glowing reviews in all the British broadsheets, including The Times: "The Tricycle's latest recreation of a major inquiry is its most devastating"; The Daily Telegraph: "I can't praise this enthralling production too highly... exceptionally gripping courtroom drama"; and The Independent: "A necessary triumph".
Impact on Northern Ireland divisions
Bloody Sunday memorial in the Bogside.Despite the controversy, all sides agree that 'Bloody Sunday' marked a major negative turning point in the fortunes of Northern Ireland. Harold Wilson, then the Leader of the Opposition in the Commons, reiterated his belief that a united Ireland was the only possible solution to Northern Ireland's Troubles. William Craig, then Stormont Home Affairs Minister, suggested that the west bank of Derry/Londonderry should be ceded to the Republic of Ireland.
When it arrived in Northern Ireland, the British Army was welcomed by Catholics as a neutral force there to protect them from Protestant mobs, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the B-Specials. After Bloody Sunday many Catholics turned on the British army, seeing it no longer as their protector but as their enemy. Young nationalists became increasingly attracted to violent republican groups. With the Official IRA and Official Sinn F�in having moved away from mainstream Irish nationalism/republicanism towards Marxism, the Provisional IRA began to win the support of newly radicalised, disaffected young people.
In the following twenty years, the Provisional Irish Republican Army and other smaller republican groups such as the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) mounted an armed campaign against the British, by which they meant the RUC, the British Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) of the British Army (and, according to their critics, the Protestant and unionist establishment). With rival paramilitary organisations appearing in both the nationalist/republican and unionist/loyalist communities (the Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), etc on the loyalist side), a bitter and brutal war took place that cost the lives of thousands. Terrorist outrages involved such acts as the killing of three members of a Catholic pop band, the Miami Showband, by a gang including members of the UVF who were also members of the local army regiment, the UDR, and in uniform at the time, and the killing by the Provisionals of Second World War veterans and their families attending a war wreath laying in Enniskillen.
With the official cessation of violence by some of the major paramilitary organisations and the creation of the power-sharing executive at Stormont in Belfast under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the Saville Tribunal's re-examination of what remains one of the darkest days in Ireland for the British army, offers a chance to heal the wounds left by the notorious events of Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday mural in DerryThe incident has been commemorated by U2 in their 1983 protest song "Sunday Bloody Sunday". The song.
The John Lennon album Sometime In New York City features a song  titled "Sunday Bloody Sunday", inspired by the incident, as well as the song The Luck Of The Irish , which dealt more with the Irish conflict in general. (Lennon was of Irish descent.)
Paul McCartney (also of Irish descent) issued a single shortly after Bloody Sunday titled "Give Ireland Back To The Irish" , expressing his views on the matter. It was one of few McCartney solo songs to be banned by the BBC.
The Celtic metal band Cruachan also addressed the song in the song Bloody Sunday.
The events of the day have also been dramatized in the two 2002 films, Bloody Sunday (starring James Nesbitt) and Sunday by Jimmy McGovern. Their portrayal of events is much closer to the opinion of the protestors and media witnesses than the official explanation of events offered by the British Army.