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Elizabeth Edwards
Upper Sixth
West Town

Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday

Sunday occurred 40 years ago, as of the 30th of January 2012. For those of you who don’t know what happened, it involved the death of 13 unarmed civil rights protesters in Derry, Northern Ireland and the injury of thirteen more, all at the hands of the British Army. The deaths of those involved shocked the nation; many were teenagers, who were shot in the back whilst trying to escape or help those already injured.

The incident happened during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) march in which around 10,000 people were protesting against the internment law (people being imprisoned without trial). NICRA began in the 1960s and was attempting to publicise the civil rights of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland as well as to reform many unreasonable governmental policies such as housing, employment discrimination and unfair electoral procedures. It had five demands:

  • One man, one vote which meant the extension of the local government from tax payers to all those over 21.
  • An end to gerrymandering which meant that Unionists were elected even in districts with Catholic majorities.
    – Gerrymandering is the manipulation of geographic boundaries in a constituency to establish a political advantage for a party.
    – The Unionists were those who supported the union between Northern Ireland and Britain.
  • An end to discrimination in housing.
  • An end to discrimination in jobs.
  • The disbandment of the B-Specials, the Ulster Special Constabulary, a Police squad that many Catholics and Nationalists viewed with mistrust because the members were all Protestant or Unionist.

On the day of the protest, the Army barricaded protesters from the city centre and in response they threw stones at the soldiers. The Army then deployed rubber bullets, tear gas and a water cannon in an attempt to defuse any violence. A unit of the First Battalion Parachute Regiment was then given orders to arrest as many marchers as possible and by 4.10pm the shooting begins.

The atrocities of Bloody Sunday caused a serious rift between the Northern Irish nationalists and Britain, marking the end of the non-violent campaign for civil rights in Northern Ireland. In Dublin, a crowd of protesters burnt the British Embassy and young people who had no previous political opinion joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Two months later the Stormont Parliament which had been in power since the 1920s and had banned any political protests was suspended and direct rule from London was enforced. An investigation called the Widgery Tribunal was held immediately which cleared the British Army and authorities of all accusations; however the soldiers’ shootings were described as “bordering on the reckless”.

However in 1988, the events of 1972 were reinvestigated by Lord Saville of Newdigate. The Saville Inquiry took 12 years and indicated that “all of those shot were unarmed and that the killings were both unjustified and unjustifiable” thus potentially leading to criminal investigations of some of the soldiers involved in the shootings. Finally in June 2010, David Cameron gave a formal apology on behalf of the United Kingdom for the despicable events that occurred 40 years before.

9 February 2012

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