|From left to right: Jackie Duddy
(17), Paddy Doherty (31), Bernard McGuigan (41), Hugh Gilmore (17),
Kevin McElhinney (17), Michael McDaid (20), William Nash (19), John
Young (17), Michael Kelly (17), Jim Wray (22), Gerard Donaghy (17),
Gerard McKinney (35), William McKinney (26), Hugh Johnson (61).
|Bloody Sunday History
by Niall Fennessy, Irish Freedom
“The victims suffered the double injustice of being unlawfully killed and having their reputations sullied for the purpose of exculpating the actions of those responsible for their deaths.”
-Bloody Sunday And The Report of The Widgery Tribunal: The Irish Government’s Assessment of the New Material, Dublin 1997
On January 30 1972 in Derry, Ireland over two dozen civil rights marchers were shot by British soldiers from 1Para Regiment. Fourteen of those died. All of the dead were unarmed; five were shot in the back. Most were shot fleeing the soldiers and several were killed while trying to assist the wounded. One man was shot and killed while assisting a victim and waving a white handkerchief; another killed with his arms raised in a surrender position.
British authorities cited the illegality of the march, and claimed their soldiers had been attacked by Irish Republican forces fighting Britain’s occupation of the six northern counties in Ireland. Major Hurbert O’Neill, coroner of those killed, later issued a statement:
“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. It was murder.”
The march had been organized by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, a group founded on the principles of disbanding the notorious B Specials paramilitary police force, ending discrimination in government employment, ending aggressive gerry-mandering of electoral districts to perpetuate Unionist control in Nationalist communities, ending discriminatory housing policies, and a repeal of the Special Powers Acts. NICRA had sought out, and received, assurances from the Irish Republican Army that they would have no presence in the area. A number of shots which the British attributed to IRA gunmen are now believed to have come from the British Army itself in an attempt top draw out Nationalist gunmen. As eyewitness Don Mullan wrote:
“The expected IRA reaction did not materialize as seemingly anticipated by British military strategists. General confusion reigned… When Paras moved into Rossville Street twenty minutes later the fusillade of bombs and bullets they later claimed they encountered simply did not occur.”
Immediately after the killings a Tribunal was set up under the Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Widgery. The Widgery Tribunal issued a report within eleven weeks supporting the Army account of soldiers having come under heavy and sustained gunfire and petrol attacks despite that no soldier was killed or wounded, nor were bombs, guns or gunmen discovered, captured or killed. This report, praising the reaction of the British soldiers under the circumstances, was condemned as a British government whitewash.
In 1997 the government of the Irish Republic released a report on the Widgery Tribunal in light of the availability of evidence not before released. In this report the Irish government urged that a new independent tribunal be established such that Widgery’s “poisonous legacy can be set aside”. The report states:
“The Bloody Sunday relatives believe that the report of Lord Widgery was a deliberately incomplete and willfully misleading official version of events designed for the sole purpose of exculpating the actions of the British Army”.
“Lord Widgery’s claim that the soldiers escaped injury by reason of superior field-craft and training is difficult to sustain. Since no gunmen were discovered amongst the dead, the wounded, or the arrested, did these civilian gunmen also possess superior field-craft and training in managing to avoid all the aimed shots of the paratroopers? Were the paratroopers superior merely to the civilians who were killed and injured? This (…is revealed) to be close to fiction; it purports to describe an event that never happened- an intense exchange of gunfire between 1Para and gunmen operating amongst innocent civilians.”
Further eyewitness statements recorded by author and eyewitness Don Mullan recorded another fact totally ignored by the Widgery Tribunal –at least three of the dead youths were killed by snipers firing from Derry’s city walls, snipers using high-power weapons who came to the peaceful march prepared to pick and chose targets for assassination.
Forced by growing public pressure, in January of 1998 a new, more comprehensive tribunal was ordered. The new Saville Inquiry investigation interviewed some 2500 people, with oral evidence taken from over 900 of those over the course of our years. In August of 2005 the tribunal retired and is expected to release its findings sometime in late 2007 at the earliest.
Days before the start of the Saville Inquiry it emerged that the British Army had destroyed weapons used on Bloody Sunday, preventing investigations into Major-General Robert Ford's controversial memo three weeks before Bloody Sunday calling for modified rifles to "shoot selected ringleaders" at the civil rights march. Other British Army evidence, including over 1,000 army photographs and original army helicopter video footage, has never been made available for investigations.
· Eyewitness Bloody
Sunday, Don Mullan, Wolfhound Press, Dublin 1997
· Bloody Sunday And The Report of The Widgery
Tribunal: The Irish Government’s Assessment of the New Material, Dublin 1997
· Rifles destroyed 'to foil Bloody Sunday
inquiry' –J. Mullin and R. Norton-Taylor, Tuesday March 14, 2000, The Guardian
· Shoot to kill - army general's plan before Bloody Sunday - John Mullin, Monday March 13, 2000, The Guardian