AP front 1 - 2022

7 February 2002 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

40,000 mark 30th anniversary of Bloody Sunday


Ignoring the freezing rain and bitter wind on Sunday, some 40,000 people, from all over Ireland and the rest of the world, retraced the steps of the thousands who marched against internment and for civil rights in January 1972, winding their way down from Creggan to Free Derry Corner.

Like that day 30 years ago, the mood up at the Creggan shops, despite the atrocious weather, was one of good-natured optimism. Unlike that day, it did not end in slaughter; instead, it was the greatest public affirmation yet of what the people of the city have always known; that those shot down by the Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday were innocent.

At Free Derry Corner the huge rally was addressed by Geraldine Doherty, niece of Gerald Donaghy, who was just 17 years old when he was killed; Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly; Alex Attwood of the SDLP; and veteran civil rights campaigner Eamon McCann.

Gerry Kelly told the rally that Bloody Sunday was the "line in the sand" which was drawn after a series of other incidents when nationalists were savagely attacked and murdered by the forces of the British state.

"My generation was probably really the first television generation," he said. "I witnessed the events in Derry in October 1968 on television; I witnessed the attacks at Burntollet Bridge. In August 1969 I came through Derry just after the onslaught on the Bogside by loyalists, the RUC and B-Specials. It then spread to Belfast. State forces fired indiscriminately into Catholic areas from armoured cars. I remember the Falls curfew in 1970 and the internment raids and deaths of August 1971. Like Bishop Daly, another brave priest, Father Mullan, went to the aid of a wounded man on the edge of Ballymurphy where I was brought up. Father Mullan was shot dead - as were many others in the area."

He continued: "The reason I recount this is because I think it is important to realise that Bloody Sunday was not an isolated incident or action. But it was a line in the sand, not just for me but arguably for a whole generation of youth. I have heard innumerable commentators over the years saying that Bloody Sunday was a recruiting sergeant for the IRA as if that was the only problem with it - not the fact that 13 innocent unarmed civilians were massacred that day. I joined the IRA within days, as did many others.

"I was a proud IRA man, but to simply describe those events as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA is to grossly underestimate the psychological effect of Bloody Sunday. It was, in fact, a massacre waiting to happen. During the early '70s, the Paras were the British government's military cutting edge. Between internment in August 1971 and the following August, the British army killed 89 people; the Paras were responsible for killing 40 of these people. Since 1969, the British Army has killed 339 people, the overwhelming majority of them nationalists."

The British government not only permitted their troops to kill innocent civilians, he said, they actively encouraged them to do so. "And these troops did so in the clear knowledge that they had immunity. They had a licence to kill.

"Let us be clear about this; the violence visited on you 30 years ago was not mindless, was not irrational, was not spontaneous, nor the actions of an individual commander in the British Army. The killing of civilians was well thought out. The violence was methodical and was politically approved at the highest level."

Its purpose, he went on, was to terrorise the nationalist and republican population. "It was designed to intimidate us, not only off the streets, but to abandon our quest for civil rights and for national rights. It was aimed at forcing us to stay indoors, to peek from behind curtains, to run for cover in the face of injustice. That was what the British government did all over its empire and that is what they tried to do here."

Geraldine Doherty told the rally that to the families of those who were killed and wounded, Bloody Sunday is not history. "It is real every day of our lives.

"For us it is the remembrance of a loved one, or the regret of a life forever changed, in the streets we walk down, in the murals we see, in the faces of our friends and neighbours and in the Guildhall, where we seek truth and justice. We live with what we have lost."

Doherty spoke in turn about each of the fourteen victims and paid tribute to those who were injured; Alana Burke, Michael Quinn, Joe Friel, Damien Donaghy, Daniel Gillespie, Michael Bridge, Patrick O'Donnell, Michael Bradley, Joe Mahon, Patsy McDaid and Danny McGowan.

"Their courage and determination to continue to strive for the truth and justice are a source of strength to us all" she said. "We celebrate the memory of Alexander Nash, Patrick Campbell and Peggy Deery who were wounded on Bloody Sunday and have since died. It is our deepest regret that they did not live to see this campaign through to its conclusion".

She spoke about the families' hopes for the Saville inquiry, but added that it was difficult to maintain that hope when the inquiry is continually undermined, citing in particular the granting of anonymity to former members of the Parachute Regiment and the decision of the High Court that they can give their evidence in London rather than in Derry.

"It appears that efforts are being made to have the families withdraw their support for the inquiry and cause it to collapse," she said. "The Ministry of Defence supplies the security assessments on which decisions on venues are taken, but they cannot provide this in an impartial manner when they are responsible for the soldiers whose actions caused the deaths of so many. They continually refuse to acknowledge their role in Bloody Sunday."

And referring to those amongst Unionists and within the British conservative party and media who have continually criticised the cost of the inquiry, she said:

"To those who so strenuously oppose the inquiry we say; what happened here was different. Innocent people were murdered by the state - the state to which our critics swear allegiance - and yet no criminal investigation ever took place. Yes, we acknowledge the loss and pain felt by the families of all victims of the conflict. We ask that you acknowledge ours and recognise the face that this inquiry would not be necessary had the British government at the highest level told the truth 30 years ago and acknowledged the innocence of our loved ones.

"Secretary of State John Reid says we have to draw a line under the past. We have campaigned for many years for a new inquiry that will help us to do that. But the responsibility also lies with the British government to ensure that we can achieve truth, justice and healing."


Australia remembers Bloody Sunday

More than 200 people attended a 30th anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday at Sydney's Gaelic Club on 27 January, organised by Australian Aid for Ireland. The turnout was all the more impressive given that it was held on a beautiful sunny Sunday long weekend.

As part of the commemoration evening, Bishop David Cremin, assisted by four Irish-born priests, celebrated a Memorial Mass. In his address, Bishop Cremin paid tribute to the families of those murdered in Derry and their campaign for justice. He called on the British Government to ensure that the full truth about the massacre is finally acknowledged.

Among those who attended were some who had taken part in a huge march in Sydney to protest the Bloody Sunday murders 30 years ago. Shay O'Hara, a member of AAI, recalled that it was the biggest march within the Irish community for 50 years.

Those who attended the commemoration evening were invited back the following week for a screening of Jimmy McGovern's docodrama, Sunday. Over 100 people attended. About $1,400 was raised in collections at both events to be passed on to the Bloody Sunday Centre in Derry so the families and friends of those killed know they still have the support of hundreds of people living more than 20,000 kms away in Sydney.



Bloody Sunday on film - McGovern speaks


The renewed interest of the wider world in the Bloody Sunday issue, aroused partly by the ongoing Saville Inquiry and by the recent showing of both Jimmy McGovern's 'Sunday' and Paul Greengrass' 'Bloody Sunday', was evident at all the events held over the commemorative weekend, but most particularly at the packed out Gasyard Centre on Saturday afternoon.

Dave Duggan chaired 'Writing Wrongs - Sunday', a public forum which explored the making of the McGovern's film. The panel included Maura Young, around whose family's story the film's narrative is constructed, co-producers Stephen Gargan, Jim Keys of Gaslight Production and Gub Neal of Box TV, and Jimmy McGovern himself.

Stephen Gargan began by explaining how he and co-producer Jim Keys began to formulate the idea of making a film of Bloody Sunday, using McGovern's docu-drama 'Hillsborough' as a model. McGovern was invited, informally, to the Bloody Sunday weekend in 1998, when the tentative idea that he should write the script was put to him.

Although initially reluctant, when McGovern agreed he and the producers then set about a careful process of consultation with the families of those killed and with the surviving wounded. McGovern said that for him "the main thing was that we got the process right. I think it's wrong just to come over here and pick people's brains, explore people's hearts and then piss off. So we were all determined that we would get the process right.

"I'm proud of the film, but I'm even more proud of the process we went through to get the film. It was a case of going into people's houses - and it was great for me because I have a stammer, and I'd walk into people's houses and just start stammering, and Irish people would just give me everything. I just listened and listened and then I went away and wrote the story."

Maura Young told the audience that the reason the families had co-operated so fully with the making of the film was because they needed to have their story told. "It's easy to sit and read," she said "but when somebody puts it on film as well as Jimmy and all of them have, it brings it a bit more closer to home."

During the question and answer session, McGovern was asked whether making the film had affected his own sense of national identity. He said that travelling to and from Derry whilst researching, writing had given him "a profound insight".

"As I was coming over here I was thinking it's so unfair; the Irish are patriotic and it's easy to be patriotic if you've been victimised and shat upon for thousands of years. But when you are a son of the imperial power, how difficult is it to be patriotic then?

"And yet I found that I loved my country. So that made me think; I'm here amongst Irish people and we have slaughtered, murdered Irish people and yet I love my country. Why? Then I realised it's because my wife and kids are there, all my family are there, all my friends, everything I value is in England. So I instinctively love my country. And that made me think, the question I must ask is; how can my country make itself worthy of my love? Then you demand great things of your country - truth and justice overwhelmingly. I thought that's what patriotism is all about - it's being eternally vigilant and critical of your own country, especially if it's and imperial power with all that history behind it. That was a revelation to me. I would never have got that without coming over to Ireland for four years."

Speaking to An Phoblacht afterwards, co-producer Stephen Gargan spoke more about the way in which McGovern had come to write the story of Bloody Sunday and about the close involvement in the families. It was, he says, an almost "organic" process.

As part of the Gasyard Féile, he says he wanted Jimmy to "actually come and talk about his writing, and to talk about his depiction of Irish characters in things like Cracker. His characters always seemed to have a little more depth than your average character.

"So I met him in Belfast and we just started to talk about Hillsborough and the notion of doing something on Bloody Sunday emerged because the Hillsborough experience was really about engaging with the relatives' story, speaking to the relatives, and then the story emerged out of that.

"Then we invited him to Derry for the commemorative weekend in 1998. At that weekend it started coming a bit more into focus." During this process, both he and McGovern, says Stephen, learned an incredible amount. "You think you know something," he says, "but when you actually speak to people who have experienced particular aspects of what happened on the day, it's only than that you really start to assemble the picture - like in a sense what Saville is doing."

"When Jimmy came in he was more focused on the notion that individual soldiers or the Parachute Regiment was the problem. He came away realising that, certainly the soldiers pulled the trigger and they have to be accountable for their actions, but ultimately they were just a tool of the British government and by the end of the process he was more firmly of the belief that the responsibility should be put at the door of Number Ten Downing Street rather than with the Parachute Regiment."

In respect of the soldiers themselves, one thing the filmmakers also wanted to address, says Gargan was "the fascination for a lot of people: who are these people? What's the mindset of an individual that he can come into an area and do what he does? That's a very interesting story in itself, another aspect of Bloody Sunday."

Although the researchers did not speak to any of the Parachute Regiment members involved with the Saville inquiry, they did speak to members of the first and second battalion of the Paras and members of other regiments, like the Royal Green Jackets.

"That research was very good in terms of getting some insight to the mindset," says Stephen, particularly "the deep racism, the regimental rivalry and how the Paras see other regiments - they call them 'crap hats'. When people say that Bloody Sunday was chaotic, that it was confusing and the Paras didn't really know what was going on, well it was very important to nail that nonsense really, because they are a crack, elite regiment who were put together for a very particular job. They're killers, executioners; they're not a police service. They were brought from Belfast for a very particular job and they were busted out again the next day. The idea that they came into Derry and let's say for argument's sake that there were some shots fired at them, that they were somehow confused - it's a nonsense."

Stephen points out the irony that the Rossville area has now been refurbished but the area of Manchester where the killing scenes were shot are still at the same level of deprivation as they were in the 1970s. "These people in England are living in worse conditions, but they were brilliant."


Insulting Derry banner

It is suspected that this insulting banner taken from the Derry Walls last weekend may have been put there by off duty British paratroopers stationed in Ballykelly's Shackleton Barracks in County Derry, a few miles from Derry City

According to John Kelly of the Bloody Sunday campaign, whose brother Michael was killed on Bloody Sunday, "the use of the term Paddys suggested some sort of British involvement. It would be in the interests of British soldiers to antagonise the thousands of people attending the march."

The spot were the banner was draped is close to a British Army barracks on Derry's Walls and would be under surveillance from cameras and watchtowers.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1