On January 30, 1972, in Derry, the British army fired on its citizens, opening fire on a peaceful march. This tragic day resulted in 14 dead, coldly executed. 50 years later, the massacre has forever marked the history of Northern Ireland.
It is one of the darkest pages of the Northern Irish conflict. Fifty years ago, thirteen Catholics from Derry (Londonderry for Protestants) were killed by British soldiers. One more demonstrator died of gunshot wounds a few weeks later. For years, this massacre of January 30, 1972, has remained a raw wound, and a brutal proof of British rule in Northern Ireland.
The fourteen victims, including a seven 17-year-old teenager, were part of a crowd of more than 10,000 demonstrators. All were responding to the call of a march for equality by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (Nicra), created in 1968, in the image of Martin Luther King’s movement and the American black pacifists.
In Derry, a poor city bisected by the River Foyle, social and political segregation is very real. The centuries-old denominational division between Catholics and Protestants intersects with other beliefs, depending on whether you are a republican and nationalist (supporter of a united Ireland) for the former, or a unionist and loyalist (loyal to the English crown) for the latter.
In spite of the attempts of negotiation of the organizer Ivan Cooper, the demonstration was declared illegal by the English authorities to prevent the procession from reaching the Guildhall, General Robert Ford, commander of the British armed forces in Northern Ireland, makes erect barricades, thus isolating the city center, and asks for the reinforcement of the First Battalion of the parachute regiment.
Some confusion reigned among the demonstrators as to which route to take and tension is mounting with the police; insults and various projectiles flew over the soldiers guarding the barricade. It was a little after 4 p.m. when the first victims collapsed on William Street, injured by rifle fire from the first parachute battalion. The army fired live ammunition. They was a heavy toll of victims.
This week the 50th anniversary will take an important place in Northern Ireland.
Tony Doherty, published author of trilogy of Derry & prison memoirs, will be present at the Museum of Free Derry and Bloody Sunday Memorial : « It is going to take place over this week. We are waiting of a lot of people this week end. Because we think that the new generation is still interested by the bloody sunday which is very impacting moment of the country. The museum will propose some exhibitions and animations that will recall this tragic event. The old population is more marked but they pass on the story to their children. »
An observation shared by Emma Bell, a professor of British civilization in the University of Savoie Mont-Blanc she thinks that « the new generation lives with the Bloody Sunday, each year the date is ticked in the calendar of all northern irish families.»
In 2009 the band U2 released a song entitled Sunday Bloody Sunday, a classic since that capsizes the hearts of the Irish north and the whole world.
Music link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM4vblG6BVQ
The list of 13 persons, from 17 to 41 years old, lost their lives in this massacre of innocents during this Bloody Sunday
Jack Duddy, 17 years old, killed while running across Rossville Street.
Michael Kelly, 17 years old, was shot in the stomach and died soon after.
James Wray, 22, was wounded while crossing Glenfada Park and shot at close range.
Gerald McKinney, 35, was shot in the chest while walking to the soldiers with his hands raised in Glenfada Park.
William McKinney, 26, killed while rescuing Gerald MacKinney.
Gerald Donaghey, 17, shot in the abdomen, died on the way to hospital.
John Young, 17, shot in the head.
Michael McDaid, 20 years old, same fate as John Young at the same location.
William Nash, 19, shot in the chest while rescuing a wounded man.
Patrick Doherty, 31 years old, shot in the back and died instantly.
Bernard McGuigan, 41, shot in the head as he went to help Doherty waving a white handkerchief