2007-07-16 20:41:54

by HeNsS
Introduction
The name “Bloody Sunday” describes an incident in Derry, Northern Ireland, on 30 January 1972 in which 26 civil rights protesters were shot by members of the British Army during a protest march. Thirteen people died immediately and one man a few months later due to his injuries. Six of the victims were only 17 years old. Many witnesses including testify that all those shot were unarmed.
Bloody Sunday remains among the most significant events in the troubles of Northern Ireland, mainly because it was carried out by the army and not paramilitaries, and in full public and press view.


Protesters
The Protests on Bloody Sunday were organized by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. This is an organization which fought for civil rights and the acceptance of the catholic minority in the 60s and 70s. The people demonstrated for civil rights and against British influence in Northern Ireland. Due to the hot topic about Northern Irish independence of Great Britain many republicans, nationalists and members of the Irish Republican Army – the IRA – took part on the march. Because the protests should stay peaceful and no actions against them were expected the protesters were unarmed.


British Army
Even though Bloody Sunday took place in Northern Ireland it was the 1st Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment who took action against the protesters. It was usual that the British Army supported the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) during conflicts in the worst years of the conflict


Bloody Sunday
Many details of this day are not official stated which includes the number of marchers. The organisers claimed that there were 30,000 marchers; Lord Widgery, who was in charge of the inquiries and the first report, said that there were only 3,000 to 5,000.
The march's planned route had taken it to the Guildhall, but because of army barricades it was redirected. A small group of teenagers broke off from the main march and continued in pushing the barricade and marching onto the Guildhall. They attacked the barricade with stones and shouted at the troops. At this point, a water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets were used. Such confrontations between soldiers and protesters were common.
Even though observers reported that the rioting was not intense the order to fire live rounds was given. One young man was shot and killed when he and a crowd ran away from the troops. The aggression against the British troops escalated. Despite a cease-fire order from the army HQ, over a hundred rounds were fired directly into the fleeing crowds. Twelve more were killed, many of them as they attempted to aid the fallen. Fourteen others were wounded.
The official army position was that the troopers had reacted to the threat of gunmen and nail-bombs from suspected IRA members. However, all eye-witnesses, including British and Irish journalists, maintain that soldiers fired into an unarmed crowd, or were aiming at fleeing people and those tending the wounded. No British soldier was wounded by gunfire, nor were any bullets or nail-bombs recovered.


Aftermath
Lord Widgery's report supported the Army's version of the events of the day. Among the evidence presented to the tribunal were the results of tests, used to identify traces from firing weapons, and that nail bombs had been found on the body of one of those killed. Most Irish people and witnesses disputed the report's conclusions and regarded it as a whitewash. It is now widely accepted that the nail bombs photographed on one were planted there after his death, and firearms rests on some bodies came from contact with the soldiers who moved some of the bodies.
A second commission of inquiry by Lord Saville, was established in January 1998 to re-examine 'Bloody Sunday'. The Saville Inquiry is a more comprehensive study than the Widgery Tribunal, interviewing a wide range of witnesses, including local residents, soldiers, journalists and politicians. Allegations were made that some bodies were placed next to guns and explosives, and other substances have been found to cause false positives in tests for explosives. Some of the scientists responsible for the original Widgery reports now dismiss the interpretations that were put on their findings by the Ministry of Defence.
Many observers accuse that the Ministry of Defence acted in a way to disturb 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 could have been evidence in the inquiry were lost by the Ministry of Defence.
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.


Affects
All sides agree that 'Bloody Sunday' marked a major negative turning point. 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 having moved away from mainstream Irish nationalism/republicanism towards Marxism, the Provisional IRA began to win the support of newly radicalised young people.
In the following twenty years, the Provisional IRA and other smaller republican groups such as the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) mounted an armed campaign against the British Army in North Ireland. With paramilitary organisations appearing in both the nationalist/republican and unionist/loyalist communities, a brutal war took place that cost the lives of thousands.



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