Bloody Sunday Wounds Still Fresh 30 Years On

July 7, 2008 - 8:10 PM

Belfast (CNSNews.com) - Events commemorating the 30th anniversary of Northern Ireland's Bloody Sunday culminated Sunday, with thousands of people attending a march in Derry.

On Jan. 30, 1972, 13 people taking part in a banned protest march in Derry were killed by the British Army parachute regiment. A 14th person died later from his injuries.

The 1972 march in Derry was one of a series of marches across Northern Ireland. The marchers, mainly Catholics, were protesting discriminatory practices by the Protestant administration, which ensured better jobs, better houses and more votes for Protestants.

The marchers were also protesting the British government's controversial decision to introduce a system of "internment," or detention without trial of suspected paramilitary members.

"Internment" mainly targeted Catholics and proved to be a political disaster for Britain.

Thousands of people observed a minute of silence last Wednesday, at the precise moment 30 years ago when British soldiers opened fire in the Bogside area of Derry. On Sunday, tens of thousands marched through the town, following the route taken by the original march.

Bloody Sunday polarized the Protestant and Catholic communities across the whole of Northern Ireland and led to a mass recruitment by the Irish Republican Army.

Shortly after the incident, the Protestant administration was shut down and power reverted back to the British government. Laws were passed giving Catholics and Protestants equal rights.

One of the main points of controversy over the decades since then has been Britain's decision to send in soldiers from an elite force. Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Fein - the political wing of the IRA - who was a young marcher on Bloody Sunday, said that the people of Derry and the nationalist community in general know where blame lay.

"The British Army were given a job of work to do that day," he said. "Unfortunately, for so many people, they did it."

That point has been vehemently disputed by the British government for 30 years. It has also been disputed by the pro-British, Protestant unionist parties here. Gregory Campbell from the Democratic Unionist Party said that he saw events of Bloody Sunday in a different context.

"There were nine bomb attacks on commercial and military targets, three separate shootings of soldiers, blast bomb attacks, sniper attacks and of course two policemen murdered three days before the march. That is the real context. It was the violence of the IRA which caused Bloody Sunday," he said.

An official inquiry exonerated the soldiers and pointed the finger of blame at the marchers, infuriating the nationalist community. After a long campaign, a new independent inquiry began in 1998 under Lord Saville. The inquiry is currently halfway through its investigation.

Many of those involved in the new inquiry are becoming increasingly frustrated at what they see as continuing attempts by the British courts and Army to undermine it.

For instance, soldiers who were in Derry that day will not have to travel to the town for the inquiry and will not have their identities revealed. Also, most of the guns used that day have been destroyed.

Michael Bradley, who was shot and seriously wounded on Bloody Sunday, said his confidence in the inquiry was ebbing away.

"Lord Saville promised me a fair and impartial inquiry and he has tried his best but the judicial system in England - which should bow to his authority - has constantly overruled him," he said.

Meanwhile the inquiry starts to hear evidence Monday from police officers present in Derry on the day of the shootings. The inquiry then moves to Britain in the fall to hear evidence from the British Army.

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