Bloody Sunday: An apology almost 40 years in the making

I wrote this in June of 2010, not long after the published apology from Britain. It was a hard time in those days, and the events and the handling of those events have only made the chasm wider over the years. This apology, I think, was a good first step in the right direction for both countries to come to a peaceable impasse. It was however, several years late in the coming. – BS


Bloody Sunday Monument

Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end streets
But I won’t heed the battle call
It puts my back up, puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

U2, Bloody Sunday

January 30, 1972
The Bogside area of Derry, in Northern Ireland.
On one side over 15,000 civil rights protesters against British rule.
On the other, British Para’s, the cream of the British Army.

In the outcome over 27 people shot, and 14 dead.

This was the time of Troubles in Ireland.

“… it is expedient that a Tribunal be established for inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely the events on Sunday 30th January 1972 which led to loss of life in connection with the procession in Londonderry on that day, taking account of any new information relevant to events on that day”

Resolution of the House of Commons, 30th January 1998,
and of the House of Lords, 2nd February 1998

The world has changed since those days. Do not take this apology lightly my peers. Let us not return to those days of Belfast and yon. There need be no violence on this day. The point is made. They have admitted their errs. Use it to your advantage and push, politically, diplomatically for the freedom you have fought for.

But if we’ve learned one thing in these past years, is that bloodshed never washes away bloodshed.

Be better than that.

Be Irish.

A tribute to the victims:

From The Belfast Telegraph

  • Patrick Doherty, 31

Was shot from behind as he attempted to crawl to safety from the forecourt of Rossville flats. He died at the scene after being hit with a single round that entered his body through the right buttock and exited his left chest. While the soldier who fired at him initially claimed he had been armed with a pistol, a photograph of Mr Doherty taken moments before he was hit showed no evidence of a firearm.

  • Gerald Donaghey, 17

Was running between Glenfada Park and Abbey Park when he was shot in the abdomen. The teenager, who the IRA later claimed was a member of its IRA youth wing, was carried to the house of local man Raymond Rogan where he was examined by a doctor.

Mr Rogan and another man then attempted to drive the teenager to the city’s Altnagelvin hospital. However, they were stopped at a military checkpoint and ordered to abandon the vehicle. At this point a soldier drove Gerald to an army first aid post. He was pronounced dead on arrival.

Intense controversy surrounds what happened next. A police photograph of his clothes showed a number of nail bombs in his pockets, however those who treated the youth, including the army medical officer, said they found nothing in his pockets.

Lord Widgery in the first judicial inquiry rejected claims that the nailbomb was planted. Paddy Ward, a self-proclaimed leader of the IRA youth at the time, told the later Saville Inquiry he had given Gerald two nail bombs in the hours before he was shot.

  • John “Jackie” Duddy, 17

Shot in the chest in the car park of Rossville flats, he was the first to be killed on Bloody Sunday. Witnesses claimed he was unarmed and running away from the scene when he was hit.

  • Hugh Gilmour, 17

Was hit with a single shot was he ran away from the rubble barricade on Rossville Street. A photo taken of the stricken teenager moments after he fell showed no evidence of a weapon and witnesses insisted he was unarmed. A student nurse attempted to treat his wounds but he died at the scene.

  • Michael Kelly, 17

Shot once in the abdomen close to the rubble barricade. He died in the ambulance on the way to hospital. Lord Widgery accepted he was not armed but speculated whether he was standing close to someone who was hit, given the traces of lead particles on his clothes. This theory did not countenance contamination from soldiers who handled his body.

  • Michael McDaid, 20

Died instantly after being shot in the face at the barricade. The downward trajectory of the bullet entry wound led to claims he was shot by soldiers positioned on top of Derry’s historic stone walls, which overlooked the scene.

  • Kevin McElhinney, 17

Was shot from behind as he crawled toward Rossville flats. The bullet entered his right buttock and exited his shoulder. Witnesses, including a Roman Catholic priest, claim he was not armed. When he was hit fellow marchers ran out from the flats and dragged him inside, but he died soon after.

  • Bernard “Barney” McGuigan, 41

Was going to the aid of Patrick Doherty, waving a white handkerchief in his hand, when he was shot in the head with a single round. He died instantly.

Eyewitnesses claimed he was unarmed. Citing lead on his hands, Widgery found that he been been close to someone who had fired. This again ignored the possibility of contamination.

  • Gerard McKinney, 35

Was running close behind Gerald Donaghey in Glenfada Park when the teenager was shot. Witnesses said he then raised his hands and shouted “Don’t shoot!” but moments later was hit in the chest. The bullet passed sideways through his body but did not wound either arm, indicating that his hands were indeed raised at the time.

  • William “Willie” McKinney, 27 (not related to Gerard)

Also shot in Glenfada Park. A keen amateur film-maker he had recorded scenes from the march with his hand held cinecamera before the shooting started. The camera was found in his jacket pocket as he lay dying.

  • William Nash, 19

Struck by a single bullet to the chest close to the rubble barricade. With the trajectory again downward, it is thought he may also have been fired on by a soldier on the walls. Witnesses said he was unarmed, but Widgery found that he had probably been firing a gun. This was again based on lead particles on his left hand.

  • James Wray, 22

Shot twice in Glenfada Park. Two witnesses to the Widgery Tribunal said the second shot was fired at close range while he lay injured on the ground from the first bullet.

  • John Young, 17

Killed instantly with a single shot to the head at the rubble barricade. The bullet hit him in the left eye and travelled downward through his chest, indicating that he may also have been shot from the walls above. Again based on lead particle on his left hand, Widgery found that he had probably fired a gun.

However, two witnesses insisted he was unarmed.

  • John Johnston, 59

Was shot twice from soldiers inside a derelict building in William Street. This incident happened away from the scene of the rest of the shootings and took place around 15 minutes earlier. He survived the day but died six months later.

His family insist his death was linked to the injuries sustained and claim he is the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday.

  • The Injured:

Thirteen other people, excluding Mr Johnston, were injured on the day. They were: Michael Bradley (22), Michael Bridge (25), Alana Burke (18), Patrick Campbell (51), Margaret Deery (31), Damien Donaghy (15), Joseph Friel (22), Danny Gillespie (32), Patrick McDaid (25), Daniel McGowan (38), Joseph Mahon (16), Alexander Nash (51) and Michael Quinn (17).

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