The painful memory of a massacre that shook not only the UK but most of the world when it occurred in Northern Ireland remains alive despite the passage of 50 years.
The infamous killings of 14 civil rights marchers by Britain’s elite parachute regiment on Jan. 30, 1972, is known as Bloody Sunday.
The massacre took place in the northwestern city of Londonderry — known as Derry by its majority Irish nationalist population.
Anger about Bloody Sunday spear across the world as it was recorded by television crews and generated a wave of new recruits for a resurgent Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The killings accelerated Northern Ireland’s descent into conflict between the British government and pro-British paramilitaries on one side and Irish Republicans and nationalists on the other.
A witness to what had happened is Jim Duddy, brother of one of the youngest victims, John Duddy who was 17 years old when paratroopers shot him dead in the car park of Rossville Flats.
Duddy told Anadolu Agency he can “remember the day as if it was yesterday since I was on that march as a 14-year-old.”
“I spoke to my brother minutes before the parachute regiment entered the estates of the Bogside. But we split up and then moments after my big brother was laying dead.”
He said none of the shooters were ever brought to justice and justice did not prevail on Bloody Sunday but for other massacres across Northern Ireland.
He said the families of the victims will keep trying to achieve justice.
“For hundreds and hundreds of families, … we have never been treated equally,” he said.
“I’m standing here now talking to you, on the 50th anniversary. If I or other family members didn’t believe that we could achieve it, we wouldn’t be doing it. We have to try. We became their voices. They can’t speak for themselves.”
The massacre “acted as an accelerant to the conflict in Ireland,” according to an Irish nationalist lawmaker, one of Sinn Fein’s seven absent MPs in Westminster, who traditionally reject taking their seats.
John Finucane said the massacre “made the situation much worse whenever 14 innocent people who are at a peaceful protest were shot dead.”
“And I think what combines that is the lack of justice there afterwards, the British government covered it up.
They blacken the names of the dead they blacken the names of those who were in Derry that day,” he said. “And I think that had a lasting impact on society, not just in Derry but right across Ireland.”
The UK government initially claimed the soldiers were responding to gunfire from nearby buildings — a finding that was supported by an early investigation called the Widgery Report.
But after years of pressure from victims’ families, the 12-year Bloody Sunday Inquiry, also known as the Saville Inquiry, later found that the victims had not posed a threat to soldiers.
In June 2010, then-Prime Minister David Cameron issued an official apology for the killings on behalf of his government, confirming that those killed were innocent victims.
He said the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable.”
The 1998 Belfast peace deal — dubbed the Good Friday agreement — largely saw the end of the Troubles-era violence where more than 3,500 people lost their lives.
The 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday is remembered in Londonderry and other corners of Northern Ireland and the UK with special events throughout the week.
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