By: Gleann Doherty, Bogside History Tours.
Bloody Sunday January 30th 1972 changed the course of Irish history when it occurred on the streets of the Bogside, Derry. On that day the 1st battalion of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on a peaceful civil rights march killing 14 civilians in 15 minutes. The British Army claimed that they shot gunmen and bombers. This claim was always denied by the relatives of those murdered and the people of Derry and indeed they were proved innocent by the Saville report on the events of Bloody Sunday.
The Bloody Sunday civil rights march in Derry City was organised to demand that Irish Catholics were given equal rights in the northern state. These rights were not extortionate demands for independence for Ireland but three simple demands. A right to a fair vote, fair job and proper housing would hardly be deemed revolutionary. At that time, the local government franchise was limited to owners of dwellings and their spouses – this provision meant that about a quarter of adults (many Catholic) had no vote. Everything in this northern state was done along sectarian lines and this was the reason for the Civil Rights Association coming into being in 1967. The Civil Rights Association would be seen as a challenge to the status quo of the Protestant run six county state.
Bloody Sunday was the British Government’s response to citizens’ demands for basic civil rights. On that day in January the British army put down what it saw as a people’s revolt and in doing so it also killed off the Civil Rights Association, an organisation that used peaceful means to achieve its aims. The Bloody Sunday massacre would act as a recruitment officer for the Provisional Irish Republican Army, whose numbers rose dramatically in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday. Of the 14 people killed that day, six of them were 17 year old boys with the vast majority of the victims being shot in the back as they fled from the British Army assault. Patrick Joseph Doherty was present at the march and was aged only 31 when he was shot in the back by soldier F as he attempted to crawl to safety, just below block 2 of the Rossville flats in Derry’s Bogside. Patrick Joseph Doherty was the father of six children of which I was the youngest at 8 months old.
The first tribunal into the massacre exonerated the British Army for any wrong doing and blamed the victims. The highest Judge in Britain, Lord Widgery carried out this tribunal, which is known now throughout the world as the white-wash, because that is exactly what it did. The second tribunal into the massacre was carried out by Lord Saville and after taking about twelve years from start to finish, it found the opposite of the Widgery Report. Lord Saville would find that there was no set of circumstances that would justify one of the killings never mind fourteen. This report was published on the 15th June 2010 at Derry’s Guildhall in front of thousands of friends and supporters. This report was followed up by a full public apology by the British Prime Minister David Cameron live from the British House of Commons.
Bogside History Tours was set up in April 2013 to offer visitors to Derry the authentic and detailed account of the day of Bloody Sunday its aftermath and both inquiries. My brother Paul originally set up Bogside History Tours and when I graduated with degree in Irish History and Politics in May I began doing the Bloody Sunday tour as well. This tour is not just about the Bloody Sunday massacre: it is about when the truth was set free it allowed the people of Derry and indeed Ireland to embrace a brighter future and a new beginning.
The tour costs £5 per adult, leaves from the Guildhall, and can be done by taxi or on foot. For details contact Paul on +44 (0) 77 3145 0088 or go to the website Bogside History Tours