Hundreds of people attended a memorial service in Derry, Northern Ireland today for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
It was shortly after 4.30pm on 30 January 1972 when British paratroopers opened fire on a peaceful Catholic demonstration calling for the withdrawal of British troops and the unification of Northern Ireland with Ireland. Thirteen civil rights activists were killed in the riots that day alone, and another man shot dead by paratroopers the same day died four months later. While many consider him the 14th victim of “Damned Sunday”, his death was officially attributed to a tumor on the head.
Holding portraits of the victims and white roses, hundreds of people, including relatives of the victims, honored their memory by following the exact path they had taken that day that sealed one of the darkest chapters in the country's history.
Also present at the events was the Prime Minister of Ireland, Michael τιν Martin, the first leader of the Republic of Ireland to attend the annual commemoration, who laid a wreath, as was his government's Foreign Minister, Simon Cowney.
The Irish Prime Minister met with relatives of the dead in private. He said he thanked the families for their “dignified, persistent and courageous” campaign for justice, truth and accountability.
“Victims' families should always be at the forefront of political discourse and dealing with the past,” he said. “I do not believe that there should be an amnesty for anyone, I believe that the full process of courts and justice should be applied.”
“It was a street massacre,” said Michael McKinney, whose brother was killed in a '72 protest. “We have come a long way after the horror of that day,” he added, but stressed that families to this day continue to demand “the prosecution of uniformed criminals who killed ours.”
AP Photo / Peter Morrison
A second march through the streets of Derry is scheduled for the afternoon.
It took almost thirty years, until 1998, for the Good Friday Agreements to put an end to the “Riots” that followed, a bloody conflict that claimed the lives of 3,500 people.
The British military said the paratroopers had responded to fire from “terrorists” in the Irish Democratic Army (IRA), a version reinforced by a report hastily drafted in the coming weeks. Despite the contradictory testimonies of this version, it was not until 2010 that it was recognized that the victims were innocent, that some had been shot in the back or on the head while waving white handkerchiefs.
Following the completion of the longest (12 years) and most expensive investigation ever conducted in the United Kingdom (approximately 200 200 million), then-British Prime Minister David Cameron formally apologized for the “unjustified” actions of the military. But no soldier was tried for “Damn Sunday”. The prosecution of one of them on murder charges has finally been dropped for procedural reasons and the British government has introduced a bill to end all the “Riot” persecution – which has been denounced by all as an amnesty. .