The true events on bloody Sunday are concealed beneath contradictions, false statements and biased opinions, the result being that neither side are able to agree on the order of events. The points they do agree on are: That the events took place on Sunday 30th January, 1972. It was a march made up of catholic protesters, to protest against internment, imprisonment where prisoners can be hooded during interrogation, continuous noise and sleep depravation, carried out by the British Army.
The army was stationed in Chamberlain Street and Little James Street to block off the march. 26 barriers were put up in total to contain it within the Bogside. A bullet, from which side is disputed, hit a drainpipe. 13 people were killed and 14 were wounded. The army commander is quoted as saying ‘An arrest force is to be held centrally behind the checkpoints and launched in a scoop up operation to arrest as many hooligans as possible’. Father Bradley, a Catholic priest called the day a ‘massacre’.
Bradley, who witnessed the events, goes on to say ‘I saw no one shooting at troops. If anyone had been, I would have seen it’. These contrasting opinions are the result of hundreds of years of violence, an opposition born of religious, racial and political difference. These differences cause a variation in the way the sides view the events. The Catholics see the day as a peaceful protest; the army say gunmen were asked to leave before the march. The Catholics say they were unarmed; the army say there was a member of the official IRA present.
The doctor even left his equipment in his car, so great was his belief there would be no violence. The Catholics say they were shot at indiscriminately, and that someone was shot whilst surrendering (they can back this up with forensic evidence); the army claim they were fired at, and had petrol bombs and acid thrown at them. The catholic view that the victims were innocent is arguable, even with the forensics. The claims made by the Catholics that have been backed up with forensic evidence can be disputed without making the evidence itself wrong in any way.
For example, the evidence says that Gerald Donaghey’s hands were in the air when he was shot doesn’t necessarily mean he was holding his hands in the air as an act of surrender. He could have been brandishing a firearm or throwing a bomb when he was shot. Also if you were a soldier who had been under months and possibly years of fire and you saw someone throw their arms in the air your reflex action would be to shoot them. Another piece of evidence suggests the army planted a bomb on William Nash because he had lead deposits on his right hand, although he was left-handed.
This too could be disputed, as he may have been holding the bomb in his right hand and a firearm or other bomb in his left hand, or simply held the lead bomb in his other hand without thinking about it. On the other hand forensic evidence is very detailed and precise and is rarely wrong. Either way it shows how difficult it is to give an accurate picture of what happened. The eyewitness accounts can also be disputed, because if you are in a situation where there is a high density of gunfire, your main goal will be to get out of the area as quickly as possible.
It is probable that close up not much was seen at all. A key area is what the army’s intentions were, and how closely the troops followed these orders. The army commander ordered that ‘An arrest force is to be held behind the checkpoints and launched in a scoop-up operation to arrest as many hooligans as possible. ‘ The rioters, after gathering at the barriers, began to protest against the diversion. Stones were thrown (as shown in video footage) and the soldiers were taunted.
The troops went after the rioters who ran away after seeing the support company approach. After the first shot, most likely fired by the IRA from a block of flats (giving way to the possibility of more snipers and gunmen). From the army’s perspective, they were told to expect trouble from an illegal march, when they were shot at and petrol bombed by gun wielding Catholics. From the civilians view, they were on a peaceful march that turned into a massacre of innocent civilians, not gun wielding fiends taking pot shots at the army.
It is very difficult to give an accurate picture of what really happened on Bloody Sunday, shown in the Saville Inquiry, costing i?? 130 million, which has spent years collating statements, physical evidence and expert opinion to create an accurate picture of the events. Most of the evidence is speculation, and largely opinionated so this creates another obstacle blocking the truth. It is hard to know if a witness is reliable, even more so in a situation where the two sides are so bitterly divided.