Why we all should mark 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday

One of the Bloody Sunday memorials to the 14 killed by British troops. Image in public domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.Bloody Sunday is mainly remembered by Americans because of the music: U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” still plays on the radio and is likely to be heard repeatedly this week, because a new documentary on U2 has just been released called U2: From The Sky Down in Blu-ray and DVD. (Care to read more about Bono, U2 and peacemaking movements? Check out Blessed Are the Peacemakers, by Daniel Buttry, which includes an inspiring profile of Bono.)

Of course, Bono and U2 weren’t the only musicians to enshrine the outrage over the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings in popular music. As our own Holidays column about Blood Sunday notes: John Lennon penned his own version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” for the album “Some Time in New York City.” Paul McCartney’s single, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” took up the cause as well and was banned by the BBC.

The 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday is still close enough to the tragic event that lots of fresh analysis is springing up in news media.

Background on what happened 40 years ago: On January 30, 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland, a peaceful and unarmed march for the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association—banned by British forces—was met with withering gunfire by soldiers of the British Army. Fourteen men died from the hail of bullets. Another dozen were seriously injured. British officials spent many years defending their troops by spinning what eventually turned out to be lies about the incident.


The Irish Times newspaper in Dublin once was considered a firebrand for uniting Ireland but, today, is regarded around the world more as an important newspaper of record in the Republic of Ireland. A column in the Times marking the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday is headlined: “Bloody Sunday Helped Reconcile Southern Nationalists to Partition.” The Times points out that, forty years ago, the global reaction to the killings amounted to a fresh tidal wave of anti-British sentiment. The Times’ analysis concludes, however, that ultimately the shock, and an immediate upswing in violence following Bloody Sunday, pushed the South to accept separation.

In part, the Times’ story says: “The North had seemed as never before to have become a visceral reality in the South. But literally within days, alarmed at the appalling vista suddenly revealed in the mood and scale and class composition of the demonstrations, in the burning of the embassy and the strut in the step of republican paramilitaries, the main parties of nationalism emotionally and intellectually disengaged from the North and resolved to come down hard on any elements that in the name of the North dared challenge the integrity of the Southern State. The main effect of Bloody Sunday on nationalism in the South was to reconcile it to partition.”


Scene from the video report, below. Tereshchuk is at far right at the Derry memorial to Bloody Sunday.You may ask: If you’re not British or Irish—or a fan of a rock band that sang about it—why should we care, given a relatively small loss of life that day?

Our answer: Because there are multiple Bloody Sundays. We should take a moment to learn and remember essential lessons from 1972, 1905, 1965 and in other such “Sunday” tragedies. One of the most crucial Bloody Sundays was in 1905, when peaceful protesters in Russia were gunned down by the tsar’s soldiers. That tragedy was one trigger that eventually led to the 1917 Russian Revolution. Another infamous Bloody Sunday struck in 1965 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama. Leading that civil rights march was John Lewis (now a U.S. Congressman and a figure profiled in Blessed Are the Peacemakers). The savagery of police attacks on the nonviolent marchers at the bridge horrified the nation and electrified the civil rights movement coast to coast.


David Tereshchuk, a veteran TV and newspaper reporter from the UK who has been writing about news media online since 2004, witnessed the incident 40 years ago and has written a fascinating column about the history of deception by British officials after the killings. Headlined “Reporting the Massacre—and Beating the Lies,” Tereschuk tells the story of journalists’ courageous contributions to the truth.

How close was Tereshcuk to the tragedy? He writes in part: “That chilly afternoon in 1972 I took cover behind a rubble barricade in the Bogside district of Londonderry while members of the British Army’s crack Parachute Regiment fired a total of 108 high-velocity rounds that killed 13 members of a demonstrating crowd instantly, and injured more than a dozen others, one of whom died within a few months. Four of the dead, all under 21 years of age, were killed within 40 feet of me.”

In a short video clip, Tereshchuk revisits the site of the massacre and talks about his memories with a colleague. The clip is a vivid reminder of how deeply these events continue to affect people. Even though he has had years of tough assignments around the world, Tereshchuk talks emotionally toward the end of this clip about how scarred he remains from that day.

Watch the video in the screen below. Just click on the screen to start the video. if you don’t see a video screen in your version of this story, you also can jump to YouTube and watch the video there.

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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