Commemoration and Bloody Sunday: Pathways of Memory (Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies)

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The Widgery Tribunal , held in the immediate aftermath, largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame.

Differential Memorability and Transnational Activism: Bloody Sunday, 1887-2016

It described the soldiers' shooting as "bordering on the reckless", but accepted their claims that they shot at gunmen and bomb-throwers. The report was widely criticised as a " whitewash ". Following a year inquiry, Saville's report was made public in and concluded that the killings were both "unjustified" and "unjustifiable". It found that all of those shot were unarmed, that none were posing a serious threat, that no bombs were thrown, and that soldiers "knowingly put forward false accounts" to justify their firing.

Bloody Sunday was one of the most significant events of the Troubles because a large number of civilians were killed, by forces of the state, in full view of the public and the press. Support for the Provisional Irish Republican Army IRA rose and there was a surge of recruitment into the organisation, especially locally. The City of Derry was perceived by many Catholics and Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland to be the epitome of what was described as "fifty years of Unionist misrule": despite having a nationalist majority, gerrymandering ensured elections to the City Corporation always returned a unionist majority.

At the same time the city was perceived to be deprived of public investment: motorways were not extended to it, a university was opened in the relatively small Protestant-majority town of Coleraine rather than Derry and, above all, the city's housing stock was in an appalling state. While many Catholics initially welcomed the British Army as a neutral force, in contrast to what was regarded as a sectarian police force, relations between them soon deteriorated.

In response to escalating levels of violence across Northern Ireland, internment without trial was introduced on 9 August IRA activity also increased across Northern Ireland with thirty British soldiers being killed in the remaining months of , in contrast to the ten soldiers killed during the pre-internment period of the year.

Bloody Sunday (1972)

On 22 January , a week before Bloody Sunday, an anti-internment march was held at Magilligan strand, near Derry. The protesters marched to a new internment camp there, but were stopped by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment. When some protesters threw stones and tried to go around the barbed wire, paratroopers drove them back by firing rubber bullets at close range and making baton charges.

The paratroopers badly beat a number of protesters and had to be physically restrained by their own officers. These allegations of brutality by paratroopers were reported widely on television and in the press. Some in the Army also thought there had been undue violence by the paratroopers. The authorities decided to allow it to proceed in the Catholic areas of the city, but to stop it from reaching Guildhall Square , as planned by the organisers. The authorities expected that this would lead to rioting.

He in turn gave orders to Major Ted Loden , who commanded the company who launched the arrest operation. The protesters planned on marching from Bishop's Field, in the Creggan housing estate, to the Guildhall, in the city centre, where they would hold a rally. The march set off at about pm. There were 10,—15, people on the march, with many joining along its route. The march made its way along William Street but, as it neared the city centre, its path was blocked by British Army barriers.

The organisers redirected the march down Rossville Street, intending to hold the rally at Free Derry Corner instead. However, some broke off from the march and began throwing stones at soldiers manning the barriers. The soldiers fired rubber bullets , CS gas and water cannon. Some of the crowd spotted paratroopers occupying a derelict three-story building overlooking William Street, and began throwing stones at the windows.

At about pm, these paratroopers opened fire. Civilians Damien Donaghy and John Johnston were shot and wounded while standing on waste ground opposite the building. These were the first shots fired. At pm, the paratroopers were ordered to go through the barriers and arrest rioters. The paratroopers, on foot and in armoured vehicles, chased people down Rossville Street and into the Bogside. Two people were knocked down by the vehicles. Brigadier MacLellan had ordered that only one company of paratroopers be sent through the barriers, on foot, and that they should not chase people down Rossville Street.

Colonel Wilford disobeyed this order, which meant there was no separation between rioters and peaceful marchers.

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The paratroopers disembarked and began seizing people. There were many claims of paratroopers beating people, clubbing them with rifle butts, firing rubber bullets at them from close range, making threats to kill, and hurling abuse. The Saville Report agreed that soldiers "used excessive force when arresting people […] as well as seriously assaulting them for no good reason while in their custody". There were people at the barricade and some were throwing stones at the soldiers, but none were near enough to hit them. A large group of people fled or were chased into the car park of Rossville Flats.

This area was like a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by high-rise flats. The soldiers opened fire, killing one civilian and wounding six others. Another group of people fled into the car park of Glenfada Park, which was also a courtyard-like area surrounded by flats. Here, the soldiers shot at people across the car park, about 40—50 yards away. Two civilians were killed and at least four others wounded. The soldiers went through the car park and out the other side. Some soldiers went out the southwest corner, where they shot dead two civilians.

The other soldiers went out the southeast corner and shot four more civilians, killing two. About ten minutes had elapsed between the time soldiers drove into the Bogside and the time the last of the civilians was shot.


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Some of those shot were given first aid by civilian volunteers, either on the scene or after being carried into nearby homes. They were then driven to hospital, either in civilian cars or in ambulances. The first ambulances arrived at pm. The three boys killed at the rubble barricade were driven to hospital by the paratroopers.

Witnesses said paratroopers lifted the bodies by the hands and feet and dumped them in the back of their APC, as if they were "pieces of meat". The Saville Report agreed that this is an "accurate description of what happened". It says the paratroopers "might well have felt themselves at risk, but in our view this does not excuse them". In all, 28 people were shot by the paratroopers; 13 died on the day and another died of his injuries four months later.

The dead were killed in four main areas: the rubble barricade across Rossville Street, the courtyard car park of Rossville Flats on the north side of the flats , the courtyard car park of Glenfada Park, and the forecourt of Rossville Flats on the south side of the flats.

All of the soldiers responsible insisted that they had shot at, and hit, gunmen or bomb-throwers. No soldier said he missed his target and hit someone else by mistake.

Narrative, Memory and Ruins

The Saville Report concluded that all of those shot were unarmed and that none were posing a serious threat. It also concluded that none of the soldiers fired in response to attacks, or threatened attacks, by gunmen or bomb-throwers. No warnings were given before soldiers opened fire. Thirteen people were shot and killed, with another man later dying of his wounds.

Commemoration and Bloody Sunday : pathways of memory / Brian Conway. - Version details - Trove

No British soldier was wounded by gunfire or reported any injuries, nor were any bullets or nail bombs recovered to back up their claims. On 2 February , the day that 12 of those killed were buried, there was a general strike in the Republic. It was described as the biggest general strike in Europe since the Second World War relative to population. The same day, irate crowds burned down the British embassy on Merrion Square in Dublin. In the days following Bloody Sunday, Bernadette Devlin , the independent Irish nationalist Member of Parliament for Mid Ulster , expressed anger at what she perceived as British government attempts to stifle accounts being reported about the shootings.

Having witnessed the events firsthand, she was infuriated that Speaker Selwyn Lloyd consistently denied her the chance to speak in Parliament about the shootings, although parliamentary convention decreed that any MP witnessing an incident under discussion would be granted an opportunity to speak about it in Parliament.

An inquest into the deaths was held in August The city's coroner , Hubert O'Neill, a retired British Army major, issued a statement at the completion of the inquest. This Sunday became known as Bloody Sunday and bloody it was. It was quite unnecessary. It strikes me that the Army ran amok that day and shot without thinking what they were doing. They were shooting innocent people.

Pathways of Memory

These people may have been taking part in a march that was banned but that does not justify the troops coming in and firing live rounds indiscriminately. I would say without hesitation that it was sheer, unadulterated murder. It was murder. Two Protestant civilians were shot dead and others wounded by the paratroopers, who claimed they were returning fire at loyalist gunmen.

This sparked angry demonstrations by local Protestants, and the UDA declared: "Never has Ulster witnessed such licensed sadists and such blatant liars as the 1st Paras. These gun-happy louts must be removed from the streets". In , John Major , writing to John Hume stated: "The Government made clear in that those who were killed on 'Bloody Sunday' should be regarded as innocent of any allegation that they were shot whilst handling firearms or explosives".

But that was not done as a deliberate malicious act.