On January 30th 1972, civil rights activists were involved in a protest march against internment through Londonderry. British paratroopers, who were deployed on the streets, shot and killed 13 of the marchers and wounded others. Many people have different views on what happened and why. The main conflicting views are those of the paratroopers and their supporters and the views of the marchers and the friends and family of those killed. Source A is a newspaper report form the Daily Mail in September 1999. It is a report on new evidence released from the second enquiry into Bloody Sunday, led by Lord Saville.
The headline reads “Paras in Bloody Sunday evidence storm”. This headline states the situation that the report is based on. The report includes the opinions of different people on the new evidence. The new evidence suggests that the original tests, which confirmed that some of the protesters shot had been handling firearms or explosives, may have been contaminated. It concluded that, “there is no credible evidence that any of the 14 people killed by the army in Londonderry in January 1972 had been handling firearms. ” The premature release of this evidence “incensed” the paratroopers and their supporters.
The paratroopers have always claimed that every person shot appeared to be armed and that “nail bombs and acid bombs” were thrown at them. The Widgery Enquiry cleared them of any criminal charge, but this new evidence could pave the way to charges being brought against them. The conservative MP representing the constituency where the Paras are based said “I had little faith in the in enquiry before, and I have none now… the enquiry is, frankly, an absolute disaster. ” The conservative party was in power at the time of the Bloody Sunday shootings and would have supported their army.
However, this would be welcomed by the marchers and families of those killed, as they have always insisted that those killed were innocent victims of British paratroopers. They were greatly angered at the findings of the Widgery enquiry and believed that it was a whitewash by the British government. This new evidence presents a new chance for those who they believe are murderers to be put on trial. Another change, which discredits the original evidence, is that “forensic scientist Dr. John Martin, who gave evidence to the Widgery hearing that Mr. Wray had been handling guns or explosives, has reversed his opinion”.
This is bad for the Paratroopers side of the story, but could suggest that Dr. Martin had been under pressure to support the soldiers in the enquiry, as their story was based on the protestors firing guns at them. Source B is another newspaper report, from the Guardian. The headline reads “Bloody Sunday revelation. This backs up what we have been saying all these years: the victims were innocent. ” This immediately indicated that the writer of the article supports the view of the protesters and the families of those killed. This also shows that the article may be biased.
The article also does not include the opinion of the Paratroopers or their supporters on the new evidence. As the reporter seems to support the people who claim that the Paratroopers murdered the protesters, he may have decided that their opinions were false and not worth including. The article opens by saying, “The families of 14 people shot dead on Bloody Sunday last night hailed new and independent scientific evidence as a major breakthrough in their 27-year fight to prove that those who died were innocent and defenceless victims of British paratroopers. As with source A, the families would interpret what happened on Bloody Sunday this way as they had little faith in the government protecting them before, and they are certain that none of those killed had shot at the Paratroopers. A lawyer said that the new evidence “merited a murder prosecution”. A lawyer would have some evidence to back their opinion before making a statement such as that, however the lawyer had been hired to find evidence to prosecute on, so he may not be taking into account other evidence.
The article says that the new evidence “demolishes a key finding of the 1972 Widgery investigation into the Londonderry Massacre. ” However, this is not entirely true, as the new evidence said that the original evidence was not reliable and that the tests may have been contaminated. This does not completely rule out the protesters firing guns. But, to a person who already believed those killed to be innocent, this new evidence could easily be interpreted as proving the original evidence completely wrong. All of the opinions given in the article take the new evidence as completely clearing those killed, apart from the statement from Dr.
John Martin who does not completely rule out that the protesters had fired guns, but says that there could no longer be a “strong suspicion” that any of those killed had fired guns. He may have come to this conclusion because even though he originally gave evidence to the Widgery enquiry saying that some of those killed had fired guns, many people have said that they had not touched or been near guns, and the possibility of contamination means that there are several other ways that the incriminating evidence may have got onto the hands of those killed.
Source C is an ITN news report from November 28th 2000. The report is about evidence given by Daniel Porter, who spoke to off-duty soldiers in a Pub shortly before Bloody Sunday, and gave evidence to the enquiry. He claims that the soldiers spoke of “clearing the Bog” and he told ITN “I understood that they would be clearing away the barricades. They said they would be landing with tanks. I got the impression they would be going to Northern Ireland pretty shortly”.
This statement does not include anything about the debated facts about Bloody Sunday. It is true that the British Paratroopers went into the Bogside area of Londonderry in armoured personnel carriers and cleared away the barricades. Also, Daniel Porter received this information from off-duty soldiers in a pub. This evidence does not support or discredit either the soldiers or the Protesters side of the story. It is possible that Mr Porter came forward with this evidence in an attempt to get media attention.
In conclusion, what actually happened on Bloody Sunday is interpreted differently by different people, and always will be. Nobody can be completely sure what actually happened, as many things happened in different places and nobody was watching them all at the same time. The opinion of people living in Londonderry may be influenced by outside influences like IRA presence, and the views of the Paratroopers and the Government may be influenced by an attempt to defend themselves from repercussions.