The Bloody Sunday March of 1972 in Derry, Ireland prior to the massacre of unarmed civilians.
What can be our reaction to the institution of Fascism but horror? Yet, Fascism is a common practice among governments that cloak themselves in righteousness while butchering with impunity. Certainly Fascism is a horror that is readily found in the history any country in the world.
Fascism comes along to each culture, wrapped brightly in the guise of a reaction to an "immediate threat" (real or imagined), bringing with it the efficient brutality that is very often welcomed as a "just" answer or response - as it was at first in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, the endless revolutions in Communist China and the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Viet Nam, Korea and Afghanistan. Initially, Fascism is warmly welcomed by an uninformed and misled population that have been carefully cowed by generations of corrupt leadership. When Fascism turns it's sights on it's own people the result is total self-destruction. Berlin, Toyko, Nagasaki, Rome...
Taking extreme measures against masses of unarmed people is pure madness but is at the heart of Fascism in all it's forms. It is at the very heart of fascism, from the gun toting drug thug on the corner to the storm trooper steam-rolling over burning battlefields, on this we can all agree openly - but this particular kind of fearful madness has never more clear then it was one Sunday in late January of 1972 in Derry, Ireland.
|"And the battle's just begun,|
There's many lost,
but tell me who has won?"
|- U2, Bloody Sunday March 1983|
Derry is often known as Londonderry by the native Irish due to the fact that Ireland has been dominated by England from this northern Irish city for centuries. Derry was, and remains today, a town deeply divided by religion and politics between England and Ireland. This international fight has been slowly boiling in the fabric of Irish and English society since the 16th Century and Henry VIII.
Irish political group Sinn Fein, first formed in 1905 as an underground resistance to English rule had re-formed in early 1970. Abandoning it's previous policy of abstentionism from politics Sinn Fein had begun actively organizing at the grass roots level with disaffected, unemployed youth and working professionals that saw Irish Independence or "Home Rule" as an attainable and realistic goal. Sinn Fein's fight was not above employing horrific violence equal to modern day suicide bombings that often claimed many innocent lives.
Their targets and opponents were indigenous Irish and emigrated English business leaders who maintained a strict status quo for their English counterparts. These so-called leaders did so by ensuring discriminatory policies that excluded the bulk of the Irish people from jobs, public housing and social programs - a kind of legally enforced religious segregation that only benefited a handful of collaborators. The collaborators themselves, for all their power over the destitute masses of their kin, were no more than weak puppets for a foreign power in their own home country.
In the middle of the two sides stood Ivan Cooper, a centrist Parliamentary politician and co-founder of the Social Democrat Labor Party (or SDLP). Cooper unflinchingly demanded that these centuries long practices come to an end with full civil rights being established for all Irish people. His solid leadership was founded around non-violent peaceful protest against the long military occupation in Ireland by having Catholic and Protestants work together towards common goals.
However, by 1970, explosive violence became the only politics between the two groups with MP Cooper finding himself more and more in the middle of two sides - each side galvanized by self-righteous anger. In July of 1971, two rioters, Seamus Cusack and Desmond Beattie, were shot dead in the Bogside section of Derry by soldiers in disputed circumstances adding to the atmosphere of growing fear and unease on each side. The difference here being that Cooper and the SDLP were not the ones holding crowds at bay with automatic rifles and mortars.
January 30th of 1972 is the day that would be called Bloody Sunday. It would be the second such massacre by the English military forces against it own unarmed civilians - the first occurring in 1887 when three protestors were beat to death in London and dozen more quite nearly killed with them during a political protest to free Irish politicians jailed under dubious charges.
On that winter day, thousands of people attended the Civil Rights March including protestors, observers and reporters. Before the parade would reach it's end, over one hundred rounds were fired directly into the crowds by troops. 27 unarmed people were shot, killing 14, More were injured as they attempted to aid the fallen. Two more were knocked down and run over by armored personnel carriers.
The dead included: John Duddy, 17, shot in the chest in a drive-way. Four witnesses stated Duddy was unarmed and running away from the paratroopers when he was killed.
Patrick Joseph Doherty, 31, shot from behind while attempting to crawl to safety.
Bernard McGuigan, 41, shot in the back of the head when he went to help the wounded Patrick Doherty. McGuigan had been waving a white handkerchief at the soldiers to indicate his peaceful intentions when he was shot.
Hugh Pious Gilmour, 17, shot in the chest as he ran from the paratroopers. A photograph taken seconds after Gilmour was hit corroborated witness reports that he was unarmed, and that tests for gunshot residue during his autopsy were negative.
Kevin McElhinney, 17, Shot from behind while attempting to crawl to safety. Two witnesses stated McElhinney was unarmed.
Michael Gerald Kelly, 17, shot in the stomach while standing near a rubble barricade in front of Rossville Flats. Also unarmed.
John Pius Young, 17, shot in the head while standing at a rubble barricade. Two witnesses stated Young was unarmed.
William Noel Nash, 19, shot in the chest near the barricade. Witnesses stated Nash was unarmed and going to the aid of another when killed.
Michael M. McDaid, 20, shot in the face at the barricade as he was walking away from the paratroopers. The trajectory of the bullet indicated he could have been killed by soldiers positioned on the Derry Walls as was later testified.
James Joseph Wray, 22, wounded then shot again at close range while lying on the ground. Witnesses stated that Wray was calling out that he could not move his legs before he was shot the second time.
Gerald Donaghy, 17, shot in the stomach while attempting to run to safety. Donaghy was brought to a nearby house by bystanders where he was examined by a doctor. His pockets were searched to identify him. Later police photograph of Donaghy's corpse showed unexploded nail bombs in his previously empty pockets. Neither those who searched his pockets in the house nor the British Army Medical officer (identified only as "Soldier 138") who pronounced him dead shortly afterwards say they saw any bombs before the dubious photo was taken.
According to the official report from the coroner for the City of Derry/Londonderry, retired British Army Major Hubert O'Neill, in a shockingly anti-collusionist bit of stark truth, the cause of death was listed as "sheer unadulterated murder".
The Bloody Sunday Memorial in Derry, Ireland.
This incident was immediately covered up, white-washed and denied for the next 40 years. The denial of readily available evidence by a remarkable number of colluded politicians and remorseful soldiers remains astounding given the seriousness of the crime. A number of kangaroo courts cleared all involved in the massacre. "Official" hearings reached the same irrational conclusions despite an over-whelming amount of evidence to the contrary.
During more testimony about Bloody Sunday in the Irish Parliament, Bernadette Devlin, very much a Joan of Arc figure in the chaos of that era of political strife, punched her colleague Reginald Maudling, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he stated to Parliament that the events of Bloody Sunday were brought about when British Army fired in self-defense. Devlin was temporarily suspended from Parliament as a result of the incident.
It was not until June of 2010, nearly forty years later, that the Bloody Sunday massacre was only semi-officially acknowledged by the English government in the documents released from The Saville Inquiry. The inquiry heard from over 900 witnesses and received 2500 witness statements. However, according to the report, over 1,000 army photographs and original Army helicopter video footage were never made available. Additionally, guns used on the day by the soldiers that could have been evidence in the inquiry were lost by the English Ministry Of Defense. The Ministry claimed that all the guns involved had been destroyed yet some were subsequently recovered in various distant locations such as Sierra Leone and Beirut despite the obstruction.
Wikipedia, Bloody Sunday
Wikipedia, Sinn Féin
Wikipedia, Ivan Cooper
Wikipedia, The Pale Partitioning Of Ireland
New World Encyclopedia, Bloody Sunday
Sinn Féin, Statement Of Equality
Irish Civil Rights, Badge Of The Derry Civil Rights Movement