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​​Bloody Sunday 50th Anniversary Symposium Examines the Lasting Impact of the Massacre

Julieann Campbell, author of On Bloody Sunday, said her uncle Jackie Duddy was killed twice in the Bloody Sunday massacre. 

“My Auntie Kay always says they murdered [Duddy] twice,” Campbell said. “They murdered him in the street, and then they murdered his good name.”

Boston College’s Irish Studies department hosted a symposium for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday on Saturday. At the event, a variety of experts explored the impact and aftermath of Bloody Sunday.

According to Niall Ó Dochartaigh, a professor at the National University of Ireland Galway, the attack occurred on Jan. 30, 1972 when a British paratrooper regiment opened fire on a non-violent civilian march in the Northern Irish city of Derry, killing 13 people and injuring many more.

 “[Bloody Sunday] devastated my family in a way that I’ll never really understand,” Campbell said. “The people need answers or accountability or transparency. Just for the rule of law to apply where it would anywhere else.”

In her book On Bloody Sunday, Campbell, who formally launched the book at the symposium, analyzes the massacre through interviews with Derry locals. 

Ó Dochartaigh said Bloody Sunday was the result of a high level military decision opposed by army and police commanders based in Derry.

“Bloody Sunday was the outcome of a high level military decision to stage a major confrontational operation in Derry with an aggressive combat regiment on a day when danger to civilians was extremely high,” Ó Dochartaigh said.

 The government did not hold the soldiers accountable for their actions, Campbell said, shifting blame toward the victims in the years that followed the attack.

“There was a general sense of harassment and intimidation that went on for decades,” she said. “And the wounded, particularly, would still suffer that harassment their entire lives.”

According to Campbell, it took years of persistent campaigning before the people of Derry received an apology from the prime minister when new evidence was uncovered during the Saville Report—an initiative by the British government to find the truth of what transpired on Bloody Sunday.

“We’ve come so far in terms of the world knowing what really happened and the world knowing that Derry told the truth,” Campbell said. 

Rob Savage, the interim director of the Irish Studies Program at BC, said news broadcasts and international media played an important role at a time when the British government was trying to preserve its image of democracy by censoring the media. 

“They understood that these edited television reports … severely damaged the image of Great Britain not only in the United States, but around the world,” Savage said. “To British diplomats in Washington, D.C., the sensational images from Derry undermined years of careful work.”

Campbell said the international outcry from these news broadcasts and the ceaseless campaigning of the victims’ families would urge the British government to look deeper into the truth about Bloody Sunday through the Saville Report

Ó Dochartaigh said the Saville Report highlighted the injustice of the massacre and brought some closure to the victim’s families. The report, however, did not lead to the prosecution of any soldiers involved and removed responsibility from commanding officers who ordered the attack.

“The internal power struggle [between commanding officers] was not accorded any great significance by Saville in explaining the outcome of the Bloody Sunday operation,” Ó Dochartaigh said. 

The effects of Bloody Sunday are seen in Derry to this day through government redevelopment, according to Margo Shea, a history professor at Salem State University. 

The urban redevelopment of Derry’s neighborhoods attempted to spread the city out, particularly residential areas, to make protest efforts more difficult following the attack, Shea said. The government also destroyed political landmarks to reduce the physical memory of the massacre. 

With the urban renewal came the loss of intimate, community-based neighborhoods, but many recognize that shift has been integral to bringing the city out of poverty, according to Shea.

 Guy Beiner, the Sullivan Chair of BC’s Irish Studies, said remembrance work of Bloody Sunday is very important, as the attack falls within a historically repeated theme of engaging unarmed protestors with lethal force, such as at recent Black Lives Matter protests. 

“What’s important here is the fact that memory is remediated through personal memory, communal memory, and societal memory so that we can call it collective memory,” Beiner said. 

Beiner said the remediation of Bloody Sunday, as well as similar massacres throughout history, helps to keep the story alive.

“The struggle to keep memory alive and not let it be buried is the wider context of the Bloody Sundays that we should keep in mind,” Beiner said. 

Featured Image by Aditya Rao / Heights Editor

February 21, 2022
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