For some it appeared inevitable, for many it seemed like a day that would never come. But today it happened: the British government disclosed today that it would, at last, compensate families of the fourteen Irish citizens killed in Londonderry on “Bloody Sunday” in January 1972.
One of the families has already announced that it would not accept what could be called in this case “bloody” money.
“We acknowledge the pain felt by these families for nearly forty years, and that members of the armed forces acted wrongly,” a spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry said. “For that, the government is deeply sorry.”
Last June, after a twelve-year inquiry, the Lord Saville probe of the 1972 “Bloody Sunday” killings came to a climax with the release of his mammoth report. It found that the shooting of the marchers, largely young people, was completely “unjustified.” None of them were posing any threat to the British paratroopers, and many, as long charged—“How long must we sing this song?” as Bono famously sang—were shot in the back or while crawling away injured. Prime Minister David Cameron apologized. As U2 asked, “There’s many lost but who has won?”
The families on that day expressed profound relief and sense of delayed justice in emotional speeches outside the Guild Hall in Derry shortly after the report’s release, especially with the conclusion that all of the victims were indeed “innocent.” It also found that many of the soldiers lied in their testimony.
The final two sentences of report summary: “What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland.” (My story here at that time.)
Certainly, I can recommend highly the 2002 Paul Greengrass film Bloody Sunday, one of my all-time favorites, which certainly anticipated these findings, and has a key character based on the “whistleblowing” paratrooper known as Soldier 027. A key adviser was Don Mullan, who wrote the best book on the subject, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday (which helped spark the Lord Saville probe) and became one of my long-distance friends after I wrote about the book and movie. You can watch the trailer for Bloody Sunday below, as well as a U2 song with footage from that day: