Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972

Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972


The firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury...” (Report of The Bloody Sunday Inquiry – Volume I – Chapter 5)

We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland…” UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

Despite the occasional peacekeeping mission… (and even these currently getting a bad reputation), armies would seem to serve a single purpose: to shoot people… usually in the interest of power, domination and the sorting out of whatever problem that exists (or whatever gain that can be achieved) by bloody violence.

With this in mind we should not be shocked that on one of the many ‘Bloody Sundays’ brought to us as world citizens courtesy of the British Army, this one Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, in the “occupied” north of Ireland, British soldiers of the classics reading (in the original Latin, no less) Lt. Col. Derek Wilford’s (commander) 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment…

shot and killed 14 protesting Irish civilians in a province falling apart after an extended period of British and local unionist misrule…

The protestors themselves were marching against the newly introduced (August 1971) British policy of internment without trial, another well known colonial mechanism for resolving “problems” they themselves have caused in the first place. The march had also been organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, a not-so well armed group at that time.

At 10 past 4 that afternoon, the “1st Paras” opened fire – “According to Army evidence, 21 soldiers fired their weapons, discharging 108 live rounds between them.” (BBC) The shooting would go on for approximately 30 minutes.

Twenty eight people in total were shot by the paratroopers. Fourteen people died: thirteen that day, the 14th casualty, John Johnston, died in June that year, four months after being shot in the leg and left a shoulder on William Street on his way to visit a friend.

Not one of these men killed was armed…

The dead men were

John Duddy, boxer, 17 years old… (“He had attended the march “for the craic” with his friends and against his father’s advice.” BBC)

Gerald Donaghey, 17 years old…

Hugh Gilmour, 17 years old…

Michael Kelly, 17 years old…

Kevin McElhinney, 17 years old…

John Young, 17 years old…(shot trying to help one of the wounded)…

William Nash, 19 years old…

Michael McDaid, a 20 years old barman…

James Wray, 22 years old, engaged to be married…

William McKinney, a 27 year old printer, also engaged to be married…

Bernard McGuigan,  41 years old, a father of six children…(“McGuigan, who been waving a white handkerchief in his hand, died instantly after he was shot in the head as he went to the aid of Patrick Doherty…”)

Patrick Doherty, 31-year-old father-of-six… (mortally wounded when he was shot from behind while attempting to crawl to safety)

Gerard McKinney, 35-year-old father with eight children left behind… (the last child being born eight days after his death and named after him)…

John Johnston, 59 years old, died June 16th, 1972.

The British Embassy in Dublin was burned by protestors on the day of the funerals.

After much campaigning and protest by the families and the quickly produced (April 1972) Widgery Report which exonerated the army,  The Saville Report, Lord Saville’s 5,000-page findings from the inquiry into Bloody Sunday which was published on 15 June 2010 suggested that 22 former British soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members could face charges over their violent actions that day.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Last Thursday, 14 March, after a campaign of 47 years, only one former soldier (aptly named “Soldier F” having been granted anonymity) who opened fire that day has finally been charged by the North’s Public Prosecution Service with murder for the killing of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Patrick O’Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon and Michael Quinn, coming to court on his own, we have been told, on the basis of the burden of proof needed for a criminal conviction.

James Wray (22 year old),  the CAIN archive tells us

“James Wray was shot dead in Glenfada Park. James was shot twice, the first bullet travelled ‘superficially’ from right to left across his body, the second bullet entered his back and travelled from right to left. Two eyewitnesses gave evidence to the Widgery Tribunal that Wray was shot and wounded and then was shot dead, from close range, while he lay on the ground. A number of people, who were not called to give evidence to the Widgery Inquiry, stated that Wray was complaining that he was unable to move his legs when he was shot a second time and killed.

“The Saville Inquiry concluded: “3.61 … and that either Private G or Private H fired the first shot to hit Jim Wray.” and “3.63 As we have said, Jim Wray was shot twice, the second time probably when he was lying mortally wounded on the ground. It is probable that either Private G or Private H fired this second shot.” and “3.108 In our view none of these soldiers fired in the belief that he had or might have identified a person in possession of or using or about to use bombs or firearms. William McKinney and Jim Wray were both shot in the back and none of the other casualties (with the possible exception of Daniel Gillespie) appears to have been facing the soldiers when shot. We are sure that these soldiers fired either in the belief that no-one in the areas towards which they respectively fired was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, or not caring whether or not anyone there was posing such a threat.”

William McKinney (26 years old)

“William McKinney was shot dead after he left the safety of cover to try to assist Gerald McKinney (not a relation) who had been shot moments before. He was shot from behind, as he was bent over Gerald McKinney, and the bullet travelled through his chest from right to left and then through his left wrist.

“The Saville Inquiry concluded: “3.61 … However, we consider it more likely than not that either Lance Corporal F or Private H fired the shot that mortally wounded William McKinney; …” and “3.73 … but neither William McKinney nor Gerard McKinney was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury.”

One soldier. Two brutal deaths. Four attempted murders. The “score” after 800 years of British army mayhem in a world history of colonialism whose effects we are still struggling to free ourselves from.

No wonder the families of the people killed have expressed “terrible disappointment” at the conclusion of insufficient evidence to prosecute between 16 and 22 other soldiers after 47 years campaigning for justice.

For the independent Public Prosecution Service, the DPP, Stephen Herron said that “in respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction”.

There is a lot more to be said…

There is a lot more to be said. Whether saying it will change anything or not – facing the enormous history of the dead (as well as lives ruined) in a country that has known only too much of war, oppression, injustice and death, but now, of course, working on our own “peace process”.

What is equally disturbing is that the same viciousness is still so obviously an ongoing and standard part of government policy (“international relations”) whether it is Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., or some other well-armed-bully who believe they can use their money, their technology and their weaponry to get what they want. And sadly not murdering civilians has to be one of the last of “our” ‘bourgeois’ illusions in the few oases of peace left?

…Making one laugh at the self-righteousness of states in their endless excuses for murder, mayhem, invasion as well as the talk of holding a war to end all wars – not that there is anything to laugh about:

And did they believe when they answered the cause,

Did they really believe that this war would end wars?

Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,

The killing and dying, were all done in vain.

For Willie McBride, it all happened again,

And again, and again, and again, and again.” (Eric Bogle)

British Government Response

The original response in 1972 from British Secretary of State Reginald Maudling (before being slapped in the face by nationalist MP for the North, Bernadette Devlin, who walked across the floor of the House of  Commons to deliver it) to be echoed by Lord Widgery’s 1972 Report into Bloody Sunday was that British soldiers were fired on first:

“The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement.

The House will have heard with deep anxiety that a number of people were         killed and injured in the course of disturbances in Londonderry yesterday.

A march was organised in deliberate defiance of the legal order banning marches. The G.O.C. Northern Ireland has reported that at an appropriate point this march was stopped by the security forces and that those who were under the control of the organisers turned back. A large number of trouble-makers refused to accept the instructions of the march stewards and attacked the Army with stones, bottles, steel bars and canisters of C.S. The Army met this assault with two water cannon, C.S., and rubber bullets only. The G.O.C. has further reported that when the Army advanced to make arrests among the trouble-makers they came under fire from a block of flats and other quarters. At this stage the members of the orderly, although illegal, march were no longer in the near vicinity. The Army returned the fire directed at them with aimed shots and inflicted a number of casualties on those who were attacking them with firearms and with bombs.”  (UK Parliament)

Troublemakers” no less! A flag worthy of hanging the history of the world on for some time still to come?

Soldier F

The £200m Saville Inquiry, coming many years later, had a different story to tell.

The immediate responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Bloody Sunday lies with those members of Support Company whose unjustifiable firing was the cause of those deaths and injuries.” (Report of The Bloody Sunday Inquiry – Volume I – Chapter 5)

Saville also stated:

–           there was “no doubt” Soldier F had shot father-of-six Paddy Doherty, who was unarmed.

–           there was “no doubt” Soldier F had shot an unarmed Bernard McGuigan on Bloody Sunday as he went to the aid of Patrick Doherty, waving a white handkerchief.

“At the Saville Inquiry, Soldier F admitted he had shot 17-year-old Michael Kelly – but he said that he had only fired at people with bombs or weapons. Soldier F gave evidence anonymously to the Saville Inquiry in 2003 and admitted firing 13 rounds on Bloody Sunday. His assertion that there were “gunmen and bombers killed” was rejected in Lord Saville’s report. However, Saville concluded Mr Kelly was unarmed. The Saville Inquiry found that both William McKinney and James Wray could have been shot by Soldier F and three other soldiers. The inquiry report also stated Soldier F had changed his story over the years.” (BBC)

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has promised that the British government will offer “full legal support to Soldier F – including paying his legal costs and providing welfare support”.

“We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland… The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance.”

He also said the Ministry of Defence is working “to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated…And the Government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues…”

“Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.”

The families of the dead were not impressed. The family of 19 year old William Nash said they had contacted the Northern Ireland attorney general “accusing the defence secretary of contempt of court”.  And surely the dead themselves, also, in our long history of interactions with the British military, would not be impressed at the thought of “those soldiers who served with courage and distinction” bringing peace to Northern Ireland?

Either way, of the 16-22 “terrorists” who opened fire on unarmed civilians that day in Derry, Soldier F, alone, will be brought before a court in Northern Ireland and will eventually be named.

I Measc Laochra Na nGael Go Raibh A nAinmeacha

…it should be near time, in the end, to remember all the dead, in our own and everyone else’s wars, remembered for a while before we are all forgotten. “I measc laochra na nGael go raibh a nainmeacha – May their souls be among the heroes of the Gaels.”

The only solution, in the end – looking at this dangerous world we continue to bring children into – has to be a future of peace.

Peace with justice, all sorts of justice, for all.

séamas carraher


Banner and Crosses carried by the families of the Bloody Sunday victims on the annual commemoration march.

By SeanMack [CC BY 3.0 (]


Bloody Sunday a massacre of innocents despite DPP decision – O’Neill

EMBASSY BURNT (British Movietone)


Bloody Sunday – List of “victims”

Widgery Report : Summary of Conclusions (1972)

Peter Hadden, Derry murders condoned The Widgery whitewash

Report of The Bloody Sunday Inquiry

The CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) Web site

The CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) Web site contains information and source material on ‘the Troubles’ and politics in Northern Ireland from 1968 to the present. There is also some material on society in the region. CAIN is located in Ulster University and is part of INCORE and ARK. CAIN and INCORE launched the Accounts of the Conflict Web site in November 2014.

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