[IWAR] N. IRELAND Bloody Sunday

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Sun Dec 07 1997 - 10:04:08 PST

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       Posted at 7:09 p.m. PST Saturday, December 6, 1997 
                  New calls for the truth of N. Ireland's Bloody Sunday
       New York Times News Service
       LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland -- This is the less belligerent part of
       Northern Ireland, an old city in the isolated west more famous for
       storied resistance to sieges, lilting folk music and municipal
       architecture than for the sectarian violence that has scarred much of
       the province.
       The massive 17th century walls that surround the city stand intact, and
       its many historic buildings and narrow streets bear the spiffy touch of
       civic pride. If ``Danny Boy'' is the world's favorite Irish song, then
       this city can be said to be the fount of Irish melody. The famous tune
       is called ``Londonderry Air.''
       For a long time the biggest fight in Londonderry, Northern Ireland's
       second-largest city, has been over what the place should be called, a
       dispute that is almost quaint by the turbulent standards of this
       conflicted part of Britain.
       Roman Catholics, the majority here, say they live in Derry -- the name
       comes from ``doire,'' the Gaelic word for oak grove. The city was known
       as Derry until 1613, when Londoners sent money and master builders to
       restore a medieval town destroyed by fire and asked that its name be
       prefixed to reflect their contribution. Protestants cling to
       Disputes between Protestants and Catholics here center on patronage and
       politics rather than terrorism and killing. The Catholic leadership
       prides itself on putting projects like factories, a hospital, a
       deep-water port and the airport in Protestant neighborhoods, although
       Gregory Campbell, 44, the most prominent Protestant on the city council,
       dismissed the claim of benevolent treatment as ``nice P.R. packaging.''
       But the relatively benign state of this community of 103,000 harbors a
       hurt from the memory of an outbreak of violence 25 years ago and a deep
       suspicion that the full story has not been told. On Jan. 30, 1972, a day
       known since as Bloody Sunday, British paratroopers killed 14 marchers
       protesting the British policy of internment without trial on the main
       street of the city's working-class Catholic community, the Bogside.
       The Catholic leadership of the city and the government of the Irish
       Republic are pressing the British government of Prime Minister Tony
       Blair to reopen a hasty and widely denounced investigation of the
       episode by Lord Widgery, then the Lord Chief Justice of Britain.
       His report, issued less than three months after the event, exonerated
       the troops and faulted the protesters, saying ``there is no reason to
       suppose that the soldiers would have opened fire if they had not been
       fired upon.'' It said there was a ``strong suspicion'' that the marchers
       had handled bombs and fired weapons even though none were ever recovered
       or detected in the many photographs of the episode.
       Campaigners believe the moment is crucial because hundreds of accounts
       by witnesses, recordings of army and police messages and forensic
       evidence that were not taken into account by Lord Widgery have just come
       to light and because Blair has shown himself amenable to
       confidence-building measures to keep the momentum of the peace talks now
       under way in Belfast.
       ``We talk so much about the peace process, but as well as a peace
       process we must have a healing process,'' Mayor Martin Bradley, 33, said
       in his neo-Gothic office in the waterfront Guildhall.
       The leader of the campaign is John Hume, head of the Social Democratic
       and Labor Party, a member of the British and European parliaments and
       the most widely admired political figure in the peace effort.
       ``All we want is the truth of what happened on Bloody Sunday,'' he said.
       ``We on the streets of Derry know what happened.''
       The shock and anger of that day provoked hundreds of young Catholic men
       who had grown up in this city's less tribally contentious society to
       enlist in the Irish Republican Army and join in the fight to end British
       control. Mitchel McLaughlin, 52, a member of the city council and a
       negotiator in the present talks in Belfast as a member of Sinn Fein, the
       IRA's political wing, said there was little tradition of Republicanism
       here before Bloody Sunday.
       Edward Daly, 64, a retired bishop, said, ``Many young people I have
       talked to in prison have told me they would have never joined the IRA
       had it not been for what they witnessed on Bloody Sunday.''
       Daly was himself a witness, captured in photographs that have inspired
       murals now on Bogside walls showing him helping to carry a fatally
       wounded teen-ager and waving a bloody handkerchief at the troops to make
       them stop firing.
       ``I know what happened, I saw it, I was there,'' he said. ``Innocent
       people were murdered without justification by heavily armed
       That the incident still has the power to divide the Irish and the
       British became clear recently with a promise from Bertie Ahern, the
       Irish prime minister, to publish new conclusions his government has.
       ``We have given the British government a great deal of time and space in
       which to consider the matter,'' he said in a speech in Dublin with an
       impatience uncharacteristic of his normal attitude toward Blair, an
       The closest a British government has ever come to a reconsideration was
       a letter from Prime Minister John Major to Hume in 1992 saying that
       ``those who were killed should be regarded as innocent of any allegation
       they were shot whilst handling firearms or explosives.'' The expression
       was seen here as evasive because it left unchallenged the ``strong
       suspicion'' put forth in the formal investigation that the marchers
       might have been handling weapons or bombs earlier.
       On a recent raw day, Tony Doherty, 34, a community worker whose father,
       Patrick, then 31, was killed in the shooting, visited the stark gray
       Bloody Sunday monument in the Bogside accompanied by Joe Friel, 46, who
       was wounded with a bullet in his chest, and Linda Roddy, 39, whose
       brother William Nash, 19, was shot dead. A new piece of evidence, based
       on the direction of fire and the trajectory of the bullets, suggests
       that Nash and two others were killed not by the advancing paratroopers
       but by soldiers above on the city walls who picked them off as they
       tried to flee.
       ``I never come here unless I have to,'' Mrs. Roddy said with a shudder,
       looking at the bleak landscape with the whitewashed wall from a
       demolished tenement that proclaims ``Now You Are Entering Free Derry.''
       Twenty-five years later, she grows tearful and bites her lip as she
       thinks about the official verdict of her brother's death. ``You know
       what they're saying?'' she said. ``They are saying that my brother was
       responsible for his own killing.''
       )1997 Mercury Center. The information you receive online from Mercury
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