Wounds of Bloody Sunday taking long time to heal
Summary of the article
January 30, 2001
LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland, Jan 30 (AFP) -
On January 30, 1972 British soldiers shot and killed 14 civilians in Northern Ireland's second city during a civil rights march. Only now are the scars beginning to heal.
The healing process is being aided by an official inquiry which is controversial yet hugely significant.
The inquiry is being asked to look at: how many, if any, of those shot were armed, as the army initially claimed?
A first inquiry in 1972 into the shootings concluded the soldiers had only fired after being fired upon, a finding that has been widely discredited.
If true, it would have vindicated their insistence that they had only used their weapons in self-defence when they were attacked by paramilitaries from the Irish Republican Army (IRA). But victims, independent bodies, and many witnesses at the inquiry say the army, hyped up and aggressive, went looking for trouble that day.
Fortunately, the official description of Donaghy as a nail-bomber was withdrawn moments before he gave evidence last week. He had been 15 at the time.
On the stand he admitted throwing stones at the army, but insisted that he was leaving the area, had nothing in his hands and was bending down to pick up a plastic bullet as a souvenir when he was shot in the right leg.
"I felt happy, vindicated, but sad it took so long," he told AFP, sipping a coffee in a city centre cafe after his testimony adding "I hope the families of those killed and injured get the same news so that they can carry on with their lives."
He promised to be there when the other victims testify. "I want justice, at the very least their names have to be cleared."
Noella McConnellogue, a psychologist who has been following the victims and their families, said the inquiry was a healing process. She stated, "for 29 years the memories of these people were repressed." adding "Now they are allowed to talk publicly about their personal experience."
But her optimism is not shared by everyone.
In a statement on behalf of victims and relatives, the Bloody Sunday Trust said it was still far from clear whether the people responsible for the deaths would be held to account because it pointed to destroyed evidence, a guarantee of anonymity to soldiers who testify, and the refusal of others to do so.
"Countless documents, thousands of photographs, film footage, weapons used to murder and maim, are not available to the inquiry," it added.
Brendan O'Leary, a security expert from the prestigious London School of Economics, said Britain's ministry of defence was clearly continuing to try to cover up.
But what role the IRA played that day, if any, is still open to conjecture. It was certainly active in the city at the time under a young commander named Martin McGuinness, who, ironically, is now education minister in the province's power-sharing government.
He has so far refused to testify to his role that day or what orders might have been given to Irish Republican Army activists.
"Because it has been so long and protracted it may not achieve the level of cathartic closure that we were hoping for," O'Leary said of the inquiry.
But he added: "Public inquiries even if they are limited do have the power to break previous mindsets."