Donnybrook: 50 years on, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
By John Myers
In one of its best-known songs, the globally celebrated Irish band, U2, sings, “I can’t believe the news today, Oh, I can’t close my eyes And make it go away, How long … How long must we sing this song?
U2 sings of the lament of 26 peaceful civil rights demonstrators shot, with 14 being killed.
The events of January 30th, 1972 in the City of Derry became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, following the lead of The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., sought to have a peaceful demonstration in opposition to the British policy of Internment without trial. This “policy” gave the British Government the power to arrest anyone it chooses, for any reason and imprison them without benefit of trial, without any due process of law and imprison them for as long as they want.
To Civil Rights activists in the North of Ireland, Bloody Sunday is their “Selma,” a turning point that changed the course of history. The link across the ocean was so strong that Irish marchers were singing the American anthem, “We shall overcome,” as British bullets tore into the peaceful crowd. This month of January 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of that tragic day in Derry.
The British Army immediately put out a false narrative to the news media that they were fired upon by the civil rights marchers. The British Government organized an official inquiry immediately after the massacre, which became known as the Widgery Tribunal. Widgery was an official whitewash.
It took decades of lobbying and international pressure on Westminster to institute a new inquiry. In 1998, commensurate with the Good Friday Agreement, Prime Minister Tony Blair reopened the investigation which became known as the “Saville Inquiry.”
While the inquiry was welcomed, The British Government inflamed the situation by waiting another dozen years to release the findings of the Saville Inquiry. One can understand that the damming conclusions of the Inquiry did not lend themselves as welcome news by Her Majesty’s Government.
The new Inquiry concluded that the shootings by the British Army were totally unjustified. They concluded the demonstration was largely peaceful and the demonstrators did nothing to warrant such a response. In fact, it was determined that the vaunted British Army gave no warning and shot at demonstrators that were retreating away from the Brits. Some of those killed and wounded were simply trying to assist those already shot.
Twenty-one British soldiers fired their rifles that day. Intriguingly, the inquiry singled out Martin McGuiness to exonerate him of any activities wanting or provoking the violent response of the British on the unarmed citizens of Derry. Prime Minister David Cameron eventually issued a formal apology almost forty years after the massacre.
This human tragedy, perpetrated on the Irish, and the subsequent whitewash, led to a hardening of positions and fueled the growth of the Provisional IRA, with recruiting largely attributed to the goal of defending the Nationalist Community from the vigilantism and unwarranted violence of Her Majesty’s armed forces. The false narrative that London was a ‘neutral’ force amongst the fighting Irish was exposed to the world with the fangs of the colonial lion laid bare.
Belfast: The Movie
For advocates for the human and civil rights struggle in the North of Ireland, the much-publicized movie “Belfast” was a cause for concern as to how the story would be told. It is a relief to see it as a good movie and worth catching it at the theatres or streaming online. Those that have lived this history will likely have some issues, but the “Troubles” are more of a backdrop to the semi-autobiographical story of Director Kenneth Branagh’s childhood in Belfast in the summer of 1969.
One can rightfully critique the romantic lens through which Branagh paints his childhood, but it is his personal story and a great homage to the City of Belfast. The largely Van Morrison soundtrack is worth the price of admission in and of itself. Given the hard history of recent decades in Belfast, the city can benefit from a little bit of Hollywood and benefit from the power of hope for the future of the second largest city on the island of Ireland.
Biden Facetimes Irish Rugby Team
The Irish Rugby team found itself on the winning side against a much-vaunted foe, the New Zealand “All Blacks.” Ireland’s team has only beat the All Black’s three times in over a century of play. Not only did the Irish team receive a note of encouragement before the game from the leader of the free world, but President Biden took the time to also make a facetime call, with his brother Jim and sister Val, to the Irish team to congratulate them upon their historic win.
President Biden has been a rugby fan since his school days, where he learned what a “scrum” is, likely a good preparation for his chosen career in the public arena. He followed up with another call of congrats to Taoiseach Michael Martin.
Ireland Benefits to Receive Over $1B from Brexit Reserve Fund
During the UK’s exit from the single market, The European Union created the “Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund.” Ireland, economically impacted the most from Brexit, will be the recipient of over one billion dollars ($1B) from the European Union to assist in the transition. Despite the long months and years of negotiations between the UK and the EU, not every matter could be mitigated.
This subsidy was designed to soften the negative economic and social consequences of Brexit. Ireland was the first EU member to receive funding and will be the biggest recipient of these Brexit Adjustment funds.
Mary Lou McDonald Visits Washington
Mary Lou McDonald, the President of Ireland’s oldest political party, Sinn Fein, was in the USA last month, where she traveled to NYC and Washington, D.C. to meet with supporters and congressional leadership. McDonald stated that “Irish America has an important role to play in campaigning for a referendum on Irish Unity and in spreading the conversation on the future of Ireland. As the debate around Irish Unity increases, our collective endeavor should be to shape the debate in a constructive and positive direction. I am sure the Irish diaspora will mobilize in support of Irish unity and build international momentum towards that goal.” McDonald asked supporters to use the hashtag #Time4Unity to share and promote the goal of One Ireland.