Bloody Sunday

Two events changed the course of Irish history in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in Derry's Bogside. At the height of the Civil Rights period in Ireland the Battle of the Bogside brought dramatic changes to the security situation within the six county state that would have repercussions in Ireland that would last to the present day and would directly lead to the massacre in Derry’s Bogside that became known as Bloody Sunday.


The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was officially set up in Derry in 1967 and was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and South Africa's anti-apartheid movement. NICRA was a peaceful protest group set up to protest for equal rights for native Irish Catholics in the north of Ireland calling for ‘one man, one vote’ and an end to the Gerrymandering system, proper and fair housing allocations and an end to religious discrimination in job allocations,  among other reforms on policing ( Royal Ulster Constabulary) and the B Specials. The peaceful NICRA demonstrations were met with police violence and brutality, of which the Duke Street March on the 5th October 1968 was the most infamous televised attack by the RUC, which in turn highlighted the need for police reforms.


The Battle of the Bogside occurred on 12th August 1969, the date of the main Apprentice Boys Parade held in Derry, which would lead to the reintroduction of the British Army in to the north of Ireland. The 12th of August would see many incursions in to the Bogside by Loyalist mobs spearheaded by the RUC over the decades. The battle would see the entire community in the Bogside, Brandywell and Creggan come together to defend the homes and families from Loyalist and police attacks. The Battle of the Bogside would run from the 12th to the late on the 14th of August, one of the eras of Free Derry, and would stretch the RUC to breaking point leading to the Stormont Government ( Unionist government) calling on the British Government to send in the British Army to temporarily take over the policing in Derry. The Prince of Wales Regiment of the British Army set foot on Irish soil with a plan to be out of Ireland in 12 weeks, which is now in to it’s 47th year. With the British Army back on the streets clashes with the Irish Republican Army would soon follow that would lead to a 30 year conflict. The Republican Movement in Derry would stay fairly small in numbers for such a large Catholic area but Bloody Sunday would become the biggest recruitment drive for the IRA.


Bloody Sunday 30th January 1972 would change the fortunes of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Provisional IRA and change Irish society and history forever. As the people of Derry and Ireland prepared for one of the biggest Civil Rights demonstrations to be held the British government were also preparing for a different ending to the day that had begun so peacefully. Between 15,000 and 25,000 people took part in the anti-internment and Civil Rights protest. Internment was introduced on 9th of August 1971 and was used almost entirely against the Nationalist Catholic community despite heavy Loyalist attacks on the Catholic communities. As the demonstration came to a finish and the speeches just beginning at Free Derry Corner the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment entered the Bogside in a pre planned and well organized attack on a peaceful Civil Rights protest.


The Paras opened fire almost immediately at 16.07 and didn't stop firing until 16.22, a 15 minute time frame which would see 13 totally innocent protesters murdered and another 18 wounded, one of which would die later from his injuries. Of the 13 dead 6 of them were 17 year old boys. The 12th person to be murdered on the day of Bloody Sunday would be my own father Patrick Doherty shot in the back, as most of the victims were, as he tried to crawl to safety just below the Rossville Street flats, high rise tenement blocks in the Bogside. The Paras attempted to cover up their actions, as the British government did also, by stating that they had come under heavy fire in the Bogside as they entered, which of course was a total fabrication. The British used Black Propaganda against the victims of Bloody Sunday in an attempt to cover up their actions. Bloody Sunday would see the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association gone within 1 year of Bloody Sunday and the PIRA numbers rise from the low teens in Derry to 300 volunteers within weeks of the Bogside Massacre an event that would enable the IRA to be able to conduct a 30 year war against the British presence in Ireland and Europe.