Bloody Sunday (2002)

 

 

 

 

Director:  Paul Greengrass

Starring:   James Nesbitt (Ivan Cooper),  Allan Gildea (Kevin McCorry), Gerard Crossan (Eamonn McCann), Mary Moulds (Bernadette Devliln), Carmel Mc Callion (Bridget Bond),  Tim Pigott-Smith (Major General Ford),  Nicholas Farrell (Brigadier Maclellan), Christopher Villiers (Major Steele),  James Hewitt (Colonel Tugwell)

quasi-documentary style dealing with Br soldiers firing on a peaceful civil rights demonstrators, killing 14 and wounding 13

 

 

 

The movie was a bit difficult to follow because of the Irish and British dialects.  My wife especially could not follow it.  So I turned on the English captions option and we were all right from then on. 

The movie does a great job of portraying a disaster waiting to happen.  First, the British and Irish Catholics did not carefully coordinate with each other on the exact movements of the proposed march.  Indeed, the British forbade it, which is silly because you can't really forbid an act of civil disobedience that is designed to break evil laws.  But the British were not sympathetic enough to the Catholic minority to permit a coordinated civil rights demonstration.  (Shame on them.)

The end result was that there was absolutely mass confusion on both sides about what both they and the other party in the march was doing or going to do.  This mass confusion certainly added to the chaos that would follow and set the stage for the shootings of civil rights demonstrators.  

Second, the British army was very antipathetic to the demonstrators.  They figured the IRA was going to be involved, and they anticipated violence from them during the march.  There had already been more than 30 deaths among the British troops and frankly many of the soldiers were out for vengeance.  Soldiers are not taught to handle civil rights demonstrations; they are trained to kill the enemy.  And many of the British soldiers were anxious to get some kills in.   Another source of pressure on the troops was the mass confusion.  They were like pit bulls waiting to be released and then teased by the bait held out to them but with the collars still leashed.  Once released, their adrenaline was sky high and they starting shooting at imagined IRA gunmen.  Of course, others joined in the melee. 

The top British officer on the scene seemed very gung-ho and was absolutely convinced the troops would enter the action blasting away.

To add further to all the chaos, the British changed the scheduled route causing a real mess for the march leaders.

Still another problem was that, expecting trouble, the gung-ho British troops used rubber bullets but also used live ammunition.  The Irish march leaders would tell their people not to worry too much because they were just rubber bullets, only to find their people falling dead with the blood flowing all over the streets. 

On the other side, the Irish Catholic side, the march was not well planned out.  The marchers were spread out over a long area and communication was difficult (they only had a small megaphone with which to manage communications).   And when the march route was changed, more chaos ensued with many continuing to follow the old route.

The Irish Catholic position was made worse by the young teenagers, mostly male, who threw rocks at the British soldiers and kept yelling "Brits out!  Brits out!  Brits out!"  instead of participating in the non-violent atmosphere of the march.  And there were IRA men in the area, although they did not participate (or were stopped by the demonstrators). 

With all this going wrong, a tragedy ensued with 14 dead Irish marchers.  

Then, of course, the British started a cover-up and planted fake evidence prejudicial to the Irish civil rights demonstrators. 

 

There was a great deal of difference between the Northern Irish civil rights movement and the American.  In the US, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson were sympathetic to the civil rights movement.  In Britain, there was no such sympathy.  The British fought against civil rights in the early days, which weakened the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland and strengthened to Irish Republican Army.  (Queen Elizabeth II even handed out metals to the British leaders of the troops that Bloody Sunday.  It would be something akin to the President of the US giving an award to racist Sheriff Bull Connor, bigoted leader of the Birmingham police during the maltreatment of civil rights demonstrators. )

So in the end, if one is to assign blame, it ultimately follows on the powers that control the situation and even support discrimination, prejudice and injustice.  No decent person in the US would have sided with the Southern whites against the poor blacks, but many of the British sided with the Northern Irish Protestants, those who practiced prejudice, discrimination and injustice.  

The good person ultimately has to side with the abused underdog, regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, etc.

So, shame on you Britain.  And to you who would support the abusers and apologize for them, shame on you.   

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

1972 (January 30)  --    a protest march by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was planned for the Bogside area of Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Activist Ivan Cooper led the march

The best estimate of the size of the march was around 15,000 participants.  

The march was to head to the Guildhall.  But army barricades had been set up to redirect the marchers to Free Derry Corner. 

A small group of teenagers broke off from the main march and decided to try to push through the barricades and head to the Guildhall.  The small group used stone and insults to attack the British barricade.  The British responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets. The response was successful as it dispersed the young protestors. 

There was a report that claimed an IRA sniper was in the area.  An order was given to fire live rounds into the marchers.  A young man, Jackie Duddy, was killed as he ran away from the troops.  A priest, Father Daly, was shot in the back.

Some of the marchers responded with various acts of aggression.  In turn, the British now mobilized their troops to arrest march participants.  The troops chased the tail of the main group of marchers to the edge of the field by Free Derry Corner.  (Meanwhile, British headquarters issued a ceasefire.)  In spite of the ceasefire order, the troops, under Major Ted Loden, fired over a hundred rounds into the fleeing crowds. Twelve more protestors died, many of them trying to help the already fallen.  Fourteen other marchers were wounded.

Of course, the army said that their troops were just reacting to the threat of gunmen and nail-bombs. (Would one expect any other response from government?) 

All non-soldier eye-witnesses reported that the soldiers fired into a fleeing, unarmed crowd.  There were no injuries or deaths of British soldiers.  Many of the Paratroopers later testified that their officers told them to expect a gunfight and to "get some kills".

As revenge, an angry crowd burned the British embassy in Merrion Square in Dublin. 

 

 

 

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