January 30th 1972: Bloody Sunday

On this day in 1972, British troops fired on Irish protestors in an event which has become known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. The day began as a protest march in Londonderry, attended by around 10,000 people calling for Irish civil rights. The protestors, members of Derry’s predominantly Catholic nationalist community, rejected the rule of the mostly Protestant unionist Northern Irish assembly. The protestors were particularly incensed by the assembly’s policies of interning nationalist terrorist suspects without trial and alleged electoral fraud, which discriminated against those who sought Irish independence from Britain. On January 30th 1972, the British Army set up a barricade to block the protest route, but some protestors refused to change course, and hurled rocks at the soldiers. The soldiers responded with water cannons and rubber bullets, and were eventually ordered to arrest the rioters. The situation turned violent when some of the British paratroopers opened fire on the crowd, killing 13 people and wounding several more, one of whom later died from his injuries. The event enflamed tensions between Britain and Northern Ireland, also attracting the ire of independent Ireland, as protestors in Dublin torched the British Embassy. The army insisted they responded to fire from protestors, while locals saw the shootings as deliberate murder. A governmental inquiry sided with the army, causing outrage and demands for a new tribunal, which finally reported in 2010 that blame for the events of Bloody Sunday lay solely with the British army. Bloody Sunday was a pivotal moment in ‘The Troubles’, as opposition to British rule and support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) mounted in Northern Ireland, while Britain increased its military presence in the country.