Friday, June 3, 2011


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The events that took place on Bloody Sunday, 0th January 17 have been discussed frequently and certain aspects of the event highly debated. The events of the particular day were of significant influence in further procedures in N. Ireland an on other related events. The event began after an illegal march took place in the centre of Derry, N. Ireland; the police and government banned the march as it was thought it would provoke violence. The march was lead by Catholic supporters who were demonstrating for Catholic rights, the Protestant-biased government and the internment of Catholics. As the march approached the city centre where Army barricades were set up, the first shot of many was fired. The question of who was to blame was then introduced, with neither the Army nor the Catholic marchers accepting responsibility. Thirteen people were found dead after the incident with may others left injured. With neither side accepting blame for the incident and instead blaming the incident on the opposition, the question of who is to blame is a difficult one. It is thought that the previous violence of the summer of 16, particularly the Battle of Bogside, in which Catholics violently fought with the RUC and B Specials, provoked the introduction of the British Army. The role of the Army was supposedly to keep the peace, defending the Catholic population from Protestant attacks, a scenario that has turned out to be somewhat ironic. The British also reintroduced the use of internment in August 171, which allowed the government to arrest and imprison anyone without trial. Many rumours surrounded the event before it took place and the results were not hugely shocking to those who were already expecting a gunfight to take place. It was thought by some that the IRA wanted a major gun battle, although others thought that if similar events to those that took place in Magilligan, London would be shamed and therefore it would seem that the British paratroopers would want to hold their fire against the Catholic demonstrators. Another stance is that the Catholics were simply holding another peaceful protest. About a week before Bloody Sunday, a two hour gunfight to place at Forkhill in County Armagh between British troops and the IRA. About 1000 shots were fired. Because of all the violence of the previous weeks, which was blamed on the IRA, the Protestant unionists felt that a tougher approach must be made to stop further violence from occurring.

After Bloody Sunday had taken place, the question of who was to blame and more importunately for some, who had fired the first shot. Different accounts of the day can give us an idea of what happened, although the evidence is far from conclusive. The official statement released by the army and approved by Lieutenant General Sir Harry Tuzo stated that, ¡¥The paratroopers came under nail bomb attack and a fusillade of fifty to eighty rounds.¡¦ Although the statement simply offers the Paratroopers version of what happened, it simply cannot be trusted as it is undoubtedly biased

towards the acts of the Army, however, as the other statements are just as reliable, it may or may not be true. The statement also states that ¡¥Fire continued to be returned only at identified targets.¡¦ This statement can also be highly debated as thirteen people were found dead and many more injured, many of which posed no threat to the army, therefore if the statement is true,

It must mean that the injured victims were only shot at through inaccuracy. As well as that, the statement also reads ¡¥¡Ka total of well over 00 rounds was fired indiscriminately in the general direction of the soldiers.¡¦ Meaning that the Army claimed the protestors started the gunfight and that the soldiers were simply returning fire, this section of the statement is also likely to be biased and may or may not be true. Simon Winchester¡¦s views of Bloody Sunday are taken from a different perspective, his report of the event was written for the Guardian, a paper that is known to support Catholicism. In his report of the series of events, he claims that the paratroopers arrived in armoured cars and started firing, unprovoked, at the crowds of Catholic protestors. Like the statement released by the army, the article written is undoubtedly biased and can be just as trusted. Therefore the two statements contradict each other, leaving no solid evidence and the question of who fired the first shot still debatable. Further views, this time from Catholic priest, Father Bradley also offer little evidence in terms of finding who fired the first shot. Father Bradley claimed that ¡¥I saw no one shooting at troops¡KI only saw the army shooting.¡¦ As Father Bradley is a Catholic priest, his version of the series of events which occurred, can also not be trusted as he is blaming the entire incident on the acts of the British Army, claiming that they were unprovoked and shot ¡¥indiscriminately.¡¦ Further film footage cannot confirm who fired the first shot either, as the videos could have been edited both visually and with sound, there is also no video footage of where the firing started, although what it does show is both sides showing hostility. The British Army can be seen firing shots into the crowds and the Catholic protestors can be seen throwing stones and smoke bombs at the British Army, although who started the violence still cannot be proven by the evidence. Because of the different statements from either sides contradicting each other and the lack of solid evidence, the question of who fired the first shot still cannot be answered, although certain aspects of the event can be proven.

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Using the sources we can gain some information concerning what the motives of the Paratroopers were and what there original intentions were. Source F claims that the Paratroopers acted very violently and without provocation. The source also states that the Paratroopers had to be restrained by their own NCOs when they ¡¥began wielding their batons fiercely on their own men.¡¦ This suggests that the paratroopers were totally out of control and that their objectives were unclear as they were being restrained. However, the source does take evidence from a Daily Telegraph reporter, a newspaper that openly supports rightwing parties, and is also written by an Irishman, Tim Pat Coogan, who is likely to be Catholic, therefore the evidence cannot be trusted as it could be biased and was also published in 15, some time after the original events had taken place. Source G claims that

Lieutenant General Tuzo thought that a low key strategy to avoid confrontation was the advisable course.¡¦ Although the source later states that

Faulkner opposed the low key strategy and thought that a hard line must be taken. These two contradictive ideas create the theory of questionable motives by the paratroopers, which supports the ideas brought about in source F, as many paratroopers probably opposed the orders that were given to them, or simply disagreed with them. This would have resulted in a lack of

Morale within the paratroopers brought about by confusion and the fact that many paratroopers did not want to be involved as their views were split. Therefore the sources show us that the paratroopers were very likely too have been too violent and that the British Army didn¡¦t really want to be there. It was possibly this frustration that lead to the paratroopers shooting on Bloody Sunday. It is likely that the British government simply wanted to take out the ringleaders, although this makes it questionable whether or not the paratroopers were required as they were trained to kill, whereas a crowd control force would have seemed more appropriate to detain violence, as they are less likely to kill or to provoke violence themselves. Although neither source came from official documents, both were taken from Tim Pat Coogan, a certain amount of the evidence can be trusted, although due to the fact that the sources are likely to be biased towards the Catholics and that they were both released in 14 and 15 respectively, certain elements cannot be trusted.

Another influential factor affecting the Bloody Sunday incident is the Widgery Report, a special investigation ordered by the British Government into Bloody Sunday, it was published in April 17; just 11 weeks after the incident had taken place. The fact that the report was released detracts from its reliability and gives the impression that the investigation was hurried and one sided. The Widgery report also makes no mention of who fired the first shot, as it was released by the British government this could have been purposely done. Source E, which is an extract from the Widgery Report, states that the paratroopers only returned fire at identified gunman, although the report later goes on to say ¡¥¡Ksome soldiers showed a high degree of responsibility at the other, firing bordered on the reckless.¡¦ So although the British Army are claiming that they only fired at identified gunman, they are also revealing that some of the firing ¡¥bordered on the reckless,¡¦ this somewhat contradicts the report. This statement can also be further questioned due to the fact that British Army snipers are known to have been firing off the Castle Walls as people were found shot in the back, with the trajectory suggesting that they were shot from behind and above, meaning that the snipers would not have known whether or not the targets were armed as they did not have a clean sight and that as they were facing away, they posed no threat. Paraffin tests however, did indicate that the majority of those found dead had been handling weapons and therefore the fire was justified, although the reliability of this evidence is questionable. Another factor going against the Widgery Report is the fact that the paratroopers did not move

tactically away from fire and instead displayed hostile positions, which suggest that they were the aggressors. There were also many other factors

affecting the outcome of the Widgery Report, the Irish Republics opinion of the government was running low meaning that a favourable report

sympathising with the British was necessary. As recently as 18, the British government introduced a new inquiry, the Saville enquiry, as they have admitted that the Widgery report was ¡¥unsatisfactory.¡¦ Although as the new inquiry is taking place some time after the original event, the evidence is likely to be unreliable. Because of all the information that opposes the Widgery Report and the unreliability that surrounds it, it simply cannot be trusted, although aspects of it are likely to be correct.

As much of the information has now been described, a conclusion can be drawn, much of this can be taken from the results of the Saville enquiry. As the peace process has been in development for some time, the government felt it necessary to readdress some previous issues, such as the Saville enquiry. Already new information has been revealed which has altered some previous perceptions, although many paratroopers are unwilling to give evidence and as the incident took place in 17 the newer evidence may prove unreliable. For example, new information taken from a secret memo by Major General Robert Ford reveals that he believed ¡¥The minimum force necessary to achieve a restoration of law and order is to shoot selected ring leaders,¡¦ although this confirms that the paratroopers were ordered to shoot to kill, it does not explain the deaths of the seemingly innocent civilians, if indeed, they were innocent. Because of all the different views of the event and different accounts of what happened, it has proved difficult to reach an agreement on what happened on Bloody Sunday and as the event goes further back in History, the evidence provided will become even more unreliable without a dramatic breakthrough, meaning that it is highly likely that the exact events of what happened on Black Sunday will remain unknown to those that were not present. Many factors have affected this, least of all the complexity of the event and whether or not it was intended as a peaceful protest given that the march was declared illegal and therefore should never have taken place. Also given the depth of emotion on the day, as well as after, as the paratroopers were left in a difficult position, Brian Faulkner wanting a tough approach and Catholics protesting against internment; which was declared illegal by the European court, lead to a very aggressive situation with both sides having significant reasons for violence. Therefore certainty can never really be considered and whether or not an agreement will be reached on what happened on Bloody Sunday is debatable.

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