A Sinn Fein MLA has said the erection of Parachute regiment flags in Londonderry over the past week is “disrespectful” with intention to hurt the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday.
“Given the brutal history of the Parachute Regiment in this city the erection of these flags is provocative and disrespectful and clearly designed to hurt the families who had loved ones murdered and injured on Bloody Sunday.”
On January 30th 1972 a civil rights demonstration through the streets of Londonderry in north-west Northern Ireland ended with 28 civilians being shot by British troops from the Parachute Regiment, 14 of which died, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday”.
This was one of the most prominent events that occurred during The Troubles as it was recorded as the largest number of people killed in a single incident during the period.
Bloody Sunday greatly increased the hostility of Catholics and Irish nationalists towards the British military and government while significantly elevating tensions during The Troubles. As a result, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) gained more support, especially through rising numbers of recruits in the local areas.
While the British Army maintained that its soldiers had responded after coming under fire, multiple accounts that this was not the case began to surface. The British government was sufficiently concerned for the Home Secretary to announce the following day an official inquiry into the circumstances of the shootings.
Opinion was further polarised by the findings of this tribunal, led by the British Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery. His report exonerated the British Army and cast suspicion on many of the victims, suggesting they had been handling bombs and guns.
Relatives of the dead and the wider nationalist community campaigned for a fresh public inquiry, which was finally granted by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998.
Headed by Lord Saville, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry took 12 years and finally reported in 2010. It established the innocence of the victims and laid responsibility for what happened on the British Army.
Prime Minister David Cameron called the killings “unjustified and unjustifiable”. The families of the victims of Bloody Sunday felt that the inquiry’s findings vindicated those who were killed, raising the question of prosecutions and compensation.