A group of young politics students from Derry have reflected on what Bloody Sunday means to them on the 50th anniversary of the atrocity.
The young men from St Joseph’s Boys’ School and women from St Mary’s College study the subject together at the Creggan school as part of the Foyle Learning Community.
St Joseph’s first opened in 1963 at its present site on Westway, Creggan, and has established strong links with the local community.
A short distance up the road, from what is known locally as ‘Creggan shops’, Civil Rights marches embarked on a peaceful protest against internment on January 30, 1972.
Tragically, thirteen people were shot dead in the Bogside that day and many more were injured when the British Paratroopers indiscriminately opened fire on civilians. A fourteenth man died later of his injuries.
Six of those killed on the day were teenagers and a number had studied at St Joseph’s.
In these thoughtful and insightful contributions, young students who are the same age as some of those killed on the day, consider the legacy of Bloody Sunday and share aspirations for their hometown.
Patrick O’Kane Duddy, St Joseph’s Boys’ School.
“The question of Bloody Sunday is still relevant in a young person’s life in this city. Many young people will have a connection to the atrocity as it is something our parents and grandparents have experienced living with and stories have been shared in every home in the town. It was also innocent people in our community who were killed making it difficult for many to move on.
“I believe that as the years go on more young people will want to move on and shift it to one side. To prosecute these soldiers now would simply not be worth it as they have lived their lives and are no longer a threat at 70/80 years old. Finding the truth and moving on is what I believe would solve this 50-year-old question. It might also lead to healing for the families.
“As a young person from the city, I believe we must educate the future generations to learn how to deal with legacy issues such as Bloody Sunday and the only way to do this is to have more integrated schools instead of having a constant separation in communities. The youth can now learn how to understand these issues and how to move on past them without having a set agenda just because of where they happen to be born.
“Bloody Sunday will always be attached to the people of Derry no matter what generation. It is something that everyone knows about and has an opinion on. However, letting politicians argue for the sake of looking good is not enough, we must teach young people how to move on and accept the past, but to not forget. Future generations could prosper by working together and letting the past be the past.”
Madox Thompson, St Joseph’s Boys’ School.
“Bloody Sunday has always been a key talking point for me and my friends, mainly because we are interested in our own history and this event was a defining one. During the Troubles my family lost a loved one. I never got to meet my great-grandmother due to the horrifying events that took place, but I believe having her memory is important and being able to remember someone we lost is crucial and brings a lot of closure to many who need it.
“Ancestry is a key thing within family, it helps define you as a person and distil your own personal background. So Bloody Sunday I believe is essential for those who lost family members and will be an everlasting memorial for decades to come.
“Within the city there are varied options on what should and shouldn’t be changed within the city. Coming from a younger demographic and being a student in Derry I believe there is a cause for change. Mental health and addiction issues are the key issues in our city. High rates of homelessness and alcoholism together with better facilities such as detox centres and hostels need to be put in place to give our future generations more hope and prosperity.
“Relating to Bloody Sunday, the Bloody Sunday march is a staple for the community and affected families of the Troubles. In the past the march was highly regarded and acted as a sense of closure for anyone affected during the Troubles. More events like this to bring communities together would be very beneficial and allows people to get involved locally and connect with others.”
Ché McMonagle, St Joseph’s Boys’ School.
“This week will mark the 50th year since the events of Bloody Sunday. 30th January 1972 will forever be etched into the minds of the people of Derry for all generations and recognised as not only a failure and injustice of the British government but a clear example of the miscarriage of force which the British State had carried out during the period of the Troubles. Fourteen innocent people were killed due to the actions of the British army.
“The events of Bloody Sunday are still as important to me today as they would have been 20 years ago. Even though I was not born when the horrors of the Troubles took place, I am still reminded of how the people of Derry were treated and I am aware of how unjustified Bloody Sunday was and the fact that 50 years down the line we are still nearly at the same point, without justice being served to the murderers or that proper recognition that the events of Bloody Sunday were a cruel act. This is genuinely sad and the blame for this rests with the British state.
“I believe complete justice has been not been served to the families of Bloody Sunday and until the likes of the British Army or politicians in Westminster and Stormont on both sides can recognise that the families deserve justice, we cannot just brush past it. I feel that the families have been sold short.
“Since 1998 Derry and the North of Ireland have prospered in the correct direction. However, the hate still lies here especially during Bloody Sunday where paratrooper flags are still seen being erected during a week of commemoration. The British Army condemning the flags being put up but not condemning their own actions shows the unsympathetic and careless thoughts towards the massacre of 14 innocent people. This still creates a sense of resentment towards the British State from the families and the people of Derry.
“Even if justice is fully served in the years to come, that the marches which take place on Bloody Sunday and other events should 100% still occur. In addition and the week or day leading to it should not be used as an opportunity to show hate towards the families but to support them and respect them from both sides of the city and beyond. For our entire society to fully prosper together and collectively we need to understand this – that it isn’t a political battle which is being fought or a sectarian battle but a quest for justice which is well over due for the families of Bloody Sunday.
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.”
Bronagh McGilloway, St Mary’s College.
“As a young person living in Derry and who has grown up surrounded by the murals and stories of the Troubles and the atrocities, it is no surprise to me that the memory of Bloody Sunday has lived on 50 years later. Bloody Sunday is still such a talking point as it happened on our doorstep.
“Derry City is a small place where everyone knows everyone and the killing of 13 people cannot and will not be forgotten by any generation. The fact that six of the 13 were younger than 18 is something which has stuck with me, as a 17-year-old the thought of being gunned down for throwing stones or being in the wrong place at the wrong time is why I connect with it so strongly.
“Bloody Sunday was a pivotal turning point in the Troubles and the brutality of the British response in the Bogside has traumatised the people of Derry and institutionalised the commemoration of Bloody Sunday in Derry. While the new generation do not remember Bloody Sunday as vividly as our parents and grandparents, we are still healing from the pain inflicted on January 30th, 1972.
“For future generations to prosper there is a need to move forward with our lives, the past is to be learned from and remembered but not to be dwelled on – a new Ireland where all are equal and respected is a nice idea, however, dragging on past atrocities is prolonging the pain of the families impacted by the Troubles.
“While there is a need for a unity referendum, I believe it is vital it affords the whole of the North of Ireland the opportunity to make it known what we want our future to be, to work towards that and not stay stagnated in the past.”
Shea Gallagher, St Joseph’s Boys’ School.
“The 30th January 1972 will forever be in the hearts of Derry men and women. As we commemorate 50 years on from Bloody Sunday it remains one of the many symbols of British injustice. Throughout the inquests and investigations families, friends and communities have been left devastated at the events that occurred on that horrible day which resulted in the deaths of 14 innocent men at the hands of the British Army.
“Bloody Sunday to this day, almost 50 years on, is as relevant now as it was then, the pain and injustice of that day is something that will never be forgotten. The events are in the DNA of the people. It is an issue that I am still passionate about even though I wasn’t born. It shows what effect it can have on our generation and also highlights the relevance of it today.
“It is now too late for justice in the traditional form (that doesn’t mean that I don’t support such justice). Rather it means that given the circumstances and the time period since the events of that day, time has passed by on receiving formal justice and this is something that grates with the people of Derry as they know deep down that true justice will not be served by a British court in favour of Irish citizens. All this does is highlight the weaknesses of the British justice system.
“Since 1972 Derry has come along way in terms of politics. Stormont getting up and running with a government is something previous generations thought could not be done.
“Since the Good Friday Agreement there have been many stumbling blocks but overall, given the example of the years 1969-1998, the fact that the government is still there is a blessing.
“The economy has improved, and with better investment, this has impacted on social conditions. There is no doubt that the city of Derry has vastly improved in every way. Derry is now a place you can feel safe in and it is a place that you can feel proud of. Unlike the past there are glimpses of prosperity in terms of investment into education which is something that has attracted people to this great city. If you compare 1972 to the present day you would have to be inclined to agree that Derry is very much a changed town for the better.”
Liam Shiels, St Joseph’s Boys’ School.
“I believe that Bloody Sunday is still a talking point and that the young people in Derry still do have a connection to the atrocity. Firstly, the main reason being that it is a major part in Derry’s history. It was one of the city’s darkest days and therefore it should never be forgotten. The stories from that day have been passed through my family for years, and I have no doubt that I will pass on the stories to my own family in the future.
“Young people today still have a connection to Bloody Sunday due to the amount of young people that lost their lives on that day. Six teenagers lost their lives on that day, some were pupils of our school, and for me personally I find it almost surreal to think of six students of my age (18) or even younger, being brutally murdered for attending a peaceful protest. The young people of Derry are proud of where they come from.
“Although Bloody Sunday should never be forgotten people should try and move on after the British government apology – holding onto the bitterness the event has caused will only cause more harm and trouble. If we were to move on from Bloody Sunday there would be less bitterness between the two sides and Derry would become a much more prosperous city.”
Amelie McDermott, St Mary’s College.
“As someone who is around the same age as many of those killed on Bloody Sunday, it is a talking point among many of my peers. None of the victims were armed – the trauma from this is still felt throughout the community. The brutal effects still clearly resonate throughout Derry to this day.
“Many in the city see it as a pivotal moment, one that changed the course of this city’s history and stories of that day have been passed down to us by either parents or grandparents. This helps keep the memory of those killed alive. In Derry many have not had any closure over this as the parachute regiment have still not faced trial. I feel it still scars our streets and continues to wound the people.
“To see future generations prosper I believe there needs to be a Unity Referendum as then we will have an answer to the 100-year-old question should Ireland stay divided?
“As a young person, and whatever the outcome may be, I feel as though it will give those within our city some from of closure, especially younger generations who have grown up with this legacy of violence. Ireland needs to move forward but not forget our history. Hopefully whatever the result of a Unity Referendum may be the future of the island of Ireland will know peace by learning from our shared past and stopping the bloodshed which continues to this day. Whatever Ireland’s future is we can only hope that she prospers.”
Abdullah Khello, St Joseph’s Boys’ School
“Bloody Sunday was truly a very tragic event in the history of Derry and as a young person who grew up in Derry, I agree that it is a very relevant conversation to debate and analyse.
“If there is anything I want to change about this city to allow future generations to prosper is the government that is very influenced by the past and legacy issues. This is to the detriment of not focusing on the present to deal and solve current problems in the city. A prime example of this is the growing mental health crisis in Derry.
“The current state of politics in the country is very dysfunctional and if the government continues to be preoccupied with the past then the country will not move forward and prosper. A united Ireland will be more beneficial to allow the people to move forward towards a better future for them and for the next generation. Partition has failed and it has deepened divisions.
“The victims of Bloody Sunday and their families faced a very cruel injustice from the British courts. However, I know it may sound negative but I do not think the justice will be delivered anytime soon. I would not recommend forgetting about it but it is time to move forward and allow future generations to live freely without the heavy burden of the past.”
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