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The events that occurred in Derry on January 30th 1972 became known as Bloody Sunday. Why have these events produced such different historical interpretations?

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Introduction

Lauren Baker 11B4 History Coursework Page 1 The events that occurred in Derry on January 30th 1972 became known as Bloody Sunday. Why have these events produced such different historical interpretations? The straightforward answer is because at present historians do not know precisely what happened on Bloody Sunday. The basic facts are clear. These are that on 30 January NICRA (Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association) planned to hold a civil rights march in Londonderry to protest against Internment (the imprisonment of suspected terrorists without a trial.) British troops opened fire, killing thirteen people and wounding several more. However there are many different interpretations of who started the violence and who was to blame for the events of Bloody Sunday. The Northern Ireland government had banned all such marches, the year before, but the marchers were determined to go ahead anyway. Besides, few Catholics took much notice any longer of the Northern Ireland government. The marchers were unarmed, but when they reached barricades that had been put up by the army to stop them leaving the Bog side, they began to throw stones and shout insults at the soldiers. ...read more.

Middle

They viewed themselves as 'carrying out their duties as a peacekeeping force', and blame the IRA terrorists, who had already carried out many attacks on the Ulster Constabulary and British Army in Northern Ireland. Nationalists, especially Sinn Fein and the IRA, regarded the British Army as an Army of 'occupation'. In their view, the British Army's presence in Ireland was itself an act of aggression so in their eyes the Nationalist community had every right to protest against it. Their interpretation of Bloody Sunday is that the soldiers' response to the marchers was the act of an aggressive invasion force trying to put down legal protest against an illegal occupation of Ireland. It reflects their view that Republicans were not simply terrorists, but occupied in a justifiable armed struggle against British aggression. In the Widgery report the government claimed, " Each soldier was his own judge of whether he had identified a gunman." A Catholic priest at the scene claimed that he saw no one shooting at troops. He claimed that he saw the British Army shoot without selecting targets, "it was a massacre." Due to his religious tendency one would expect him not to make up such a statement, however someone writing a report concluding ...read more.

Conclusion

When two groups oppose each other, interpretations are bound to differ, however another cause for the difference in interpretation is that because Bloody Sunday happened 31 years ago, all the buildings are different now and the place itself cannot be used as evidence to support either side's statements. Source I is therefore an example of a valid piece of evidence as it shows a reconstruction of Derry's bog side and can portray the bog side as it was, which is needed to support peoples accounts. Interpretations may differ because people hear, see and experience things differently and so for example a gun being fired by a soldier could have triggered other soldiers to open fire if they had cause to believe it was a civilian or member of the IRA. Currently, the only people who know the truth are those who carried and used weapons on that terrible day and their commanders, both British Army officers, possibly acting on the orders of the British government, or the IRA leadership. This is why the "Saville Inquiry" has been set up by the British government as part of the current peace process to try to find out the truth behind Bloody Sunday. ...read more.

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