The Last Bloody Sunday March?

Saturday’s Irish News reports that this year’s annual Bloody Sunday March in Derry may be the last. Apparently some family members of the victims, satisfied that justice has been done through the Saville report and the Prime Minister’s apology, believe that this should be the last time the event goes ahead.

The march is held on the Sunday nearest the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, 30 January. It is the centrepiece of Bloody Sunday weekend, which includes lectures, a commemorative mass and other events throughout the city.

The Irish News story quotes family member John Kelly, who says that Bloody Sunday weekend should continue but that this should be the last year for the march. He says,

This should be a march of celebration. It should be a victory march celebrating the victory over injustice.

Family member Liam Wray disagrees, saying that the march is ‘known internationally’ and can serve as a ‘platform for other campaigns and organisations to highlight their causes.’

It’s interesting that this discussion is beginning to take place and it demonstrates how when some steps are taken to ‘deal with’ the past, other steps may be considered.

Whatever the fate of the Bloody Sunday March, commemorations of Troubles-related events are set to continue for the foreseeable future. This will happen whether or not there is an official or public ‘truth telling’ or ‘dealing with the past’ process.

Like the conflict itself, these commemorative events are usually done by and for one community or the other. This means that while they may offer some solace to the families and friends of victims and honour the dead, they do little to promote empathy across the divide.

So my question is: are there ways in which events like Bloody Sunday can be remembered that can foster understanding and empathy, or is that asking too much?

  • The Word

    Clearly there’s a bit of Sinn Fein manipulation going on in this matter.

    More marches bigs them up as the goodies with the clear implication that the rest of the world isn’t as good.

    If people want to march let them, I say.

    “Empathy” can and will be found in keeping the memory of these families in our hearts. Their suffering helped make Derry what it is, cautious about those who war for the nation state and a welcoming place for those who seek justice.

    By that I mean true justice, not one that argues that it can be achieved down the barrel of a gun.

    There can be no basis for cross-community empathy outside of the acceptance that a common sense of justice ordered by empathy and leaving behind notions of supremacy. The meek shall inherit Derry.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    And the answer to your question is no….its asking too much.
    For a start the question implies that there is one way.a “correct” or “agreed” way to remember which we “must” as three communities here rally round.
    The fact is that the unionist community and I acknowledge its a community of individuals…..would be happy to forget Bloody Sunday. After all they started to forget about it the next Monday. There is no appetite for remembering it in that community (as indeed there is no appetite for remembering victims of republican terrorism within the nationalist community).
    In the “moderate” community…the story has always been one of bending to the latest orthodoxy. Thus get over it was eventually replaced by sympathy for the relatives followed by a very loud chorus of “we always knew they were innocent…now can we please forget it again”.
    The nationalist community has been consistent in its struggle for the victims. One of the strengths of its campaign is that the Bloody Sunday relatives could not be callously dismissed as a “republican front” as some relatives were clearly more “moderate” than their detractors in government, unionism and the British media would have wanted.
    So its unfair to see a “split” in the ranks with factions led by Mr Kelly and Mr Wray.
    Its now for Mr Kelly to remember as he wishes.
    And for Mr Wray to do the same…without the aid of conflict resolutionists.
    If Mr Kelly chooses to believe his personal conflict is over, then so be it.
    If Mr Wray chooses otherwise, then so be it.
    There can be no “one size fits all solution”.

    Moving away from the personal to the broader lesson. Irish nationalism/republicanism NEEDS Injustice or Injustice to be remembered. Thus it is in the broader interest of republicanism to recall that particular injustice as much as it needs the “injustice” of the executed leaders of 1916 or McGurks Bar or the Falls Curfew or the Ballymurphy Massacre (and of course other communities “need” their “injustices” also). Its all part of a very long game.

    Did it really mean anything when Tony Bliar apologised for the Famine.
    Did that resolve our conflict?
    Theres no real appetite for that kinda thing.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “By that I mean true justice, not one that argues that it can be achieved down the barrel of a gun.”

    Might I just ask you the one question, to wit, how does the state ultimately enforce its judgments? At the end of the barrel of a gun? I thought so. Mao was a lot of things, but one of those wasn’t him being wrong when he said something about all power coming from the end of the barrel of that gun.

  • “Irish nationalism/republicanism NEEDS Injustice or Injustice to be remembered.”

    I agree with this comment. With Sinn Fein, this is quite obvious. Their system of remembrances and commemorations as a focus for rallying support is very overt.

    It is not quite so obvious with the SDLP. My understanding of their vision of a united Ireland is that unity of people is a more important objective than over unity of territory. On the other hand, their duel objects of a united Ireland and a shared future appear to be in conflict because the former implies the future succession of a cross-communal Northern Irish identity. Thus they feel the need to continue to trumpet that they were the party which delivered Civil Rights.

    Did it really mean anything when Tony Blair apologised for the Famine.
    Did that resolve our conflict?

    I don’t totally agree with the implied answers behind these questions. Nobody is suggesting that taking responsibility for something in the past perpetrated by your ancestors is a way of resolving conflict. However, such gestures do generate empathy and contribute to the healing process.

    David Cameron’s apology for the role played by the British Army in relation to Bloody Sunday did impress many Catholics. We need more of this kind of apology.

  • Tomas Gorman

    The fact that some BS relatives found closure in Camerons apology is a positive thing and if they think that there should be no more BS march, their opinion is perfectly valid.

    I’m not so sure though that it should be the last as I think that the march has taken a life of it’s own. Some groups may use it for their own ends but for me it has become an annual commemoration/celebration of popular resistance against state brutality and imperialism. Remember that the Ill fated march was one of many campaigning for basic civil rights in the face of state thuggery.

    On the issue as to whether justice has been done, I would disagree. On that cathartic day, the British PM acknowledged a truth already known by any rational thinking person; that 2 Para willingly and knowingly shot dead 13 unarmed protesters under direct command. No prosecutions against the soldiers or their commanders (and their commanders in turn) seem likely hence It was the British state tying off a dirty affair and finding perhaps more solace than the campaigners.

    I try to get up every year to Derry for the BS march and will again this year to show my opposition to ongoing British state brutality in Afghanistan and to call for the prosecution of the guilty parties of BS to be tried at the ECHR.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As I recall when they emerged from the Guild Hall victorious earlier this year, one of the relatives spoke about ongoing injustice around the World……I believe Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine were mentioned
    Of course the actual campaign cant change into a secondary campaign as the full weight of nationalist/republican opinion was behind the relatives (along with Johnny come latelys from the “moderates” and belated and grudging whataboutery from unionists)…….and any other campaign cant have full support.
    It would be wrong to suggest that closing the march is linked to SDLP supporting nationalists while continuing the march is a SF fixation.
    Certainly Irish nationalism thrives on real Injustice or synthetic Injustice. Its a crucial plank in republican/nationalist philosophy …the stuff of ballads.
    As a republican/nationalist, I am happy enough with that..
    Will I stop playing Paddywagons “Sunday Bloody Sunday” as a consequence of the Saville Report? No.

  • Mark

    One of the SDLP boys who comment here linked Durkin’s speech in WM …… if you want to see how some unionist politicians really feel , watch little Ian say something under his breath and try to hold back sniggering while Durkin is speaking .

    If the commemoration gives even one person from any of the families some comfort or helps in any way with the grief than it should continue . People have their own way of dealing with a sudden loss and some never recover . So again , if any of the families feel the commemoration helps them , it should continue .

  • The Word


    “Might I just ask you the one question, to wit, how does the state ultimately enforce its judgments? At the end of the barrel of a gun? I thought so. Mao was a lot of things, but one of those wasn’t him being wrong when he said something about all power coming from the end of the barrel of that gun.”

    There’s a difference between a wise and a foolish state. Democracies tend to respond to the people’s demands rather than enforce its judgments upon them.

    And so, of course, Mao would say that after the 100 million approximately who died for him to see power. He must have been some boy – eat, sleep and going to the toilet with a gun in his hand. Some might say that that is just the paranoid man’s price to pay for power.