30 January 1972.
Bloody Sunday, or the Bogside Massacre, was a massacre on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, when British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march against internment without trial. Fourteen people died: 13 were killed outright, while the death of another man four months later was attributed to his injuries. Many of the victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers, and some were shot while trying to help the wounded. Other protesters were injured by shrapnel, rubber bullets, or batons, and two were run down by army vehicles. All of those shot were Catholics. The march had been organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA). The soldiers were from the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment (“1 Para”), the same battalion implicated in the Ballymurphy massacre several months prior.
Two investigations were held by the British government. The Widgery Tribunal, held in the immediate aftermath, largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame. It described the soldiers’ shooting as “bordering on the reckless”, but accepted their claims that they shot at gunmen and bomb-throwers. The report was widely criticised as a “whitewash”. The Saville Inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate, was established in 1998 to reinvestigate the incident. Following a 12-year investigation, Saville’s report was made public in 2010 and concluded that the killings were both “unjustified” and “unjustifiable”. It found that all of those shot were unarmed, that none were posing a serious threat, that no bombs were thrown and that soldiers “knowingly put forward false accounts” to justify their firing. The soldiers denied shooting the named victims but also denied shooting anyone by mistake. On publication of the report, the British prime minister David Cameron made a formal apology on behalf of the United Kingdom. Following this, police began a murder investigation into the killings.
Bloody Sunday came to be regarded as one of the most significant events of the Troubles, because many civilians were killed by forces of the state, in full view of the public and the press. It was the highest number of people killed in a single shooting incident during the conflict and is considered the worst mass shooting in Northern Irish history. Bloody Sunday fuelled Catholic and Irish nationalist hostility towards the British Army and worsened the conflict. Support for the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) rose, and there was a surge of recruitment into the organisation, especially locally.