On this day…in 1972
In Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators are shot dead by British Army paratroopers in an event that becomes known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The protesters, all Northern Catholics, were marching in protest of the British policy of internment of suspected Irish nationalists.
British authorities had ordered the march banned, and sent troops to confront the demonstrators when it went ahead. The soldiers fired indiscriminately into the crowd of protesters, killing 13 and wounding 17.
The killings brought worldwide attention to the crisis in Northern Ireland and sparked protests all across Ireland. In Dublin, the capital of independent Ireland, outraged Irish citizens lit the British embassy aflame on February 2.
The crisis in Northern Ireland escalated in 1969 when British troops were sent to the British possession to suppress nationalist activity by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and to quell religious violence between Protestants and Catholics.
In April 1972, the British government released a report exonerating British troops from any illegal actions during the Londonderry protest. Irish indignation over Britain’s Northern Ireland policies grew, and Britain increased its military presence in the North while removing any vestige of Northern self-rule.
On July 21, 1972, the IRA exploded 20 bombs simultaneously in Belfast, killing British military personnel and a number of civilians. Britain responded by instituting a new court system composed of trial without jury for terrorism suspects and conviction rates topped over 90 percent.
The IRA officially disarmed in September 2005, finally fulfilling the terms of the historic 1998 Good Friday peace agreement. It was hoped that the disarmament would bring with it an end to decades of politically motivated bloodshed in the region.