By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Thirteen people died and 15 others wounded when British soldiers fired on civil rights protesters on January 30, 1972, in the city of Derry, also known as Londonderry.
The relatives of those killed and injured half a century retraced the steps of the original march on what became one of the deadliest days in a conflict known as The Troubles.
Crowds gathered at the Bloody Sunday Monument, where political leaders, including Irish Premier Micheál Martin, laid wreaths in a ceremony.
The British government apologized in 2010 after an official inquiry found that the soldiers shot without justification on unarmed, fleeing civilians and then lied about it for decades.
The report refuted an initial investigation claiming the soldiers had been defending themselves against Irish Republican Army bombers and gunmen.
On Sunday, the names of those who were killed and wounded were read out during the 45-minute memorial service and also underscored heroic efforts by church leaders.
In a recorded, archived interview recorded June 16, 2010, and heard by Worthy News, late Bishop Emeritus of Derry, Edward Daly, recalled Bloody Sunday, when he tried to save lives.
He passed away six years later in 2016 at the age of 82. But the photo of Daly waving his handkerchief as a white flag in an attempt to escort one of the victims to safety has become one of the most iconic images of The Troubles.
Daly was a 39-year-old curate at St. Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry on the day more than a dozen Catholics were killed. “I witnessed one of those who was shot besides me. I knew some of the other people who were killed. I was quite convinced from day one that not of the killings could be justified,” he said in the recorded interview, adding that the victims were murdered.
“They were picked out deliberately. It was the worst day of my life. It was a day that I always remember,” he told Vatican Radio.
“When you see another human being killed by gunfire, it lives right you. And [that memory] still lives with many of the families here,” Daly added.
“They were picked out deliberately. It was the worst day of my life. It was a day that I always remember. When you see another human being killed by gunfire, it lives right you. And [that memory] still lives with many of the families here,” he stressed.
Daily recalled that he came back from a funeral when he witnessed a “big march.”
He said he made sure he was in the streets when any problems would occur to assist elderly people or young families. “I was there, and there were six priests as well ministering to the dead and wounded. And I want to make sure my colleagues also I remembered for their work on that day.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reflected his sentiments. He told Parliament on Wednesday that Bloody Sunday was “one of the darkest days in our history” and that the country “must learn from the past.”
Yet the pain remains among those who survived the tragedy. One former British soldier was charged in 2019 in the killing of two of the protesters and the injury of four others.
But prosecutors decided last year not to proceed with the case, saying there was no longer a prospect of conviction. The family of one of the victims has brought a legal challenge against that decision.
Michael McKinney, whose brother William was among the victims, said, “They are trying to deny us justice because they are scared to face justice.”
However, “we want to send a very clear warning to the British government. If they pursue their proposals, the Bloody Sunday families will be ready to meet them head-on,” McKinney added.
Martin, the Irish leader, said Sunday that there should be full accountability in all legacy issues.
“I don’t believe this will be any amnesty for anybody,” he said after meeting with the families of victims. “It is important because time is moving on too for many, many families, and families need closure.”
While Bloody Sunday was among the deadliest incidents, many more marked The Troubles conflict.
Irish nationalists and republicans, mainly Irish Catholics, wanted Northern Ireland to leave Britain and join a united Ireland.
The conflict, which lasted about 30 years from the late 1960s, is usually deemed to have ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. But Sunday’s anniversary underscored that tensions remain over that painful chapter in recent history.