The British Army Murdered 13 People, No One Was Prosecuted

The British Army Murdered 13 People, No One Was Prosecuted

Intro (00:00:00)

  • On January 31st, 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland, British soldiers fired 100 rounds into a crowd of civil rights protesters, resulting in 13 deaths and 14 injuries.
  • The British Prime Minister called a meeting with the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice to investigate the incident.
  • The focus of the meeting was on quickly wrapping up the investigation and limiting access to the tribunal.
  • The Prime Minister suggested holding the tribunal away from the scene of the massacre, citing concerns about the location being on "the wrong side of the river" where people did not support the British government.
  • The Lord Chief Justice initially objected, stating that holding the tribunal away from the city would make it difficult for witnesses to provide evidence.
  • The Prime Minister emphasized that the British government was fighting a propaganda war in Northern Ireland and that the investigation needed to be managed accordingly.
  • The memo uncovered in 1995 revealed plans by the British government to cover up the massacre and protect the British army.
  • The investigation that followed, known as the Widgery Tribunal, was criticized for being a sham and failing to hold anyone accountable for the deaths.

Two Irelands (00:04:01)

  • The bloody events of 1972 in Northern Ireland were a result of decades-long tensions between the British and Irish.
  • Northern Ireland was created as a part of the United Kingdom after Ireland gained independence in 1921.
  • Northern Ireland was predominantly populated by Protestant unionists who wanted to remain part of the UK, while a significant Catholic nationalist population wanted to unify with the Republic of Ireland.
  • Discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland led to civil rights marches, which were often violently suppressed by unionists and the local police force.
  • The conflict escalated with the emergence of paramilitary groups, including the IRA on the nationalist side and the Ulster Volunteer Force on the unionist side.
  • The British government responded by sending in the army, including the elite parachute regiment, to restore order.
  • The British army's presence in Northern Ireland failed to achieve its mission of restoring order, and the conflict continued.
  • In 1971, the unionist government introduced a policy allowing security forces to arrest suspected IRA members without evidence or trial.
  • The British army, including the paras, conducted a violent three-day raid in a Catholic neighborhood in Belfast, arbitrarily arresting hundreds and killing 11 people, including a priest and a mother of eight.

Massacre in Derry/Londonderry (00:09:26)

  • The British Army's Parachute Regiment, responsible for killing 11 innocent civilians just days prior, was preparing for a civil rights march in Derry/Londonderry.
  • The march aimed to protest the brutal internment policy and was expected to draw over 10,000 participants.
  • As the march encountered a barricade set up by the Army, some young men broke off and clashed with soldiers, leading to the use of rubber bullets, gas canisters, and a water cannon.
  • Despite efforts to avoid conflict, the situation escalated when the Parachute Regiment moved in behind the marchers, making mass arrests and using armored vehicles to dangerously speed into the crowd.
  • The soldiers began indiscriminately shooting at the fleeing crowd, resulting in the deaths of 13 people and injuries to 14 others.
  • Eyewitnesses reported soldiers shooting people at close range, even those already wounded or providing first aid.
  • The Bloody Sunday massacre sparked widespread anger and protests across Ireland.
  • Demonstrations took place in front of the British Embassy in Dublin, leading to its burning down two days later.
  • The incident gained significant attention and could not be ignored by the authorities.

The Coverup (00:12:52)

  • The British Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, and Lord Widgery decided to produce a document that protects the soldiers and the government from scrutiny rather than conduct a genuine investigation into the Bloody Sunday incident.
  • The Prime Minister was more concerned about the optics, location of the trial, and speed of the inquiry, and wanted to restrict its scope to the events of that day, excluding motivations, leadership, and context.
  • Lord Widgery conducted the investigation in a nearby unionist majority town and completed it within 3 months.
  • Widgery's report concluded that the soldiers who shot at the protesters were not to blame and that the deaths were caused by the organizers of the illegal march.
  • He praised the soldiers' discipline and demeanor, stating that anyone who listened to their testimony would be impressed.
  • Widgery accounted for all 108 shots fired by the soldiers, but kept their identities anonymous.
  • He ignored hundreds of eyewitness accounts, claiming they came too late in the process, and did not interview wounded victims in the hospital.
  • Widgery concluded that the soldiers fired in self-defense and were fired on first.
  • Widgery's investigation was designed to protect the soldiers, the Army, and the government, rather than uncover the truth.
  • He produced a document that fulfilled the expectations of his superiors, shielding them from accountability.
  • No soldier was prosecuted for the 13 deaths on Bloody Sunday, and the subsequent cover-up escalated the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The Fallout and a New Investigation (00:16:11)

  • The Bloody Sunday massacre led to increased tensions and violence in Northern Ireland.
  • The British Army continued to crack down on the region, leading to mass arrests and hunger strikes.
  • Irish Catholics held annual marches to remember the victims of the massacre.
  • The conflict eventually reached a stalemate, leading to peace negotiations.
  • Activists, including John Kelly, fought to include a real investigation into Bloody Sunday as part of the peace process.

Conclusion (00:18:51)

  • The Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, and as part of the agreement, the British government conducted a real investigation into Bloody Sunday.
  • The investigation concluded that the soldiers' actions were unjustified and that none of the victims posed a threat.
  • The report acknowledged that the IRA was present and had fired on soldiers but that this did not justify the shootings.
  • The soldiers lied to investigators to justify their actions.
  • The investigation cost the British government 200 million pounds and took 12 years to complete.
  • The report provided some justice for the victims but fell short of true accountability for some.
  • The trauma from the conflict and injustices still affects many people in Northern Ireland today.

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