A British Soldier Drags a Catholic Protester During Bloody Sunday

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A British Soldier Drags a Catholic Protester During Bloody Sunday


By: Anonymous

Date: January 30, 1972

Source: Getty Images

About the Photographer: The primary source photograph was taken by an unknown photographer for AFP, a worldwide, multilingual news agency based in Paris.


The conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland date back centuries to the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. However, the root of the most recent "Troubles"—as the conflict is known in Britain—is found in 1921 with the partition of the island of Eire into Ireland, a sovereign nation, and Northern Ireland, a part of Great Britain. The population of the agricultural southern region that would become Ireland was mainly Catholic. In contrast to this, Protestants, many of whom descended from British settlers in Ireland, sought union with England. The conflict between Protestants and Catholics was, instead, a conflict of home rule versus union with England. The new state of Northern Ireland consisted of a protestant majority. With this majority, protestant unionists began a campaign of discrimination against Catholics, beginning with housing and employment.

In 1965, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) emerged in with the expressed goals of ending discrimination against Catholics. The movement sought free and fair elections, with one representative to vote in council elections and the end of gerrymandering electoral boundaries; a repeal of the Special Powers Act that gave police liberal arrest and detention powers; fairness in public housing; and the disbanding of the largely Protestant auxiliary police force. Members of the NIRCA witnessed the civil rights movements in the United States and sought to mobilize Northern Ireland toward the same end. They marched in Londonderry on October 5, 1968, even though the demonstration had been banned by the Minister for Home Affairs William Craig. Craig assumed that the civil rights movement operated as a political front for the Irish Republic Army (IRA) terrorists. Camera crews from the Irish nationalist television station, RTE, took images of the protesters being beaten by police.

As the civil rights movement grew, so did the armed conflict between the Irish Republic Army and the unionists. The police began the widespread use of interment as a tool to gather intelligence as well as hamper the activities of the IRA. Many of the detainees were badly beaten and subjected to sleep deprivation and other forms of torture. On January 30, 1972, the NICRA organized a demonstration in Londonderry in protest of the policy of interment without trial. Although demonstrations such as these had been banned by the parliament, approximately ten thousand people gathered in Creggan Estate and proceeded toward Guildhall Square. British paratroopers sealed off the square and led the marchers away from the organizers who were already in the square. Groups of demonstrators lagged behind to confront the soldiers at the barricades by throwing stones. The paratroopers responded with CS gas and water cannons. Shortly after 4:00 PM, the paratroopers requested permission to make arrests and less than thirty minutes later, thirteen of the protesters had been shot dead.



See primary source image.


The Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Widgery, was commissioned by the Prime Minister to conduct an official inquiry of the indicent. In April 1972, Widgery released his findings that although the paratroopers shots had "bordered on the reckless" the soldiers had been fired upon by the protesters first. These findings were controversial and in conflict with the Londonderry coroner who believed that the events were, "sheer unadulterated murder."

The events of January 30, 1972 became known as Bloody Sunday and served to revitalize the violent opposition to British presence in Northern Ireland. In response to the events of Bloody Sunday, the IRA began a new wave of bombings including the "Bloody Friday" string of 22 bombs detonated in Belfast in July of 1972. In the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that a new inquiry of the events would take place. Blair appointed Lord Saville to direct the inquiry, which ended in November 2004. The final report and conclusions by Lord Saville were expected in 2005. However, due to the volume of testimony and evidence, the publication has been delayed.



"Leaders: The truth, however unpalatable; Bloody Sunday." Economist. (January 26, 2002).

Web sites

BBC News. "War and Conflict: The Troubles." 〈http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/troubles/origins/bloodysun.shtml〉 (accessed January 6, 2005).

PBS. "The IRA and Sinn Fein." 〈http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ira/etc/cron.html〉 (accessed January 6, 2005).

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A British Soldier Drags a Catholic Protester During Bloody Sunday

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