'Bloody Sunday was poison. Finally our city is moving on'

On the 40th anniversary, the shootings still divide Londonderry. David McKittrick meets those looking forward – and back

Nationalists in Londonderry yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday – the event which shaped the history of their city when 14 youths and men on a civil rights march were killed by British soldiers.

Fewer people turned out than in previous years in a city whose atmosphere has improved greatly since David Cameron acknowledged in 2010 that those shot dead by paratroopers were innocent. The events of 29 January 1972 caused shock and revulsion across the world. In Northern Ireland, it marked the effective end of the non-violent campaign for civil rights. Many people who had previously regarded themselves as non-political joined the IRA.

Only a few of the bereaved joined yesterday's march, which attracted more than 1,000 people. Most families instead attended an outdoor service, where a minute's silence was observed and wreaths were laid.

"The lancing of the boil that occurred with Cameron was incredible," said Pat McArt, who edited the Derry Journal for almost a quarter of a century. "Bloody Sunday was a massive poison on the city. You could feel it ... Now there's a different atmosphere... The whole cultural and social thing is moving on."

Tommy McCourt, a community worker, added: "People were delighted and there was a lot of relief that those killed were exonerated. There is a lessening of the anger and urgency. But a lot of people still feel there is a distance to go."

The parents of the victims are, with the passing of four decades, all dead. But brothers, sisters and other relatives are still campaigning. For many, the key issue is whether the soldiers involved will be prosecuted. For 18 months, police and the authorities have been studying the legal and political issues involved.

"Families have different views," said Liam Wray, whose brother Jim, then 17, was killed. "What Cameron did was admirable but he said the shootings were unjustified and unjustifiable. That means those who were shot dead were murdered. I will campaign for prosecution as long as I have air in my lungs."

While decisions on possible prosecutions are awaited, Londonderry is planning for a future which will see it become the UK's city of culture in 2013. The city as a whole is determined the enterprise will be a success, hopefully delivering benefits to help counter its problems of unemployment and low wages. But no one predicts an early end to the sporadic violence of local dissidents, the splintered remnants of the now inactive major republican groups.

Ivan Cooper, a retired politician who was present on Bloody Sunday, said: "Public opinion is very strongly against them, but it's not difficult for a hundred people to keep the whole thing going."

Mr McArt added: "These dissidents got into a groove in 1972. They haven't got out of it – and they're never coming out of it until the day they die, but the rest of Derry has moved on, big time."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all