"Bloody Sunday" and its evaluation in the press

Term Paper, 2003

24 Pages, Grade: 1.3



A Introduction

1. Historical background
1.1 The Modern Troubles: Reasons and consequences
1.2 Bloody Sunday and its effects
2. 30.01.1972 and its coverage in the press
2.1 “The Observer” 31.01.1972
2.2 The Time
2.3 Comparison of the articles
3 Anniversaries of ‘Bloody Sunday’ and their coverage in the press
3.1 The Guardian 30.01.2002
3.2 The Telegraph 30.01.1997
3.3 The Irish Examiner 31.01.2000
3.4 The Irish Independent 31.01.1998
3.5 Comparison of the articles
4. “The Irish Examiner” 26.01.2000
4.1 Summary of the letter to the editor
4.2 Evaluation of the letter to the editor

C Conclusion


A Introduction

“It strikes me that the army ran amok that day and shot without thinking what they were doing. I would say without hesitation it was sheer, unadulterated murder.”

Major Hubert O’Neil, coroner at the inquest in August 1973[1]

This quote clearly illustrates the general attitude within the population of Northern Ireland towards the incidents of the 30th of January 1972, which later became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. It marks one of the worst days in the history of the country for the past century and “has remained etched on the collective psyche of Irish nationalists ever since”[2]. Additionally the peace process had to face a severe backlash. Although immediately after the event in 1972 an inquiry was ordered, conducted by Lord Wigerly, the Catholic population was unwilling to give evidence to a British tribunal. Indeed, later on it was regarded to be biased favouring the opinion of the Paratroopers. Since 1998 Lord Saville of Newdigate conducts a second inquiry due to the new information available. Nevertheless, there is doubt in its utility and it proves to be very expensive. The British government rejected several demands of the relatives of the casualties to make an official statement on the incident or to apologize for it. Thus it becomes evident that this happening still effects the relation between Britain and Northern Ireland, even many years after it happened. Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlan finally seem now keen on improving the relation. For the relatives of the casualties ‘Bloody Sunday’ represents an item with which they have not finished yet. However, the problem seems to be that every person involved in a case aims to twist the truth until it fits their benefit. Although it is important to move forward in order to create a better future, remembering the past offers an opportunity to cope with the occurrence. The secretary of Northern Ireland, John Reid stated, “No one has yet devised a way in which all of us can share the truth because if pain is indivisible then truth is indivisible as well.”[3] Thus, it is indisputable that a re-examination of the case is necessary to finally solve this conflict. Every year the anniversary parades cause much controversies and the press uses the date to portray this crucial incident again and again. For this reason the media have an important function when it comes to dealing with the event. Already in 1972 the press influenced the handling of ‘Bloody Sunday’ because the“[w]orld wide media coverage resulted in increased pressure on the British government.”[4]

In my paper which has the topic ‘Bloody Sunday and its evaluation in the press’ I intend to give a chronological summary of the events preceding and following Bloody Sunday in order to frame the historical background. Furthermore is it my purpose to show how the British Press, in particular The Times and The Observer, cope with this topic immediately after it occurred. Next I will analyse how the British and the Irish press deal with the anniversaries of the occurrence. In this case I will concentrate on The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent, The Telegraph and The Guardian. Finally I will compare their representations in the next item.


1. Historical background

1.1 The Modern Troubles: Reasons and consequences

Due to “[d]iscrimination in housing and an unfair voting system”[5] among other unjust treatments the Catholic community in Northern Ireland started to organize civil rights marches, which already were very common in the USA in the 60ies. Unionists on the contrary saw this campaigns “as a covert attempt to destabilise the state and there was a violent reaction”[6] against them. In October 1968, during one of this marches in which several politicians and even a television crew took part, the Royal Ulster Constabulary interrupted the march in Derry in a violent manner. Because this action was broadcasted on TV there was a huge shock within the viewers towards this brutal behaviour. Moreover there were further severe and on-going conflicts between forces of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Catholic population of Derry. As a consequence “the Stormont government asked the British government for permission to allow British troops to be deploy in the streets of Northern Ireland”[7] in August 1969 in order to support a peaceful atmosphere. Nevertheless the rioting got worse in the time to follow due to further sectarian conflicts and confrontations between the Catholic population and the British soldiers. Thus internment without trial was introduced on the 9th of August 1971 lasting until the 5th of December 1975. It had the purpose of diminishing the influence of the IRA by arresting its leaders. Actually it proved to have the opposite effect and ended in a complete failure. In this period violence and the support for the IRA rose and only few influential people could be captured owing to the old or only vague information that was provided by the RUC. During that time nearly 2000 people were arrested, but only one out of twenty was a Loyalist, which often lead to the allegation that this means was used in a discriminatory way. Later on this procedure was condemned to be a “torture”[8] by the European Commission for Human Rights and the European Court “characterised it as inhuman and degrading treatment”[9]. Indeed many victims claimed that they had to face brutal treatments. A reaction within the population towards this policy were the marches against internment organised by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in Derry and often ending in violent rioting or strikes. Consequently, in January 1971, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Brian Faulkner prohibited all marches in Northern Ireland. However, only a few days later another march against internment took place, which was interrupted violently by soldiers. Despite this event the Civil Rights Association planned a further non-violent parade on the 30th of January emphasising the peaceful intention of it. When on the 27th of January two Royal Ulster Constabulary Officers were killed the Democratic Unionist Party announced a public religious rally parallel to the already planned civil rights march. For this reason stewards had to accompany the anti-internment parade to ensure a quiet happening. However, the horrible encounter between the Catholic youth and the British Army could not be prevented and the events of the 30th of January 1972 became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’.

1.2 Bloody Sunday and its effects

The events of Sunday the 30th of January 1972 can be seen as a result of former developments and mark for many the beginning of a very violent phase in the modern ‘Troubles’. Acknowledged facts are that on this day 13 civilians taking part in a civil rights march against internment in Derry were shot dead by the British Army and that another victim died after a few month in hospital. Additionally 18 people were injured and between 50 and 60 were arrested. The march, organized by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association started at Creggan and was to determine at the Bogside.[10] The crowd turned into Rossville Street in order to have a meeting at ‘Free Derry Corner’. In William Street they encountered a barricade set up by the British Army consequently riots began between the Army and the Catholic youth of Derry. The soldiers then began with their arrest operation and fired on the rioters. Nevertheless it was not clear then whether the soldiers came under fire first or acted in response to the attacks of nail bombs by the Catholic people. Only one day later Reginald Maudling, the British Home Secretary, “announced an inquiry into the circumstances of the march”[11] that was done by Lord Widgery, the Lord Chief Justice. An official statement of the army denied any responsibility of the Paratroopers saying, “[a]t all times the soldiers obeyed their standing instruction to fire only in self-defence or in defence of others threatened.”[12] After the funerals of the victims, which were attended by many people “including clergy, politicians from North and South”[13] riots occurred. On Monday the 21st of February 1972 the inquiry started and finally was published on the 18th of April 1972. Meanwhile “Direct Rule from Westminster was imposed on Northern Ireland.”[14] On the 1st of January 1973 Lieutenant Colonel Wilford, the Commanding Officer of the first Parachute Regiment on ‘Bloody Sunday` was decorated with an OBE by the Queen of England. In the same year Major Hubert O’Neill, the Coroner of the inquest on the deaths on Bloody Sunday, which was held by then, declared that “[t]hese people may have been taking part in a march that was banned but that does not justify the troops coming in and firing live rounds indiscriminately.”[15] Although friends and relatives of the victims presented new material concerning ‘Bloody Sunday’ to the British Prime Minister, John Major, in 1992 he refused to start a new inquiry into the events on Bloody Sunday. Moreover Prince Charles the Commander in Chief of the Parachute Regiment also did not apologise for the happening on the 30th of January 1972 when asked in June 1996. He said “it was ‘necessary to move on, rather than dwell on past tragedies.’”[16] The appearance of new material in 1997 made it inevitable for the British Prime Minister Tony Blair to ignore those new facts and on 29th of January 1998, one day before the 30th anniversary, he ordered, “that the events of 30 January 1972 require re-examination.”[17] The Right Hon. Lord Saville of Newdigate conducts the new inquiry.

2. 30.01.1972 and its coverage in the press

2.1 “The Observer” 31.01.1972

2.1.1 Summary of the article

On the 31st of January 1972 the British newspaper The Observer published an article, headed “13 killed as paratroopers break riot”, which depicts the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ in a chronological way. Simon Winchester, the author, starts of by giving a short summary of what happened. Furthermore he alludes to the statements by the Army whose officials claimed that they only fired in response to shots directed towards them. Next he informs about the time and place of the shooting that happened during a peaceful march against interment with more than 10.000 participants and adds some statements of people taking part in the rally. Many of them admitted the brutality of the shooting. Besides the article describes how soldiers tried to deter the marchers by using CS-gas, rubber bullets and water when the first rioting took place. It also makes clear that the Provisionals were asked to keep their weapons at home to ensure a non-violent march. The turning point occurred when the crowd was near Free Derry Corner where speeches were planned but suddenly a few armoured cars appeared causing panic within the marchers. Even people clearly showing that they were unarmed and he himself were fired at. In the end he writes that until about 5 o’clock there were shots and later on people cared for the injured or killed marchers.


[1] “The sorrow and the anger.” The Observer (26 Jan. 2002): n. pag. Online. Internet. 10 Feb. 2003. Available wysiwyg://234/http://www.guardian…k_news/story/0,3604,639707,00.htm

[2] Harnden, Toby. “Myth and mayhem of Bloody Sunday.” The Telegraph (30 Jan. 1998): n. pag. Online. Internet. 13 Feb. 2003.

[3] “Derry remembers Bloody Sunday victims.” The Guardian (30 Jan. 2002): n. pag. Online. Internet. 11 Feb. 2003.

[4] Wichert, Sabine. 1994. “Bloody Sunday and the end of Unionist government.” In Jürgen Elvert, ed. Nordirland in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag. 201.

[5] “The troubles.” The Belfast Telegraph (17 Sept. 2002): n. pag. Online. Internet. 11. Feb. 2003. Available wysiwy://77/http:// www.belfasttel….co.uk/news/story.jsp?story=343319

[6] “The troubles.”

[7] “’Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972 – A Chronology of Events.” CAIN Web Service (08 Jan. 2003): n. pag. Online. Internet. 12 Feb. 2003. Available wysiwyg://82/http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/bsunday/chron.


[8] David McKittrick, “Republicans keep lingering memory of internment alive,” The Independant, 10 Aug. 1989.

[9] McKittrick

[10] “’Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972 – A Chronology of Events.”

[11] “’Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972 – A Chronology of Events.”

[12] “’Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972 – A Chronology of Events.”

[13] “’Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972 – A Chronology of Events.”

[14] “’Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972 – A Chronology of Events.”

[15] “’Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972 – A Chronology of Events.”

[16] “’Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972 – A Chronology of Events.”

[17] “Questions and Answers.” The Bloody Sunday Inquiry: n. pag. Online. Internet. 12 Feb. 2003. Available http://www.bloody-sunday-inquiry.org.uk/qa/faq/index.htm

Excerpt out of 24 pages


"Bloody Sunday" and its evaluation in the press
University of Regensburg  (Institut für Amerikanistik und Anglistik)
"Sunday, Bloody Sunday...": Roots, Present State and Literary Evaluation of the Troubles in Northern Ireland
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Bloody, Sunday, Bloody, Sunday, Roots, Present, State, Literary, Evaluation, Troubles, Northern, Ireland
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Stephanie Wenzl (Author), 2003, "Bloody Sunday" and its evaluation in the press, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/77689


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