From the Guardian archive
Originally published in the Guardian on 1 February 1972
last time the Catholic people of Londonderry suffered as terribly as
they did on Sunday afternoon was during that long summer evening after
the march of the Apprentice Boys back in August, 1969.
that day's events, which were caused in part they say by the
unwillingness of the official IRA men to protect them from attack, was
born the organisation that came to be known as the Provisional IRA.
was a move that was to have a profound effect on the politics and the
economics of Ulster and the lives of men, women, and children in the
The question now is whether this latest and still
more dreadful Bogside tragedy will set in train such another series of
People are asking: will Ireland, and the North ever be the same again ? Will Derry's Bloody Sunday become a fulcrum, which historians will argue led to fundamental and irrevocable changes in the future and status of Northern Ireland?
The more sober observers incline to think not.
"It sounds cynical, I
know," a British Government representative said yesterday, "but nothing
has really changed except that 13 more people are dead.
That's rather less than the number killed in McGurk's bar in December and that didn't change history.
Many people will think that if we leave this one alone it need not change anything, either."
Mr Faulkner, certainly in his early utterances, would seem to concur.
a statement which Bogsiders saw as callous in the extreme but which to
most Protestants would certainly be regarded as both realistic and
honest the Ulster Prime Minister laid the blame for the tragedy squarely
at the door of the Civil Rights Association.
"For having again
provided the IRA with opportunity of again bringing death to our
streets," the Association bears a tremendous responsibility.
the Bogsiders heard his remarks on Sunday's midnight news they
interpreted him to mean that the Catholics of Derry had deserved all
they had got and they'd just better be indoors next time the Civil
Rights "agitators" plan another parade.
Not a single Derry
Catholic would agree with one word Mr Faulkner said, and scarcely any
will heed his warning. Already there are plans for new marches.
The IRA has lost ground in the South in recent months.
The killing of a Belfast UDR man in front of his children especially horrified the average Dubliner and the IRA knew it.
"How do they feel about it up there," Provisional leaders used to ask anxiously. "Do they hate us that much now?"
Now the scale of violence and, more important, the type of violence can
increase to appalling heights of savagery with no consequent loss of
"Next time we could go in and shoot not just the UDR
man, but his wife and his children as well, and we probably wouldn't
lose an ounce of sympathy, after what those Paras have done."
more, and nastier, violence to come. Can the British Army cope?
Politicians in London must be getting a little tired of listening to the
official army line from Belfast which says, or did until the weekend,
that the IRA could be beaten down by mid-spring.
They might as well forget it now. Belfast itself may be a great deal quieter by then.
But the border, and the towns that lie along it, are going to see further horrors.
Provisionals will be able to act almost with impunity from within the
Southern counties on the border, secure in the knowledge that Jack Lynch
won't or can't act against them.
Peace for Ulster seems a long, long way off.
The one hope remains then that Derry's Bloody Sunday might just provoke
Westminster into realising that a definitive policy rather than late
reaction and indecision for the six counties of Northern Ireland is an
absolute essential for a lasting peace.