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Bloody Sunday: A 'watershed' in the history of the Troubles

Sky News logo Sky News 12/03/2019 David Blevins, senior Ireland correspondent

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(Video by: Press Association)

It is etched on the walls of Derry and on the minds of those old enough to remember: 30 January 1972.

What began as a civil rights march ended with a day forever labelled Bloody Sunday.

Up to 20,000 people were taking part in a protest against the internment of suspects without trial.

The 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment had been deployed to Londonderry to arrest rioters in the event of civil disorder.

a vintage photo of a group of people standing in front of a building: Thirteen people were killed by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday © Getty Thirteen people were killed by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday Some of the crowd spotted paratroopers occupying a derelict building and began throwing stones at the windows.

At 3.55pm, the first shot rang out. The soldiers fired more than 100 rounds, killing 13 civilians and wounding 15 others.

The official army position, backed by the then British government, was that soldiers had responded to gun and nail bomb attacks.

But every non-military witness - marchers, residents and journalists - claimed soldiers had fired on an unarmed crowd.

© Getty

The late Ivan Cooper, who had organised the march, described the shootings as a "watershed" in the history of the Troubles.

In one iconic image, the young Father Edward Daly is seen waving a blood-stained handkerchief while escorting a wounded man.

In his memoirs - Mister, Are You A Priest? - the late Bishop Daly said Bloody Sunday had cast a long shadow.

"Countless young people were motivated by the events of that day to become actively involved in armed struggle and, as a direct result, joined the Provisional IRA," he wrote.

Bloody Sunday was so enshrined in the republican psyche that a fresh public inquiry was the first demand Sinn Fein made of Tony Blair.

© Getty The Saville Inquiry, which heard from 922 witnesses, took 12 years to complete and cost in the region of £195m.

In 2010, the victims, whose innocence had been called into question for decades, were completely exonerated by Lord Saville.

Veterans groups were outraged when the Police Service of Northern Ireland subsequently launched a murder investigation.

An estimated 300,000 soldiers served in Northern Ireland and there is no statute of limitation in terms of the potential for prosecution.

Many feel there should be, but victims of terrorism disagree - fearing any amnesty would legally apply to the terrorists too.

© Getty Theresa May has repeatedly told the Commons that legacy investigators are "only knocking doors of policemen and soldiers".

But Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service says only five of the 26 historical cases prosecuted have involved the security forces.

For the political parties in Northern Ireland, the legacy of the Troubles has been a political football for two decades.

But for most of the bereaved, this is about justice, not politics - a demand that any wrongdoing is properly investigated.

The wrongful labelling of their loved ones as "gunmen and bombers" significantly added to the pain of the Bloody Sunday families.

The public inquiry may have brought out the truth but for them, "the great wrong" can only be righted by the pursuit of justice.

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