This is a subject close to heart, close to my home, in fact. My granny, a strong, opinionated Republican woman from the Falls area in Belfast, was there that day in 1972. When it all kicked off, my uncles ran into the streets to find my dad amidst some minor, recreational rioting. They dragged him in and they watched the news unfolding with their hearts in their mouths.
Throughout the veins of the passing years, the anger at this massacre has throbbed on. The Army, at that time, were pretty much the police. It remained so even after the ceasefire. I grew up with British Army soldiers stationed outside the doors down the street, resting guns on their knees, chatting to kids like me. And I liked those young men, bewildered, mostly English, far from home, but I hated what they stood for, and I hated the police. Few in Northern Ireland trust the police, and it’s not just Catholics and Nationalists that feel that way. Bloody Sunday is part of the reason why my family got bricks thrown at their windows when they once made that 999 call. They were still the RUC in those days. Now that they’re the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and not the Royal Ulster Constabulary, it doesn’t make much of a difference.
The events of that day were a catalyst to the IRA in waging their war, and it was also seen as part of their justification. And growing up, if anything made me felt that I was a subject in a country that hated me and others like me (Republican Catholics), it was that event. It wasn’t the first, nor the last act of police and army brutality in my country.
The Saville inquiry has concluded what we have all known over these years: those killings were unprovoked murders. Those people were not armed. Nor (apart from one young man being a member of Fianna na hEireann) were they members of the IRA. And that is wonderful news for their families, who have always known this.
As to the effect on Northern Ireland, I don’t really fear this is going to spark a renewal in tensions or actions. Nobody, not even the hardcore Republicans, want to see a return to the bad old days. You might have the odd dissident group like the RIRA (IRA Original? IRA Classic?) and the CIRA attempt to cause some trouble, but they’ve already done so in the past few years, and have been roundly condemned by everybody. We just want peace.