Ireland Calls for Justice on 50th Anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’

January 30, 2022Updated: January 30, 2022

LONDONDERRY—Ireland on Jan. 30 called for the British government to ensure justice for the families of 13 peaceful protesters shot dead by its soldiers on “Bloody Sunday” in 1972 as thousands marked the 50th anniversary of one of the defining days of the Northern Ireland conflict.

The UK government in 2010 apologized for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” killings of 13 Catholic civil rights protesters by British soldiers in Londonderry on Jan. 30, 1972—and of a 14th who died later of his wounds.

But none of those responsible for the shootings have been convicted and last July, British prosecutors announced that the only British soldier charged with murder won’t face trial—a decision that is being challenged by victims’ relatives.

bloody sunday
Irish republican Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald (L), Deputy First Minister Sinn Fein’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill (2nd L), Ireland foreign minister Simon Coveney (C), and Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Michael Martin (2nd R) attend a wreath-laying ceremony at a monument to victims of Bloody Sunday, in Londonderry (Derry), Northern Ireland, on Jan. 30, 2022. (Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images)

“There should be a route to justice,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE after laying a wreath and meeting with relatives of the victims.

“As somebody said, our children were buried 50 years ago but we still haven’t laid them to rest … because we don’t have justice,” he said.

Coveney reiterated the Irish government’s opposition to a proposal by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to halt all prosecutions of soldiers and militants in a bid to draw a line under the conflict—a move that angered relatives and has been rejected by all the main local political parties.

“We absolutely cannot and will not support that approach,” he said.

Relatives holding white roses and photographs of those killed led thousands of people in retracing the route of the 1972 march.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin looked on as the names of each of the victims were read out at a memorial.

“The full process of the courts and of justice should be deployed,” Martin told journalists after the ceremony.

No member of the UK government attended the events, but Johnson in a Twitter post on Jan. 29 described Bloody Sunday as “one of the darkest days of the Troubles” and said Britain must learn from the past.

A major escalation of the conflict occurred in 1972 between Irish nationalist militants seeking unification with the Republic of Ireland, the British Army, and loyalists determined to keep the region British.

More than 3,000 people were killed before the 1998 peace process largely ended the violence.

By Clodagh Kilcoyne