Thoughts on Bloody Sunday and the Power of Personal Stories

Patrick J. DohertyMeeting and having Walls of Derry and Bogside Walking tours with brothers Gleann and Paul Doherty (who lost their father, Patrick J. Doherty, aged 31, on Bloody Sunday) was a powerful and painful way of adding deep layers of learning and understanding to students’ awareness and knowledge of this place and these events – not just in terms of Northern Ireland and the decades of conflict there – but in relation to all of Ireland, north and south. For the past and future of these two countries have been and always will be, interconnected and complex.

After our tours – significant, emotional and intense, we met and got to talk briefly with John Kelly, whose younger brother Michael G. Kelly, died at 17 on Bloody Sunday. John works in in The Museum of Free Derry and the National Civil Rights Archive, and he calls himself a ‘walking artefact of Bloody Sunday’.

michael g kelly

Take a look at this Guardian article, Families of Bloody Sunday: 38 years on, desire for justice still burns, which focuses on relatives of the 13 people who died on Bloody Sunday (January 30, 1972) and their desire for their loved ones to be “exonerated and their killers held to account”. Take a look at The Guardian’s excellent site on Bloody Sunday. Listen to the audio recording of John Kelly talking about his brother Michael’s death on Bloody Sunday. Read the amazing document, INNOCENT – Remembering June 15, 2010, reactions to the Saville Report on Bloody Sunday.

Here are the first few paragraphs in INNOCENT from Tony Doherty, the eldest Doherty brother – Collective Family Response, Guildhall Square, Derry

“Unjustified and unjustifiable. Those are the words we have been waiting to hear since 30 January 1972 and I think, Derry, you have been absolutely brilliant in this. The victims of Bloody Sunday have been vindicated and the Parachute Regiment has been disgraced. Their medals of honour have to be removed. Widgery’s great lie has been laid bare. The truth has been brought home at last. It can now be proclaimed to the world that the dead and the wounded of Bloody Sunday, civil rights marchers, were innocent one and all, gunned down in their own streets by soldiers who had been given to believe they could kill with perfect impunity. The Parachute Regiment are the front-line assassins for Britain’s political and military elite. The report of the Saville Tribunal confirms this. It was the paras’ mission in Derry to massacre people they thought of as enemies of the state. They will have known that murder is what was expected of them when they erupted onto our streets.”

Here are the words from the Kelly Family – Kathleen Cooley

“My name is Kathleen Cooley. Michael was my brother; he was murdered on Bloody Sunday. Quoting Saville: “We are sure that the soldier fired either in the belief that no one at the barricade was posing a threat or not caring if anyone at the barricade was posing such a threat.” It’s been almost four decades since our brother Michael was killed. Today the truth has been told. I say now to my little brother Michael and my loving mother and father, at last you can rest in peace forever.”

Peace to these families. And sincere thanks to Gleann and Paul Doherty, John Kelly, and Seamus Kennedy for sharing their stories and their hearts.


One thought on “Thoughts on Bloody Sunday and the Power of Personal Stories

  1. Pingback: Last Day of Maymester and Final Projects – Day 19 | Ireland in Context

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