Much like many other parts of the world at that time, the North of Ireland was undergoing a process of profound political change in the early 1970’s. By the time January 1972 came around the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) had already been holding peaceful protests and marches for close on 4 years.
From the outset the Northern state had chosen to respond violently to NICRA’s modest demands and this eventually led to the British government introducing armed troops onto the streets in August 1969. This militarised situation was further heightened with the commencement of the IRA’s bombing offensive in 1970.
Then in August 71 the state introduced internment without trial and on Sunday, January 30th 1972 NICRA responded by holding an anti-interment march in Derry city, which tragically ended with 28 civilian marchers being shot by the British army, 13 of whom died that day.
Today all across the world we see people continuing to express that desire for democratic change, whether that’s through the ‘Arab Spring’ protests, which erupted in many middle eastern countries several years ago or with Scotland’s Independence referendum of 2014 or last year with the UK’s ‘Brexit’ referendum and again more recently with the Catalonian government’s declaration of independence from the Spanish state.
Equally and despite the election last year of a racist, sexist, Islamophobe president the American people, by electing Donald Trump, have clearly demonstrated their desire for real and urgent democratic change.
What then does this all mean for global society and more specifically how might these seismic changes effect Ireland and its relationship with our nearest neighbour.
Britain’s Brexit decision has introduced an air of anxiety and instability into European politics, which in turn has provoked heated debate and soul searching around the question of the border here and for many this instability has brought the imperative of a united Ireland much closer.
However, in response to justified demands for change and accountability, many governments and institutions have chosen different forms of repression or censure, be that with the Spanish government’s recent violent response to democratic Catalonian nationalism, the EU’s punishing fiscal water-boarding of the Greek economy or through EU Troika diktats delivered to the Southern Irish state.
Allied to this we also worryingly see a growing sense of misanthropy from authority across the world, where people fleeing war, poverty and famine are being vilified and portrayed as the problem rather than the political systems or governments they are fleeing from.
It is in this context that the Bloody Sunday March Committee decided to invite acclaimed economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis to address the question of why now are so many people across the world demanding change and democratic accountability and what in his view will these changes mean for the people of these islands.
Furthermore, given the hardening of positions and the general move to the right in European politics we have asked him to also offer his thoughts on what could happen if governments and institutions choose to resist and in some cases violently supress those same democratic demands.
“Their Epitaph is in the Continuing Struggle for Democracy”
(Inscription on Bloody Sunday Monument, Rossville St. Derry)
We are delighted to confirm that acclaimed economist and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will deliver this public lecture. It will be followed by ‘In Conversation’ with Bernadette McAliskey before moving to a Q & A with the assembled audience.
Admission by Donation Come early not to be disappointed! (Bloody Sunday March Committee is an non-funded organisation and relies on public donations to fund its work)
Bloody Sunday was a local event. All of the 28 dead and wounded came from the general Bogside/Creggan quarter of Derry, population around 35,000. There was no one in the area who didn’t know the family of at least one of the victims. The massacre was experienced as a communal wound, the pain of which still throbs and won’t ease until all of the families can feel that truth has been told and justice done.
It is this which, 46 years later, drives the annual commemoration.
Bloody Sunday differs from the other massacres in the North which stand like grave-stones marking the passing of the years of conflict. The killing took place in bright daylight, watched at close quarters by hundreds of local people who had earlier marched for civil rights, stunned by horror, outrage and grief inflicted by men uniformed to represent the British State.
Bloody Sunday cannot be put down to ancient Irish hatreds. It was rooted in imperial history, in the scorn of Empire for the lives of plain people and the ferocious rage of the ruling class at any uprising of the lower orders. Hence the Tory Government’s sigh of relief in 2010 when the Inquiry under Lord Saville pointed the finger of blame at a bunch of squaddies and one undisciplined officer.
Parties jostling for political advantage and wishing the issue over and done with embraced Saville’s conclusions as full and final. Families of victims of State violence around the world will recognise the pattern.
We want the shooters charged and tried – and the politicians and top brass who gave the go-ahead brought to book.
As always we use the commemoration to give focus to other local, national and international events that resonate with the cause of justice.
With this year also being the 50th anniversary of the Northern state’s attack on civil rights marchers in Derry’s Duke street we remember those who marched that day and all of those other people around the world who continue to march and protest for democratic change and accountability.
We stand in solidarity with all who face lies and intimidation from the State and its propagandists as they continue the trek towards truth. Ballymurphy, Kingsmills, Loughinisland. Birmingham. Black Lives Matter, Grenfell Tower. Syria, Yemen, Kenya. And, always, Palestine.
We owe it to all who yearn for justice not to weaken now, and we won’t.
One world, one struggle. We shall Overcome.