OPINION: One World, One Struggle - by Tony Doherty
The Bloody Sunday Trust is preparing to mark the 49th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, a day that changed a city and a country forever more. The Trust is also planning to hold discussions around 100 years of Partition. Here the chair of the Trust, Tony Doherty shares his thoughts...
THERE are many reasons, great and small, why we have nothing to celebrate about the foundation of the state of Northern Ireland in 1921. Bloody Sunday will however feature at the top. The state was founded on the basis of a temporary sectarian headcount, its supremacist founders making it clear that nationalists and Catholics would not be welcome around the place.
Its laws were draconian; it maintained a status quo and a mentality going back centuries that Ireland simply belonged to Britain and would continue to be ruled through divine right. This fusion of legality, a superior mentality, contrived majority status and God engendered a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to those disenfranchised by partition and unwelcome in their own land. We have seen similar regimes come, go and remain in South Africa, Palestine and the US over the centuries.
Our Bloody Sunday came about because, as with the above countries, the oppressed had taken enough, rebelled, their tactics largely in the realm of civil disobedience, and were brutally suppressed by the armed wing of the state. So, when 13 people lay dead on the streets of the Bogside in January 72, the Unionist state of Northern Ireland simply didn’t want to know: this was our army, the same army that helped crush fascism in the 1940s, and we’ll not have a bad word said about them.
And so the story goes that, in the midst of descent into the long war, the relatives of those murdered were left to their own devices, to suffer years of silence, to bear the huge burden of loss, their homes never visited by investigating RUC detectives except to take their other sons and daughters away, and to never to hear words of kindness or acknowledgement from the leaders of Unionism.
So, the foundation of the northern state, while not in any respect a cause for celebration, should nonetheless be embraced as an opportunity to build upon our hard-earned peace, to further foster a culture dialogue with our Unionist neighbours and to engender a deeper respect for human rights and cultural diversity.
We have a positive culture of taking things into our own hands. We did it with Bloody Sunday. We transformed conditions of conflict into conditions for lasting peace. Our commemorations have been open, inclusive and international.
This year is no different, excepting that all our events are online, but no less engaging and cutting edge. The Bloody Sunday Trust welcomes your participation, views and interest in how we remember the past to inform the future. Join us online towards the end of January to mark the 49th anniversary of Bloody Sunday as we commemorate the dead and celebrate our just struggles.
The Trust is also in the midst of planning for One World – One Struggle – a global series of cultural, political and commemorative events, focused on Derry, to mark the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, beginning in January 2022. This will be a tremendous opportunity to highlight our struggle for truth and justice, showcase our city and celebrate the lives of our people.
Chair, Bloody Sunday Trust