'Free Derry Corner' - Trip to City of Derry/Londonderry
written by Sara Penuel, University of South Florida
Today we visited Londonderry in attempts to visualize and comprehend the complex and heavy history surrounding the city and its inhabitants. As the second largest city in Northern Ireland, Londonderry is most noted for its Civil Rights Movements in the 1960s as well as the Battle of the Bogside, regarded as one of the pivotal starting points of the Troubles conflict, and Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday is considered to be one of the most notably significant events of the Troubles conflict due to the large amount of unarmed civilian casualties killed by forces of the state in full view of the public and the press (McCann, 2006).
On January 30, 1972 in the Bogside district of Derry, Northern Ireland, British soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment shot civilians during a peaceful protest march organized by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Northern Resistance Movement rallying against internment. Of the twenty-six shot, fourteen people lost their lives. It was originally stated publicly that the British soldiers were fired upon first, but on June 15, 2010 the Saville Inquiry was published citing that "The firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury”(Saville et al., 2010).
For the community of Derry and the families who lost someone, the Saville Inquiry provided an element of peace as they finally were receiving the titles of innocence their victims deserved. Visiting the Free Derry Museum allowed a more visual insight to the events and life after Bloody Sunday. The overall goal of the Free Derry Museum is to tell the narrative of the city’s history from the perspective of the people who lived through these times and were affected most by the events that took place in their home; an objective they successfully complete. I found it most interesting to see the surroundings of Free Derry Corner. The painted gable reading “You Are Now Entering Free Derry” says a lot about the community and its position, but it’s the murals, flags, and faces peeking behind curtains that speak volumes. To try to empathize with the identity this community embodies is complex. Walking around the area of Free Derry Corner provides a lot of insight into the community’s beliefs, political opinions, and devotion to self as poignantly displayed by the large, expressive murals on the sides of homes and buildings. I could not help by wonder how do these people feel when camera toting tourists and students march across their sidewalks and block their driveways to photograph the entrances and sides of their homes. Is it viewed by the community as picking a wound or education and reverence to the past?
References: McCann, Eamonn; Bloody Sunday Inquiry: The Families Speak Out. Pluto Press, 2006; Saville, Mark Oliver, William L. Hoyt, and John Toohey. Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, London: Stationery Office, 2010.