The march organised to protest against the internment without trial of suspected IRA members on Sunday 30th January 1972 was fired upon by members of the Parachute regiment. Thirteen men were killed on the day, another died in hospital later. The Paras maintain that they were fired upon by gunmen in and around the marchers and returned fire. Local people have never accepted this and maintain that elements of the Army presence fired without justification and, whether on their own initiative or by prior agreement, attempted to 'put down' the protest by deadly force. A public enquiry (The Saville Enquiry) is being held at this time to try to establish the real facts.
The mural above shows a stylised version of an actual incident photographed by the press at the time. Father Daly, later to become Bishop of Derry, gave the last rites to some of the dying and was pictured holding his white handkerchief high as, bending low, he escorted a group of men carrying one of the casualties. The mural below is a memorial to those that died.
Children have died too.
A memorial to Annette McGavigan. I am told that she was a pupil at St Cecelias School, about fourteen years old. She was crossing the road going home from the chipshop when she was killed by a single shot fired from the city walls which look down on this area. The walls were off limits to all but the Army who were using them as a vantage point to watch over the area. There was no reported trouble in the area at the time. To date I have been unable to find any 'official' version of these events.
My own totally unofficial guess in the absence of any other explanation is that a soldier on the walls was using his gunsight as a telescope to watch the area. This has been standard practice for many years and I have looked down the business end of a rifle on many occasions as I have been checked out by members of the security forces. A very uncomfortable feeling! Unfortunately for this girl the gun was accidentaly discharged at the wrong moment. A guess but one which seems quite plausible to me and to others that I have spoken to about the incident.
An interesting example of how myths develop. Since writing the above I have come across a very different version. Those who told me this are decent reliable people who told me the story in good faith but it turns out that the reality was somewhat different. The bit about the chip shop is completely wrong; that was a different fatality, a young man on that occasion. She was not shot from the walls but from the streets close by and there was indeed trouble in the area at the time. A group of young people had been throwing stones at a passing army patrol (this was a very common occurence especially in the afternoon after school) and this incident got out of hand. The soldiers claim that they were fired upon by gunmen but the statements made by them were apparently strongly contradictory. What seems sure is that, contrary to army statements at the time which suggested that Annette was killed by IRA gunfire, she was killed by a high velocity bullet and there is no suggestion from any source that any gunmen in the area had such a weapon. The only such guns were in army hands. One of her friends apparently made a statement to the effect that she had stopped to pick up a spent rubber bullet when she was hit in the back of the head. All civilian statements agree that she was running away from the troops at the time. Poor Annette, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and paid with her life. Unfortunately she was not the only one and her memorial should serve as a reminder of the others too.