Bloody Sunday Trust – The Museum of Free Derry

If there is any event related to the city of Derry from which contradictory views of the past arise, it will surely be known as the Bloody Sunday. On Sunday, 30 January 1972, 26 civilians taking part in a republican demonstration organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) were shot by soldiers of the British army. Thirteen persons, seven of them teenagers, died instantly and another died afterward as a result of injuries. Most of the casualties took place in the Bogside district, in one of the main entrances to the Free Derry, an area of the city where the British police forces were not allowed to enter.

On  April 18th of that same year, the British government submitted the “Widgery report”, which held that these casualties were a result of a previous attack involving armed protesters. As a result of that explanation, the “Free Derry” population undertook different civil initiatives, such as annual protests, installation of monuments and commemorative plaques, talks, forums, conferences and exhibitions, aimed to keep the memory of that chapter of their history alive and to reclaim the revision of the case.

The Bloody Sunday killings would sadly become one of the most emblematic manifestations of the “Irish problem”, the confrontation between nationalist republicans and British Unionists which intensified from 1968 and that would not conclude until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. As a result of these agreements, the British government authorized a new investigation of the facts,  finally meeting victims’ demands after many years. This was known as the “Savile investigation” and after 12 years of public audiences and collecting evidences, it established a conclusion: the military forces sent to Derry had opened fire on unarmed civilians.  On June 15th 2010, the British Prime Minister David Cameron asked forgiveness on behalf of the government, therefore acknowledging before the House of Commons the responsibility of the military forces in the Bloody Sunday events.

The Museum of Free Derry was created by the Bloody Sunday Foundation, for the development of collective memory, and is the consequence of the fruition of a citizen’s movement that continued to seek new ways of explaining and projecting themselves into the future. Nowadays, the museum continues to work closely with the local community. The content of this museum is characterized by its neutral narrative, free of prejudices and stances, and built from a description of a series of historic events, such as one would find in an ordinary municipal museum. The museum wishes to explain subjectively, but also honestly, the history of a community from its own perspective, as a first step towards a wider understanding of all elements that resulted in the most recent developments of the Northern Ireland conflict.  Therefore, it  must be assessed in terms of how it enabled different stories to coexist and integrate themselves into the framework of democratic states.

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