Today we heard the sad news of the death of Bishop Daly, may he rest in peace. He ministered to his people in Derry for many long years but is best remembered for what happened when he took part in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights march on January 30th 1972, which ended in the Bloody Sunday massacre as the British army’s parachute regiment killed thirteen unarmed men .
In one of the most iconic pictures of the time
Fr Daly, as he was then, waved his white handkerchief, as he tried to help a wounded teenager, 17-year-old Jackie Duddy. This is the story of one of the other men in the photograph, whom we’ll call Michael.
This is Michael’s account of the massacre and how it affected his life afterwards.
“that day part of me died”
“So it was actually me and another couple of members, we started to say what’s the point and we started to move back out of the road. We were standing, then all of a sudden we happened to look up onto Waste Ground. You could see the street called James’s Street, and the army vehicles started to move in, and then we all shouted: “They’re coming in. Run.” So everybody started to run. And the people scattered.
I ran through a gap between two buildings, shops, into Waste Ground behind, leading towards the high flats, the Rossville Street flats. When I got to the back of them, there were Saracens (army personnel that we called the Saracens) all headed in. One headed in to try and cut us off from running, and then all of
a sudden we heard the shots.
I said to myself, those aren’t rubber bullets, those are live rounds.
So by that time we were on the cross at Waste Ground, to get in behind the Rossville Street Flats, the shooting increased. You would’ve heard the bullets [he whistles]. So I was running and I was trying to get into a gap, and the next thing I couldn’t get in because people were crammed in. There was a small run at the back of the flats and I threw myself into the back of that and the bullets were bunching all over the place and whether it was because of the enclosure of the building that I was lying behind, the noise was horrendous.
And the next thing, I looked up and people were shouting, squealing, and I noticed people seemed to be leaning over somebody on the ground.
The shooting was increasing. I got on my back and I looked up and see no fine shot here and no one was going to find me. So I put my head up again and I see the priest leaning over the person on the ground and I say to myself, if I’m going to be shot, I’m going be shot beside a priest, whether I get my last rites.
So I get up and run over and looked down and there was a young lad lying on the ground. He was then Father Daly which is now Bishop Daly —him, and two or three other people were walking with the young lad [Duddy] and I realized then that he had been shot.
Michael displayed some PTSD symptoms like for example survivor’s guilt. He was reluctant to talk about Bloody Sunday with his family members partly because he felt shame.He feels that he could have, or should have, done more to help others:
You know everything went through your mind. You know, what could you have done? Should you stay to give a hand, or what? Is there a failure in you? What could you do against guns and bullets with bare hands? You know. And, yeah to this day it hurts. . . . I’ve never spoke about it. God rest my father, he just kept looking at me and I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to him. I couldn’t talk to my sister nor my brother. I couldn’t talk to my wife because, you always say to yourself, could you have done more? That’s the biggest thing in my mind: could I have done more? People say you can’t fight bullets, but I don’t know. . . .
To put it in a way, you say part of me died. And I still say, looking back, you say to yourself, walking down Chamberlain Street, you see the soldiers bam bam and you say to yourself, that one could have been for me, could have shot Father Daly, could have shot Charlie Glen. How do we exist? How did we survive?
Nobody likes to bring up tragedies all the time. You know you have to live with the thing. As I say, it really hurts me. So my family, God bless them, they don’t bring it up to me. Maybe if I had of done years ago, maybe if I had spoken up and told them how I felt, what happened to me, and that day part of me died. You know what I mean? . . . Very rarely would they bring it up in the house to me. That is to say that I never ever, ever would talk about it.
Michael did not want his children to live with the same hatred toward the British that he himself was tortured by, which he
recognized as ineffective pain:
I have my son and daughter from when they were no age, from ’72 on, I wouldn’t let them say hatred to anybody, even a British army soldier. I would say
“no I didn’t bring you up for hatred, and when you come of age you will know
right from wrong. At seventeen or eighteen, you make a decision. But I will never
ever make you hate people because I have learned.”
When a man says to me,
“Michael, you know you well hate them.”
I say I know I hate them. I say I hate every one.
He says “you’re a wile man,”
and I say I know, but I hate them. They murdered our people and they’re denying it. I say I hate them. I say I can’t even stand their voices.
He says, “Michael, don’t. They’re not asking for you to forgive them. You see, the people that have done the murder, they’re not worried about it.”
He says, “the only one you’re hurting is yourself.”
What I would be afraid of, if I sit and start talking the whole thing about the British army, I have this fear of them turning resentment to the fact. Then they come and say, “they’ve done that to my granda and they’ve done this and that,” and seeing whether it’s a soldier or policeman there and looking at them. The resentment in their face, the resentment turns to hatred. I wouldn’t want that, . . . .
I don’t want him to be that way. I don’t want my daughter to be that way. And most of all, that generation now, my grandson, my granddaughter, I don’t want them to go through what I went through.
During Lord Saville’s Bloody Sunday Inquiry (1998- 2010) Michael gave a full statement of his experience in 1999. His 29-year old son was with him and learned about Bloody Sunday from the perspective of his father for the first time.
Michael’s words were extracted from:
“What I didn’t know”:Post-memory and the Absence of narrative in the Aftermath of Bloody Sunday by Caroline Dutka,Trinity College Dublin.
This Original Article was published in the New Hibernia Review, Volume 20, No 2 Summer/Samhreadh 2016,pp 80-97, by the Center for Irish Studies, University of St Thomas https://muse.jhu.edu/article/627088