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Those Are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972 Hardcover – February 27, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
In the Irish Republic, January 30, 1972, is known as "Bloody Sunday," the day when 13 unarmed Catholic marchers were killed and another 14 wounded as, Pringle and Jacobson say, "part of a deliberate plan, conceived at the highest level of military command and sanctioned by the British government." An official investigation conducted immediately after the incident excused the army for its actions. A generation later, Tony Blair reopened the investigation, making all previously classified archives available to the investigators. Pringle and Jacobson, veteran journalists of the British Sunday Times who have covered the story from the beginning, offer the most complete retelling of the events that led up to that awful day and the horror that ensued. In the late 1960s under the SDLP party led by John HumeAwho would win a Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his work on the Northern Ireland peace processACatholics adopted the tactics of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and picketed for civil rights. These marches were met with force by the British, and internment was introduced under the Special Powers Act, which, in turn, swelled recruitment in the outlawed IRA. By 1972, the situation was at the breaking point. Maj.-Gen. Robert Ford, commander of land forces for Northern Ireland, was under tremendous pressure from the Protestant majority and London to restore law and order. Although he was advised that the January 30 march was to be peaceful, he prepared for confrontation with both the IRA and its rock-throwing youngsters. The result was slaughter. Disturbing, raw and compassionate, Pringle and Jacobson's account is mesmerizing. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Jan.) Forecast: This book has a ready audience among Irish-Americans. It could also sell to other readers interested in human rights around the world, peaceful protest and the often violent response it evokes from those in power.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
On January 30, 1972, British paratroopers stationed in Northern Ireland fired on a crowd of Londonderry demonstrators who were demanding improvements in civil rights for Catholics. Thirteen people were killed and 14 were wounded. A British government inquiry essentially exonerated the soldiers, but many viewed this as a politicized whitewash. At the instigation of Prime Minister Blair, a massive new inquiry is being conducted. Pringle and Jacobson are veteran journalists who have covered the story since its inception. In examining the evidence, some of it recently declassified, they have presented a shocking, if clearly biased account of a misguided political and military policy leading to disastrous consequences. The authors obviously have an agenda, and they are far too willing to accept at face value "evidence" of government culpability. Still, much of their verified information is deeply disturbing, including the apparently deliberate shooting of unarmed women and a man waving a white truce flag. While they have not produced the definitive story on this tragedy, they certainly will create controversy and stimulate anticipation for the new government inquiry. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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If you've read the Saville report, you'll know that the evidence was fairly heavily biased towards "the army is lying and the civilians are telling the truth" in order to reach the desired conclusion. This book goes a step further by ignoring ANY possible evidence which would imply that any of the victims was anything other than a choir boy on his way to church who was murdered by the Parachute Regiment. It's even factually incorrect in a few places. When they said Johnson and Donaghy were shot simultaneously I wondered if the authors had even read the evidence as the victims themselves gave a different account which put the 2 shots almost a minute apart.
If you're looking for an unbiased chronology of what happened and what the preponderance of eyewitness evidence points as being the most likely scenario for each injury or fatality, I would give this one a miss. I've read most of the Saville report and it can be very confusing trying to piece together what REALLY happened. I was hoping for a book to help clarify things. This isn't that book.
The strength of Pringle and Jacobson's book is in its detail, stomach-churning at times. Although their style is journalistic and their prose plain, I supposed it must be effective, as I frequently found my eyes welling up with tears of rage. Most accounts of Bloody Sunday focus on the out-of-control nature of the Paras, but Pringle and Jacobson appropriately detail the command failures that led to the tragedy: the ill-conceived use of an elite, lethally-armed regiment to perform a police function; the decision to place civilians at risk; the lack of any overall political strategy to deal with the North; the failure of radio communications that placed the Paras beyond control of headquarters.
Aside from the political significance of Bloody Sunday, the drama of that day illuminates human nature at its best and worst: the teenaged first aid worker Eibhlin Lafferty, preventing a rabid soldier from finishing off a wounded man, asking him, "Are you mad?"; Barney McGuigan, waving a handkerchief to come to the aid of the dying Paddy Doherty, saying "They'll not shoot me" moments before his head was blown apart; Alex Nash, grievously injured running toward his dying son, Willie; the priests who braved gunfire to administer the last rites; the hapless Catholic businessman McKinney, stuck in the march on his way back from meeting an associate, shot by the army with his hands up.
I would have given the book 5 stars, but the account of the political aftermath of Bloody Sunday is perfunctory, and more follow-up on some of the participants would have been interesting. What happened to Alana Burke, who apparently had a spinal injury after been struck by a Saracen? What happened to the young soccer player whose leg was shattered by a bullet? How did the tragedy affect the lives of those involved in years to come?
There is a decent map of the Bogside included, which could have been more detailed, and might have been labelled with the location of exactly where the fatalities occurred.
On Sunday January 30, 1972, 13 Catholics were killed and another 16 wounded when British paratroopers opened fire on a demonstration march through the Northern Ireland city of Derry.
The event became known as Bloody Sunday, and was chiefly notable for two historic outcomes.
The first was that those responsible for the violent deaths of unarmed Catholic protesters passed unpunished through the subsequent British government inquiry by Lord Chief Justice Widgery.
This in turn had the effect of swelling the ranks of the IRA, transforming it from a ramshackle organisation run by a handful of rusty Carbine-toting extremists, into a formidable hardline military organisation, capable of spending millions of dollars on arms smuggled from Libya and the American Irish community.
The reprisals from Bloody Sunday saw more than 3000 people killed during the next 25 years, as UK ``safehavens'' such as Birmingham, Westminster and Whitehall were hit by assassinations and bombings.
Those Are Real Bullets is an enthralling account of the events leading up to and during the course of Bloody Sunday, put together by two journalists from the British Times Sunday Insight team.
Peter Pringle and Philip Jacobson combine first-hand knowledge, witness accounts and hindsight to deliver an engrossing, if extremely violent, narrative of the massacre.
Both the British military and the victim's movements on Bloody Sunday are re-traced in detail, and while Pringle and Jacobson's effort is perhaps not as objective as lauded in the promotional blurb on the cover, Those Are Real Bullets is compulsive reading for anyone interested in the struggle for total demilitarisation of Northern Ireland.
Slightly off-putting at first is the overuse of military terms, and a glossary of acronyms may have come in handy for those unfamiliar with the situation.
But these soon become minor concerns once the narrative hits the streets of Derry, and should in no way discourage the reader from turning away from this essential account of Bloody Sunday.
Anyone with a slightly delicate constitution should be warned of the book's highly-graphic nature, right down to tracing the track of every bullet through each victim's body.
It also includes some stunning news photography, including Frenchman Gilles Peress' serial account of the death of Paddy Doherty.