Friday, September 16, 2022

the last book I ever read (We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland, excerpt ten)

from We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland by Fintan O'Toole:

RTÉ was running footage of the massacre and interviews with eyewitnesses, all of whom said that the people who were killed were running away and that the British army had not been fired on. The very fact that thirty-one civilians had been shot while no soldiers had come to any harm underlined the plausibility of these accounts. But the army claimed that they were responding to attacks from snipers and nail bombers, that over 200 shots had been fired at them, and that at least four of those killed were wanted terrorists. (They were not.) It was this attempt to create an alternative reality that gave the event its apocalyptic quality. It was not just that innocent people had been so openly murdered by the British state. It was that an official fiction was being woven in real time, right in front of our eyes. The dead would not even be truly remembered – they would be buried in lies.

In our world, on the other hand, the Derry dead were immediately subsumed into history. The events of 30 January 1972 were coupled with those of 21 November 1920, when British soldiers opened fire indiscriminately on players and spectators in Croke Park. The same number of people–fourteen–had been killed. So the same name was given to the day: Bloody Sunday. Even though the victims of this second Bloody Sunday were emphatically not members of the IRA or part of any armed insurrection, this act of naming brought them into the capacious company of the martyred dead and defined the Derry massacre as another chapter in the long narrative of Ireland’s fight for freedom.

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