Mitch Fox/The Hoya International peace activist Don Mullan speaks about his experience as a protestor at the `Bloody Sunday’ event.

Although many students probably know of “Bloody Sunday” as a song by the popular music group U2, the event constitutes a seminal part of Irish history. International peace activist Don Mullan, eyewitness to Bloody Sunday and author of a book of the same name, spoke about his experiences in St. ary’s Hall Wednesday evening.

“I can still, to this day see the barricades spitting dust as bullets thundered into it. I can hear people crying and falling . and then I recall the wall above my head bursting like a firecracker going off because a bullet hit it,” Mullan said. “The last thing I remember is someone saying `Get down, get down – they’re firing live ammo.'”

Mullan was born in Northern Ireland in 1956, amid the continued tensions between the British and the Irish. Although he was raised in a part of the nation with borders artificially created by Great Britain, he claims no allegiance to the geographic area.

“I’m very clear in terms of my identity. I’m Irish, not Northern-Irish. I’m certainly not British,” he said. “I do not in any way hold any allegiance to the artificially-created state of Northern Ireland.”

Mullan made no secret of his opinion that the continuing consequences of British colonialism were the cause of much political strife in Ireland. Discrimination and the denial of basic human and civil rights were commonplace during his childhood, he said. Mullan granted much praise to the U.S. black civil rights movement of the 1960s, crediting it as an inspiration to its Irish counterparts.

“Martin Luther King and his colleagues inspired a whole generation in Northern Ireland to aspire towards the creation of a more just society,” he said.

With that in mind, Mullan recalled the exact moment he had his first political realization. The year was 1968 and a 12-year-old ullan, still ignorant to the notion of civil rights or marches, questioned the images of British policemen brutally beating unarmed protestors.

The increasing consciousness dawning across the Irish nation was paralleled by his own sentiments, Mullan said. As time went on, increased police presence in Northern Ireland fueled feelings of increased alienation, until the conflict reached breaking point with the announcement of interment without trial in August 1971.

“It felt like shockwaves of an earthquake going through our community,” he said. “The barricades went up to keep out the British army.”

From that point on, Mullan’s community was fiercely guarded against encroachment of the British. He recalls throwing stones at the army, along with others in the neighborhood, to thwart any attempts at entry. Concurrently, an end to the interment without trial was added the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association’s list of demands.

At the age of 15, Mullan was granted permission by his parents to participate in his first civil rights march. This particular march, on Jan. 30, 1972, however, was to be like no other.

” It was a beautiful day . there was good humor, banter, an extraordinarily relaxed feeling about the whole event . no one had any idea they were marching into what would become the valley of death and would be one of the most seminal events of Irish history,” he said.

Unbeknownst to the protestors, 3,200 additional troops were brought into the city to deal with the protest. Although the British government would go on to claim that the Irish protestors had petrol bombs and mail bombs, there is absolutely no evidence and eyewitnesses such as Mullan insist that is a fabrication.

A minor riot, by the standards of time, spontaneously started when tear gas and water cannons were used upon the peaceful crowd, ullan said. Only 15 minutes later, the paratroopers arrived and chaos ensued. Mullan described a bloody, horrific scene that unfolded before him.

“I could see crowds beginning to run and behind them I could see armored vehicles . [there were] lots of people in disarray screaming . Suddenly without warning the unmistakable crack of high speed artillery,” he said.

Ultimately, 14 of the protesters were left dead and 13 wounded in one of the most unprovoked, bloody scenes of civil rights marches. The death toll was especially hard to bear because the protest’s organizing committee had purposely attempted to prevent any violent outbreaks.

“I believe this [the descent of troops] was a calculated move . I believe the presence of 3,200 troops were there to invade and obliterate the area,” Mullan said.

The response to the event was to be a systematic denial by the highest levels of British governmental officials and an exoneration of the paratroopers, despite the immediate eyewitness statements of so many of the people who experienced Bloody Sunday. While many of his fellow Irishmen felt that the only way to deal with the travesty of justice was to join the IRA, Mullon is now thankful that his age prevented him from doing so. He has no qualms about admitting, however, that if he had been of age he would have joined the ranks of his violent counterparts.

“The one sight I will never forget – this more than anything made me realize who I am – I remember finding the blue and white civil rights banner that had been carried the day before [at the protest] . it was very heavily bloodstained because it had been used to cover the body,” Mullan said.

Mullan’s book, Bloody Sunday, was turned into an acclaimed feature film in 2000.

The event was co-sponsored by the Lecture Fund and the Irish American Society.

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