Waiting for the truth : a re-examination of four representations of Bloody Sunday after the Saville Inquiry

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2011-05

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On January 30, 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland, British soldiers opened fire on Irish citizens participating in a peaceful civil rights march, killing thirteen men and injuring as many others. This event, called “Bloody Sunday,” was the subject of two formal inquiries by the British government, one conducted by Lord Widgery in 1972 that exonerated the British soldiers and one led by Lord Saville, which published its findings in June 2010 and found the British troops to be at fault. Before the second investigation gave its report, a number of dramatic productions had contradicted the official British version of events and presented the Irish point of view. Two films and two plays in particular—the drama The Freedom of the City (1973), the filmed docudramas Bloody Sunday and Sunday (both 2002), and the documentary theater production Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry (2005)—were aimed at audiences that did not recognize the injustices that took place in Derry. All four dramatic presentations in some way replicate the words and actions of one or more significant individuals involved in the march or in the investigation that followed it. This report examines the possibilities and limitations of the three different genres the authors used to present the truth about the atrocity that the British government refused to acknowledge for thirty-eight years. It also reassesses the success and value of each production in the light of the Saville Inquiry findings.

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