The British Army labelled the victims gunmen and bombers. They claimed their soldiers had met a “fusillade of fire”, even though no soldier or vehicle had been hit.
They planted nail bombs on one victim, Gerald Donaghey, to reinforce their claims. The British Information Service carried their story around the world in the hours after the shooting ended. Derry people knew it was a lie but had no voice loud enough to be heard.
The British government then established a public inquiry under Lord Chief Justice Widgery, the most senior legal figure in the land, whose deliberately biased report stood by the soldier’s version of events. This became the British government’s version, which would not be officially repudiated for another 38 years.
Bloody Sunday helped plunge the north of Ireland into decades of conflict. According to the 2010 report of the second inquiry into Bloody Sunday it
“increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed … a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland.”