A year after Bloody Sunday saw the first commemoration march and rally held in Derry, organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. These annual marches were to continue for decades in pursuit of truth and justice.
From around 1989, discussion concentrated on the idea of an organisation to refocus attention on Bloody Sunday.
The Bloody Sunday Initiative was formally established in August 1989, and one of the first things the BSI did was commission Eamonn McCann to write ‘Bloody Sunday – What Happened in Derry.’
The 1990s were to prove eventful as far as human rights issues in the North were concerned. With the Guildford Four released, attention turned to the Birmingham Six, who had, by then, served almost sixteen years. After years of relentless campaigning, the Birmingham Six finally walked free in 1991, fuelling efforts in Derry as many more family members became active over Bloody Sunday.
In December 1991, the Channel 4 documentary series ‘Secret History’ broadcast a programme about Bloody Sunday, challenging the Widgery findings and renewing debate around the issue. Over the next few years, public attitudes towards Bloody Sunday began to shift.
The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign (BSJC) was founded on the 20th anniversary to demand the repudiation of Widgery; the formal acknowledgement of the innocence of the victims; and the prosecution of those responsible.
The campaigned swelled in the early 1990s thanks to a series of significant developments, including damning Channel 4 News reports, whistle-blowing former paras and explosive new documents released from the Public Records Office in London. These provided key new evidence and fuelled demands for a new inquiry.
On the 25th anniversary, tens of thousands of people marched in support of the continuing fight for truth and justice. The same week, relatives delivered a 40,000 strong petition to 10 Downing Street calling for the issue to be re-opened. They also took their campaign to the US Senate, gaining high profile support there.
The relentless family-led BSJC forced the establishment, in 1998, of the new inquiry chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate. The announcement marked the first time in history that the British government conceded to a second inquiry.
The families’ campaign for justice did not begin immediately. It would be twenty years before the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign came into existence. It operated for just six years – from 1992 until 1998, when the British government broke with all precedent and conceded to a new inquiry.
In May 1997, Labour leader Tony Blair succeeded John Major as British prime minister. Almost immediately, pressure was put on him to begin to resolve the Bloody Sunday issue. At the time, there was a noticeable thaw in British-Irish relations and a meaningful peace process loomed.