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.


(All content on 'Justice Campaign' section - extracts courtesy of Julieann Campbell, 'Setting the Truth Free: The Inside Story of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign' (Liberties Press, 2012)



  • Bloody Sunday 1975 Commemoration

    Decades of silence

    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.

  • The annual Bloody Sunday March makes its way through the city. (Derry Journal)

    Launch of the BSI

    The Bloody Sunday Initiative was formally established in August 1989. Its primary purpose was to focus national and international attention on Bloody Sunday as a justice issue. 

  • campaign launched

    Establishing the Justice Campaign

    With the success of the Birmingham Six case firmly in mind, families called a public meeting in early February 1992. The initial meeting took place in the Pilot’s Row Centre, built upon the killing ground of Bloody Sunday. 

  • Relatives take the helm at one of the annual Bloody Sunday marches. (Derry Journal)

    Campaign gains recognition

    In Derry, relatives and campaigners embarked on a citywide campaign. All involved were novices, but they quickly embraced their roles.

  • Protest at Prince Charles' visit

    The search for new evidence

    Some of the campaign’s key players were neither relatives nor survivors. A succession of lawyers, authors, professors and human rights activists played fundamental roles.

  • Widgery

    ‘Widgery memo damns British’

    By 1995, the campaign was continuing to gather momentum. Both at home and abroad, there seemed to be a distinct shift in attitudes. Improved political relations on all sides bolstered the campaign’s credibility. 

  • The 1972 civil rights banner

    Eyewitness Bloody Sunday

    During their campaign, families in Derry came across a bag of eyewitness statements taken in 1972. The statements had been lying under the stairs in civil rights activist Brigid Bond’s house for many years.

  • Bloody Sunday portraits, Derry Walls - 25th Anniv. 1997

    Breaking through in Britain

    The most expansive commemoration programme to date was planned for the twenty-fifth anniversary. The aim was to turn the Bloody Sunday weekend into an international event.

  • Families present a 40,000 signature petition calling for action on Bloody Sunday to 10 Downing Street in July 1997 alongside Derry MP John Hume and MPs Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn. (Bloody Sunday Trust)

    Petitioning 10 Downing Street

    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. 

  • Lord Saville opens proceedings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry on Friday 3 April 1998. (Derry Journal).jpg

    The second Bloody Sunday Inquiry

    The second inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday, commonly referred to as the Saville Inquiry, became the longest legal proceedings in British or Irish history.