For the citizens of Derry, the dramatic report by the Bloody Sunday inquiry on Tuesday was a vindication almost 40 years in the making. The tribunal, which took 12 years to compile its report, found that all those killed in Derry on Sunday, January 30, 1972 were unarmed and that the British Parachute Regiment had lost control and opened fire without warning.
For U.S.-based pro-boxer John Duddy, 30, a Derry native and nephew of 17-year-old Jack Duddy who was killed on Bloody Sunday, it’s a validation of everything his relatives have fought for, for decades.
Duddy admitted that until the report was finally released on Tuesday his relatives had feared another whitewash was in the making and were bracing for the worst.
“Everyone I know was still so tentative and so nervous because they were expecting the worst, even though they knew the people who died were innocent. Even as late as last night I could hear the nervous tension in my father’s voice. I’ll be talking to him later today and I am sure now I’ll hear the relief this time,” Duddy said.
Duddy, a champion middleweight who’s currently training to meet Julio Cesar Chavez on June 26 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, was the nephew of Jack Duddy, also a boxer, who was the first person to be shot dead on Bloody Sunday when he was killed by a single bullet to the chest in the courtyard of Rossville Flats. Witnesses said that he was unarmed and running away from soldiers.
“His name was John, but everyone called him Jackie,” said Duddy.
“His full name was John Francis and I was named John Francis after him. He was a boxer too. Jackie was 17 and he was my father’s idol when he was growing up -- my father was 12 at the time he was killed.
“My father always talked about how he would follow Jackie into the boxing gym. It was one of the main reasons why he became a boxer and it’s one of the main reasons I am one now, you know?
“I’m 31 next week,” said Duddy. “Bloody Sunday was always something that was never really talked about when I was growing up. So for me personally it’s great to see justice.
“I’m just glad to see that my aunties and uncles and my father will be able to talk about it. It won’t be a subject that’s hushed up when kids are about anymore.”
It’s can be hard now to remember now how much courage it took to participate in a civil rights march in the North 38 years ago. Times were different -- you had to brave angry sectarian gauntlets armed with stones and even guns, you faced the near-certainty of a violent and irrational state-sponsored crack down, and you could not depend on the police force to protect you (quite the opposite, in fact).
In Derry in 1972 the Nationalist community lived in dread of a crackdown. It was coming, they all agreed -- the only question was when. On Sunday January 30, 1972 the march had been banned, but even in their worst nightmares the locals could not have imagined that the Parachute Regiment would unleash a freewheeling massacre.
Duddy adds, “In Derry this week it’ll feel like a weight’s been lifted. The truth has finally been released to the world. What we already knew has been made public. This catastrophe happened to innocent people and the British Army is being held responsible for their mistakes.”
Had he lived Jack Duddy, like his nephew, might have gone on to great things as a boxer. This week his nephew is in training for the fight of his life. It’s a process that involves daily training and health tests.
“I have to go and get a brain scan now,” Duddy adds. “It comes with my job. I’m waiting on this brain surgeon till I find out if I have one. I’m fighting next on the 26th of June. But you’re talking about a more important subject in my eyes.”