BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- It was Jan. 30, 1972, when British paratroopers shot dead 13 unarmed Roman Catholic men taking part in a protest rally that had been banned in the hair-trigger tension of Londonderry.
It proved to be one of the most dreadful days in the history of Northern Ireland's recent history, scarred by more than 22 years of conflict between the Irish Republican Army and British forces in the province.
Since that Bloody Sunday, so called by the world news media, the provisional IRA has never failed to win support from sections of the Catholic community or wanted for new recruits in what it calls its 'armed struggle against the British occupation.'
Despite Britain's ban of the rally, some 3,000 protesters massed behind the Derry Civil Rights organizers, who called the demonstration against the internment introduced by the British government.
Internment, or detention without trial, had begun Aug. 9, 1971, and more than 300 IRA suspects were jailed at Long Kesh internment camp, 15 miles west of Belfast.
Unknown to the protesters, British military intelligence had warned Lt. Col. Tony Kennett, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment in Londonderry, that the IRA was planning to use the parade as a cover for an attack on his men.
The battalion had been on tour in Ulster since February 1971 and had not fired a single live round against the IRA. The crowd was bitter against the British, and the troops were itching for action.
Kennett received orders to halt the parade and arrest hooligans and organizers. He barked out the command, 'Let's go!' Shots rang out as troops rushed forward into the panicking mass.
Seconds later, 13 civilians lay dead, one more died in hospital and 14 others were wounded.
Among the crowd was a Catholic priest of the town, the Rev. Edward Daly, who became synonymous with Bloody Sunday when pictures were flashed around the world of him waving a blood-soaked handkerchief in front of victims being carried to ambulances.
Daly, who is now 58 and bishop of Derry, said Saturday his opinion of that day 20 years ago has not changed.
'I am quite satisfied that what I saw was murder. It was the only time I saw bullets hit somebody. I saw life ebb away, and that had a very powerful impact on me,' Daly recalled.
In the aftermath of the bloodshed, Prime Minister Edward Heath ordered an inquiry and Irish Premier Jack Lynch said the violence was 'an unwarranted attack on unarmed civilians.'
The British inquiry, by the lord chief justice of England, Lord Widgery, led to greater controversy. Widgery's verdict in April 1972, after the powers of the Northern Ireland Parliament had been superseded with direct British rule, said there would have been no deaths if there had not been an illegal march that created 'a highly dangerous situation.'
He said the soldiers had been fired on first and that there was no reason to suppose they would have opened fire otherwise.
None of the dead or wounded had been proven to have been shot while handling a firearm or bomb.
The verdict sparked a wave of outrage and anger throughout Ireland, inflaming the Catholic community, and since then the IRA has never wanted for recruits in what it calls its 'armed struggle against the British occupation.'
Daly said the 'impact of Wedgery was at least as powerful' as the original killings. 'It had such a corroding influence on society here. Widgery was a travesty. I have never known anger of such an intensity. A large number of young people then opted for the IRA.NEWLN: more