Sunday, Aug. 10, 2003

Londonderry, Northern Ireland: 1972

I knew two of the people killed on Bloody Sunday. Michael McDaid was a neighbor. He was about my own age, a total and absolute gentleman. And Jim Wray came from just below where I lived. I didn't know the rest, but I knew some of their families.

I was a member of the I.R.A., but I knew that these people weren't. That had a huge impact on me, to know that civil-rights protesters, people who were not in the I.R.A., could be shot down in this fashion. Quite apart from the politics, there was a sadness knowing in your heart and soul that people labeled as gunmen and bombers were not. I remember seeing people going to play bingo several hours after. And that enraged me. I said to them that it was a disgrace. I was totally wrong.

These people were obviously in shock and didn't really fully understand the importance of this massive historical event. And maybe I was in a state of shock. It was a defining moment. Bloody Sunday changed Ireland, but it dramatically changed the North of Ireland and had a politicizing effect on a whole generation of Catholics.

If you look at the strength of Irish republicanism today, it strengthened as people held the British accountable. Sometimes people talk about the people who were killed as martyrs, and they were. But they were also heroes. They decided they were not going to take second-class citizenship anymore.”

Martin McGuinness is Sinn Fein's chief negotiator and former I.R.A. commander