This is very upsetting to read but an amazing insight into the reality of life for a person who was seriously injured but survived Bloody Sunday.
In solidarity
Bloody Sunday four decades on: ‘Still waiting for answers’
Derry Journal 30/04/10 See also at
Derry needs no introduction to Bloody Sunday. It is an event ingrained in the consciousness of almost every citizen, whether or not they were present or even born in 1972. Thousands marched for civil rights.
Thirteen marchers were shot dead in broad daylight in the Bogside, and a further fifteen wounded, one of whom later died of his injuries. Those shot were branded gunmen and nail-bombers by the British government.
Over the next few weeks, as the world awaits the outcome of Lord Saville’s report into Bloody Sunday, the ‘Journal’ remembers all those who were injured, many of whom did not live to hear Saville’s findings or see the truth set free.
This week, Julieann Campbell speaks to DAMIEN DONAGHEY.
Teenager Damien ‘Bubbles’ Donaghey was the first person shot on Bloody Sunday and, almost forty years later, the physical and psychological effects of January 30, 1972, continue to plague him.
“I was only fifteen at the time and I remember how happy and positive everyone seemed as we set off from the Creggan Shops,” he recalls.
“People had heard that the paratroopers were in town, but we were too young to realise what that meant – although we knew about the week before when they had confronted marchers at Magilligan.”
As the march neared William Street, Damien recalls seeing British soldiers hiding in a derelict building which used to house a bakery.
“People were throwing stones at them, which was pretty normal in those days,” he said. “Then a few rubber bullets were fired, one bounced off the wall and I dived to get it as a souvenir. The next thing I knew, a shot rang out and I was on my back. I saw the blood and knew I was hit. People came over to lift me, one of whom was John Johnston, and they shot him, too.”
As the gunfire intensified, a terrified Damien Donaghey and John Johnston were rushed into Mrs Shiels’ house in nearby Colmcille Court.
“Fr. Carolan, the Parish Priest in Creggan, was there and he took me to hospital. There was a checkpoint on the bridge, and they flagged us down. But Fr Carolan just drove straight past them. He must have known there were others shot.
“It was pandemonium at Altnagelvin Hospital. I remember seeing John Hume and then seeing Alana Burke coming in, but I never imagined that so many people were shot.”
Damien underwent emergency surgery before joining the other wounded on a ward.
“The next day I was coming around from my operation and I think it was a nurse who first told me how many people had actually been shot. I was in total shock. I thought it was maybe just me, Mr Johnston and Alana. I remember there were a couple of British soldiers at the far end of the ward laughing about what had happened in the Bogside. They weren’t paratroopers but they still gave us abuse – so I grabbed the crutch and went for one of them.”
Damien spent a total of seven months in hospital. However, the leg injury he sustained has never healed properly and, only recently, doctors suggested reconstructive surgery on his knee.
“At times, the pain is still terrible, particularly over the last few months, but I’m not sure I want another operation. The bullet had fractured my right femur and, even to this day, I can only bend my leg 30%. I have a seven-inch scar up the side of my leg and I had one of those big bolts put in to strengthen it, and then a calliper. I was only a teenager, but it has never really healed.”
Widgery whitewash
The Widgery Tribunal was held in Coleraine in the immediate aftermath of Bloody Sunday. The tribunal only lasted a matter of weeks and Widgery’s report, completed on April 10, 1972, was widely criticised as it largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame.
“I was still in hospital when the Widgery Tribunal was held”, Damien recalls.
“Mickey Bradley and Danny McGowan were in hospital with me and we were all told that our evidence wasn’t needed. We saw bits of it on TV, particularly the paratroopers going into the tribunal, wearing glasses and laughing. It was obvious to us that it was a whitewash. They were protecting their own.”
Damien Donaghey is now married with four children, but he still finds it difficult to talk about his experience.
“To be truthful, I never really talk about Bloody Sunday unless it’s coming up to an anniversary or something. Although I suppose it is different for me than for the people lying up there in the cemetery – at least I can talk about it, they can’t.
“My children know what happened. They went on the internet and they read all the big files I kept at home during the Inquiry, but they are another generation and they don’t really understand it as well as we would.”
On the Saville Inquiry, Damien says: “I presumed the Inquiry would last a year, maybe two, but it has taken this long and we are still waiting for answers. I saw soldiers give evidence and both said they shot a gunman or a nail-bomber, but they didn’t admit to shooting John Johnston or me. Being labelled stays with you, even after all these years. I need the Inquiry to clear everybody’s name – both the dead and the wounded.”
Almost four decades later, Bloody Sunday and the quest for answers still dominates Damien’s life and he looks cautiously forward to a resolution.
“It’s been 38 years but we are still in the limelight, so that’s very tough to cope with. Although we want closure, I have no faith in the British government and wonder what justice we will ever get now. But murder is murder and the soldiers responsible should be held accountable for their crimes.”
Troops Out Movement ~ Campaigning for British Withdrawal from Ireland
PO Box 1032 Birmingham B12 8BZ  Tel: 0121 773 8683 Mob: 0797 017 4167
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