On 30th January 1972, British soldiers shot dead 13 unarmed civilians taking part in an anti-internment civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland. This event, Bloody Sunday, was a major turning point in the history of the modern Irish troubles, catapulting the conflict into a civil war, driving many young men into the ranks of the IRA and fuelling a 25-year cycle of violence.
This film tells the story of Bloody Sunday in just one day from dawn till dusk, from the arrival of thousands of troops on the streets of the besieged city to the violent collision between soldiers from the crack Paratroop Regiment and the crowds of civilian demonstrators. The film follows the British soldiers and the police, as well as civilians from both sides of the religious sectarian divide. It focuses in particular on the stories of four men: Ivan Cooper, an idealistic Civil Rights leader, a Protestant in the Catholic camp who shares Martin Luther King’s dream of peaceful change; Gerry Donaghy, a 17 year old Catholic rebel, who yearns to settle down and marry his Protestant girlfriend, but who is drawn into violent confrontation with the soldiers; Brigadier Patrick MacLellan, the commander of the British Army in Londonderry who is under pressure to take firm action to stop the march; and a young private, a radio operator in the Paras, who is ordered, with his unit of hardened veterans, into the Bogside.