"Sunday Bloody Sunday" epitomizes U2's outspoken views on politics, and relives the events of the infamous Bloody Sunday incident with horror and realism. The song's anti-hate, anti-sectarian and anti-violence message, performed with the military drumbeat, austere guitar rhythm and passionate melodies, helped establish this as one of U2's signature songs.
So what events transpired on that eventful Sunday, which compelled the band to write such a powerful song? Firstly, it is important to clear up some facts. If one looked carefully into the pages of Irish history, there were two recorded incidents that have been referred to as Bloody Sunday. The first such incident took place far back in 1920, when British troops in Dublin, as retaliation for the deaths of British undercover agents, fired into crowds in the middle of a football match. The second instance, which the song actually refers to, occurred quite some time after. On Sunday, January 30 of 1972, the horrors of British troops killing Irish civilians would be relived again at a civil rights protest in Derry, Northern Ireland.
The line "Bodies strewn across the dead-end street" refers to the 27 civil rights protesters, shot by the members of the 1st Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment, 13 of whom were killed immediately. "And mother's children, brothers, sisters torn apart" refers to the 7 innocent teenagers who lost their lives in what the witnesses testify to be wanton and senseless violence.
Unfortunately, the area where events of Bloody Sunday were played out is no stranger when it comes to violence. Known simply as The Bogside (another name for Bloody Sunday is "The Bogside Massacre"), this region lies just outside the city of Derry in Northern Ireland. Notorious as a conflict zone during the period of the "Troubles," where ethno-political tension between England and Ireland spilled out into the streets in public protests and military violence. The Bogside was the setting for dramatic events such as the Battle of Bogside and the infamous Bloody Sunday.
Nowadays visitors can find all types of local cultural landmarks and festive events which have given the area a newfound image and reputation. Artworks such as the great gable-wall murals created by the Bogside Artists known as The People's Gallery spans the entire length of Rossville Street, which runs through the center of the Bogside. There is also the famous Free Derry Corner located on Lecky Road and Fahan Street that signifies the constant struggle endured by the people throughout those turbulent times. This is also where the Gasyard Feile, a popular annual arts and music festival (held in a former gasyard) is held.
Ironically, while the past events still haunt the memories of those who were involved in the incident, the area where the unspeakable atrocities took place is today a popular tourist attraction.