In his latest New York Times op-ed piece, Bono relives his own experiences of “Bloody Sunday,” one of the deadliest days of “The Troubles” conflict between Northern Ireland and England, and celebrates the new British Prime Minister’s decision to take blame for the massacre. “Bloody Sunday,” the tragic event that inspired U2’s hit “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” took place January 30th, 1972, when members of the British Army opened fire on a group of unarmed civil rights protesters in the Northern Irish town of Derry, killing 14, including seven teenagers.
“It was a day that caused the conflict between the two communities in Northern Ireland — Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist — to spiral into another dimension: every Irish person conscious on that day has a mental picture of Edward Daly, later the bishop of Derry, holding a blood-stained handkerchief aloft as he valiantly tended to the wounded and the dying,” Bono writes.
Last week, new British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted that the British Army acted unlawfully on that day 38 years ago, opening the door for possible criminal charges. Bono called Cameron’s revelation “a bright day on our small rock in the North Atlantic.” “Clouds that had hung overhead for 38 years were oddly missing … the sharp daylight of justice seemed to chase away the shadows and the stereotypes of the past. No one behaved as expected. The world broke rhyme,” Bono writes. “A brand-new British prime minister, still in his wrapping paper, said things no one had imagined he would … could … utter ….’On behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry.’ ”
Bono writes that Cameron’s apology has instantly helped heal wounds that have been open for 38 years, and that his honesty should reverberate throughout other turbulent areas of the globe. “In fact, it can be that quick everywhere. If there are any lessons for the world from this piece of Irish history … for Baghdad … for Kandahar … it’s this: things are quick to change for the worse and slow to change for the better, but they can. They really can,” Bono writes. “It takes years of false starts, heartbreaks and backslides and, most tragically, more killings. But visionaries and risk-takers and, let’s just say it, heroes on all sides can bring us back to the point where change becomes not only possible again, but inevitable.”
In a light-hearted postscript to his op-ed piece, Bono reminisces about working on U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” in the studio and how “the song will be sung wherever there are rock fans with mullets and rage, from Sarajevo to Tehran.” While “Sunday Bloody Sunday” seemed like a hit — even though “it’s a small song that tries but fails to contrast big ideas,” claims Bono — a record company boss overseeing the recording sessions implored the band, “Drop the ‘bloody.’ ‘Bloody’ won’t bloody work on the radio.” As history shows, U2 turned down that recommendation.