IN ONE of the largest demonstrations ever seen in Derry, tens of thousands of marchers have marked the 39th anniversary of Bloody Sunday by completing the original march route to the city’s Guildhall
DAN KEENAN, Northern News Editor in Derry
Fourteen people were shot dead by the British army on January 30th, 1972 as they rallied against internment without trial. Another 13 were shot and injured.
The commemoration is intended to be the last such rally following the publication of the Saville report on June 15th last year which overturned the original investigation by Lord Widgery and exonerated the dead and injured.
However, some of the victims’ relatives broke away from the main demonstration. Relatives of William Nash, rallied at Free Derry corner, a short distance from the scene of the shootings by the Parachute Regiment, and vowed they would return every year. Linda Nash denied the relatives were split, insisting that there was a range of opinions among 27 different families.
The march was headed by relatives who carried a large banner with the word “vindicated”.
Pictures of the victims, also bearing the claim, were carried. Behind them were thousands of supporters from Derry and beyond as well as republican organisations and representatives of international conflicts from Palestine to the Basque region.
The procession took about 45 minutes to pass the junction of William Street and Rossville Street where the previous commemoration marches diverted to protest at the scene of the killings.
This time, the march continued to Guildhall Square where they were welcomed by a platform party led by John Kelly, a key spokesman of the families. Alongside him where Foyle MP and former SDLP leader Mark Durkan and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. Also present were representatives of the Ballymurphy campaign, which is seeking exoneration of those shot dead by the same parachute regiment in west Belfast in August 1971.
Addressing the good-humoured crowd in Guildhall Square, Mr Adams said Bloody Sunday was a turning point in Irish history. The Saville report had overturned the Widgery findings which, Mr Adams said, “had tried to blame the marchers, tried to blame the IRA and tried to blame everyone except the British army”.
He commended British prime minister David Cameron for apologising in parliament to the people of Derry but contradicted his claim that the shootings did not define the British army’s presence in the city. “Bloody Sunday is the defining story of the British army in Ireland,” he said.
Calling for the truth to be established in relation to the Ballymurphy killings and other disputed cases, he appealed for an independent, international commission.
Mark Durkan described the rally as “possibly the last march, but not the last stand” in relation to truth and justice.
He said the Saville report was detailed in relation to the victims’ innocence, but light in relation to responsibility and demanded a “proper follow up” which would establish “full responsibility”.