1 February 2001 Edition
Keep up the pressure for justice
BY FERN LANE
Thousands of people from around Ireland and the world marched through Derry last Sunday afternoon and gathered at Free Derry Corner to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the killings on Bloody Sunday, and to offer their support to the relatives as they continue in their fight for justice at the Saville Inquiry.
The rally heard from Michael McKinney, representing those relatives, who told the assembled crowd of the families' concerns regarding the new Inquiry; ``The past year has seen the exposure of enough evidence to ensure that the miscarriages of Widgery can never be repeated. But not enough has been done to ensure that this Inquiry will have the ability to hold those responsible to account.''
``Please do not assume that because we have been successful in obtaining a public inquiry that the task is over. We have just begun the fight. Unless we keep up the pressure on the military establishment to resolve this issue once and for all, we risk the almost impossible thought that we will be left with a re-run of Widgery''
The rally was also addressed by Garret Mussen of the Dublin and Monaghan Justice for the Forgotten Campaign, who spoke the huge difficulties experienced by the families of the 31 people who were killed on 17 May 1974 - even to get their case properly recognised. ``The hurt caused by the bombings themselves was greatly increased by 20 years of abandonment by the Irish political establishment.'' The tribunal which was set up to inquire into the bombing was, he said, ``an Irish Widgery.''
``We believe that British government intelligence operatives masterminded the atrocity and we suspect that a decision was taken in high places to sacrifice our rights in order to protect the hidden underbelly of government.''
Janet Donnelly from the Ballymurphy Campaign - which is demanding an inquiry into the events of 9 August 1971 when 11 people were killed by British soldiers during internment - told the people of Derry that ``our people, like your people, were gunned down in cold blood by the very same regiment, 1st Para, just six months before they came to Derry. They opened fire on anyone who moved in a murderous frenzy.''
Sinn Féin's Sean MacManus, Mayor of Sligo, said: ``We have travelled a long and difficult road since that terrible day 29 years ago. Just as our work to achieve a settlement has had its highs and lows, so has the campaign of the families of those murdered on Bloody Sunday. But the days of listening to the likes of Derek Wilford saying `We have nothing to apologise for' are over. It is a tribute to the courage and commitment of the families of those murdered that the new Bloody Sunday Inquiry was established. I have no doubt that if this work continues, we will see justice.''
MacManus also spoke about the current political difficulties, saying ``The Good Friday Agreement was not a republican document, but despite out misgivings about it we signed up to it in the belief that it could bring about fundamental change for our community. It is for this reason that the Unionist community has such difficulties with it. They cannot countenance equality.''
``The RUC was part of a failed political entity. It cannot be part of a new future. Nationalists and republicans will not accept half measures. We want a decent, democratic and accountable police service. The Patten Report gave us an opportunity to do that; the Mandelson Bill does not. If Tony Blair genuinely wants republicans to sign up to any new policing service, he needs to understand how emotive the issue is. Our message to him is, it is now over to you on this issue.''
Saville Inquiry is being manipulated - McGuinness
Martin McGuinness presented the annual Bloody Sunday Memorial Lecture at the Calgach Centre in Derry on Friday 26 January. Below is an edited version of his lecture.
``It is with a sense of great honour and privilege at being asked to deliver this, the annual Bloody Sunday memorial lecture, that I stand before you tonight - 29 years since that terrible day in the history of our city, when 14 of our fellow citizens were murdered in a cold-blooded and calculated massacre by the British Army.
The passage of 29 years has not dimmed the memories of that day for those that were present and particularly for those who lost loved ones. Time has not eased this sense of pain and loss. The grief has been deepened by their belief, shared by all interested in truth and justice, that the events of Bloody Sunday have yet to be set out truthfully and credibly in an open and transparent independent inquiry.
The inquiry is being manipulated by elements within the British military and political establishments to ensure that nothing will emerge to point the finger at those responsible
The Widgery Inquiry was a deliberate attempt by the British government to wilfully misrepresent the events on that day in the realm of world opinion. Widgery was established for the sole purpose of exonerating the actions of the British Army. It only served to expose the extent to which successive British governments will go to cover up the misdeeds of their agents in Ireland.
So far removed was its version of events that it only deepened the sense of injustice perpetrated against the people of Derry. But it also cemented the resolve of the families and the people of Derry to clear the names of their loved ones and to indict the British government in the court of world opinion.
When Tony Blair announced this new Inquiry, it created great hope that at long last the truth would emerge. Here was a British prime minister who, for the first time in the history of British involvement in Ireland, had publicly stated his personal belief that those murdered and wounded by crown forces in Ireland were innocent.
When he announced the establishment of the Saville Inquiry, Blair assured the families that it would get the full co-operation of his government - that all relevant material would be made available to the Inquiry. The Inquiry was to be open and transparent.
I have campaigned all along for the truth about that tragic day to be established. I intend to play my part in doing just that
I believe that when Tony Blair made those assertions that he was being truthful. But unfortunately Tony Blair on this occasion, as on many others when he has made commitments, did not take into account the agendas of the militarists and securocrats in Whitehall and in the NIO.
What is emerging is an inquiry that is being manipulated by elements within the British military and political establishments to ensure that, even if it concludes that all of those killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday were totally innocent civilians, nothing will emerge to point the finger at those responsible for planning, authorising and executing the strategy adopted in Derry 29 years ago.
The British establishment is still attempting to blame everyone, except of course their politicians and generals. They have blamed the Civil Rights Movement, the people of Derry, the dead of Bloody Sunday. And now, very late in the day - in an obvious act of desperation - they are trying to place the responsibility for Bloody Sunday on me. These actions are part and parcel of their attempt to take the spotlight away from the purpose of the Inquiry - which is to find the truth of Bloody Sunday.
I have campaigned all along for the truth about that tragic day to be established. I intend to play my part in doing just that. To that end, my legal representatives are currently in discussion with the Inquiry. There are important legal matters to be dealt with. I will be eager, when that work is completed, to provide my evidence to the Inquiry.
Like many in this city, I am sceptical and suspicious about the ability of this Inquiry to establish the truth. The eagerness of the lawyers for the Inquiry to introduce unsubstantiated allegations and lies from anonymous British military intelligence sources, quoting unknown and probably non-existent British agents, stands in stark contrast to the inability thus far of the Inquiry to achieve the co-operation of the same British military establishment in delivering evidence of vital significance to this Inquiry.
Pro-Agreement unionists need leadership
The greatest expression of mutual expectation and political maturity was the joint exercise of our electoral franchise when Catholic, Protestant, nationalist, unionist, loyalist and republican went out and voted `Yes' together to endorse the change envisioned in the Good Friday Agreement.
I am as convinced as ever that that consensus is still there. I am also convinced, however, that, unless those positive, progressive unionists and loyalists who voted with their republican and nationalist neighbours in the referendum are given leadership, they will opt out through disillusionment. I believe that is what happened in the South Antrim by-election for example.
It wasn't that the majority of unionists turned against the Agreement and voted DUP. It was the failure of the Ulster Unionists to put forward a pro-Agreement candidate. Those pro-Agreement unionists left without a candidate to represent their views opted out and stayed at home.
The one area where we as Irish republicans have a responsibility to reassure unionists is in their fear of being subsumed within an exclusively Irish cultural society where they would lose their unique identity. As a community emerging from that experience, we have a responsibility to persuade them that their identity will be protected in the new Ireland we seek to establish.
We are fast approaching the time when the majority of Irish people, whether unionist/loyalist or republican/nationalist will recognise the direction in which change is happening. It is imperative therefore that, together, we map out how we intend to manage that change and how we intend to govern the whole country together for the benefit of all of its people. Unmanaged change can be dangerous.
This year also marks the 20th twentieth anniversary of the deaths of ten heroic Irish patriots on Hunger Strike. I quote a hunger striker from a previous generation of Irish republicans, Terence MacSwiney: `We should make this one resolution. Our future history shall be more glorious than that of any contemporary state... We shall rouse the world from a wicked dream of material greed, of tyrannical power, to the wonder of a regenerated spirit, and a new and beautiful dream; and we will establish our state in a true freedom that will endure forever.'
MacSwiney's dream of a new Ireland in which true freedom will endure forever is still the dream of Irish republicans today. Bobby Sands summed up Mac Swiney's dream when he wrote ``Our revenge will be the laughter of our children''. It is a dream that is now within our grasp; it is a dream that is close to being turned into a reality. We are beginning to hear the laughter of our children. We have learned well from the mistakes of the past. We will not be hoodwinked by British duplicity.
This leadership is committed to realising the dream of MacSwiney and Sands for the Irish people. An Ireland united and free. An Ireland built on equality and respect for all traditions. An Ireland that we will be proud to leave to our children and our grandchildren.''