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6 February 2003 Edition

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Freedom and justice are inevitable - Adams

Thousands brave elements to remember Bloody Sunday dead



BY FERN LANE

     
"There is no way that the status quo which used to exist here can ever be brought back, and those who look to renegotiate agreements, those who seek to feed the inertia within parts of the British establishment, are really doing nothing other than putting off the inevitable." Gerry Adams

Since the beginning of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and particularly since its move to London, the families of the dead and wounded have stressed that, momentous as it was, their success in securing a second inquiry was not the end of their struggle for justice. That point was restated over the course of last weekend's commemoration.

That some 10,000 people turned out to march on Sunday to show their support for the families in absolutely brutal weather conditions was a practical demonstration that they understand the importance of this message.

Ignoring the biting wind, sleet and snow, they gathered at Free Derry Corner in front of a stage on which flames were lit in memory of victims of state violence around the world, to hear Michael McKinney, brother of William, who was killed on Bloody Sunday, reiterate another of the weekend's keynote themes; the families' firm belief that they do not need Lord Saville to tell them the truth of what happened on Bloody Sunday. "What we do need, and what we will have," he said, "is an accounting for the actions of the British state and the British army on our streets.

"The second Bloody Sunday Inquiry and the report it produces as its conclusion will not be the history of Bloody Sunday," he continued. "It has been, and will continue to be, a vehicle for assessing information and documents about the British Army's and the British government's thinking, which created the climate in which 14 men and boys could be murdered as they marched for civil rights and against internment."

McKinney also expressed the mounting concern at the disparity of treatment of witnesses by the inquiry. "There has been a noticeable difference in the treatment of witnesses who gave evidence in Derry, who were afforded little protection and appeared to be treated as hostile witnesses, and the treatment that military and political witnesses have been afforded in London," he said. "Our objective, which the inquiry has said it shares, is to uncover the truth. To do that, there is a responsibility on the inquiry to treat all witnesses the same."

But despite these difficulties and the continuing obstruction by the Ministry of Defence, a pattern of British government attitudes and behaviour is slowly beginning to emerge. This pattern allowed for the killings on Bloody Sunday, the New Lodge killings shortly afterwards, and the numerous state sanctioned killings of individuals that continued for decades - and it ensured the cover ups and denials of justice that followed them all.

It is still too early to pass judgement on this second inquiry, McKinney told the audience, but the families remain "committed to seeing the process through to the end.

"Ultimately the inquiry will be judged on the basis of what it contributes to the campaign for truth and justice we are engaged in. We remain hopeful that it will but we will also make it clear if it doesn't."

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams also addressed the rally and commended all those present for gathering on such an atrocious day. "I think if you want any indication of why this campaign is going to succeed," he said, "it is because people like you, and the families, have never let it rest." He also pledged his party's support for the Open the Files campaign, which was announced from the platform by Minty Thompson, whose mother was shot dead in her back garden by a British soldier in November 1971, and for the New Lodge Six campaign.

No one, said Adams, would be surprised to hear that at the inquiry there appear to be different rules for British prime ministers, for soldiers in the British Army, and for those who represent the British establishment. Britain "used to rule the waves, but now waives the rules," he said. Bloody Sunday itself had been a continuation of the 50 or more colonial wars the British had fought in the previous 20 or 30 years. "The methods they used in Yemen, Cyprus, Malaysia and elsewhere, were used in this city."

Those who marched on Bloody Sunday, said Adams, were people "who were out, struggling in a totally peaceful way, for our rights and entitlements. It is that which the British government tried to murder that day. Indeed, if you read the evidence, they were contemplating many, many more dead bodies. They clearly had, in terms of their planning and the clearance at the highest political level, envisaged that up to 100 people could have been killed here."

In the same way that no one was surprised at the twists and turns of the British government in respect of Bloody Sunday and the inquiry, equally its twists and turns, and those of unionists, in respect of the peace process, would surprise no one. But, he continued, "in the same way, and with the same conviction that the Bloody Sunday families will get to the truth, we will get to the end of this peace process. We will have as part of our birthright the entitlements that people staked with their lives in this city 31 years ago.

"Of course it can be delayed, of course it can be diluted; of course ways and means can be found to try and move us in to all kinds of cul-de-sacs. But one thing is certain; there is no way that the status quo which used to exist here can ever be brought back, and those who look to renegotiate agreements, those who seek to feed the inertia within parts of the British establishment, are really doing nothing other than putting off the inevitable."

"Why is it inevitable? Because people like you here today and elsewhere make it so. I want to ask you to go from here today and to keep being active in whatever aspect of this struggle for justice and freedom and peace you can find space in; to keep going, to keep pushing ahead, to keep facing up to those who are trying to put us down."



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