6 February 1997 Edition
'No apology, no inquiry'
Britain's answer to 40,000 who marched for truth
Barely 24 hours after the largest demonstration that Derry has ever seen, the British government gave its formal reply to the 40,000 marchers' call for the truth of Bloody Sunday to be known.
Baroness Denton, in a written reply to the House of Lords, said her government will not apologise and will not open a new inquiry.
It was a slap in the face for the relatives who have campaigned to have a new inquiry into the murder of their loved ones in Derry 25 years ago.
This week the relatives pledged to continue their campaign until an independent inquiry reaches the truth.
40,000 march for justice
Biggest march ever seen in Derry
By Martha McClelland
Nearly a third of Derry's population turned out in the biggest march ever seen in the city, to mark the 25th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
Organisers estimated between 40,000 and 50,000 people took to the streets. Those at the original Bloody Sunday march said there were between two and three times as many people last Sunday. It took one hour and five minutes for the march to pass the top of Westland Street. The end of the march couldn't even reach Free Derry Corner and the crowd was solid from Kells Walk to the famous wall.
The turnout shouldn't have surprised us. For days, Bloody Sunday was the incessant conversation on street corners, shops and factories, in everyone's home. People kept coming up to ask where they could get the black ribbons, the usual outlets having run out repeatedly. On Thursday, St Marys in Creggan, scene of the original funeral mass with thirteen coffins crowded at the altar, overflowed. Hundreds stood under the stairs to hear 34 priests and three bishops concelebrate the Commemorative Mass. A representative from the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, Nicholas Frayling, read a solidarity message.
Black flags appeared - spontaneously. There was even street theatre. On Saturday I turned the corner into William Street to see a group standing like statues, frozen in time like the victims and their families, carrying a civil rights banner and placards.
On Sunday in Creggan, Bishop's Field and the shops disappeared, hidden by thousands of people. There were foreign languages I couldn't identify - besides French, German, Spanish, Danish, Italian and Euskadi. One woman, a baggage handler from Boston from a non-Irish background, said: ``For anyone who believes in justice, this is the place in the world to be today.'' Many Derry people living abroad came home for the occasion. Twenty people with a banner represented the Irish American Unity Conference.
As we moved down Southway I asked people why they were there. One English man said he was marching ``as an expression of solidarity with the people of Derry, and for all who have died at the hands of British soldiers in the most heavily militarised area of Europe.'' He'd attended all the weekend's events, he added, because they were ``part of the struggle to find the truth and there can't be peace or healing without the truth.''
Among the large number of groups from the South was the Table Campaign, a small human rights group. Majella, from Dublin, explained their work as ``fostering political dialogue and activating the political system of the Republic.'' Having met with Albert Reynolds and John Burton, they see their task as keeping the dialogue going ``and letting them know we're watching them.'' They were marching because ``if we can bring the atrocities inflicted on the Ogoni people in Africa to the attention of the government, then we have a responsibility to bring Irish human rights issues to them as well, so that they take up their responsibilities.''
A young woman from Castlederg said she was marching because Bloody Sunday was ``a poignant example of what has happened here, how the families have dealt with it. Even though they'd been knocked back at every stage by the British government, they kept struggling. They're an example to the rest of us.'' A schoolteacher from Rostrevor admitted ``I actually don't like marches. I'd rather be doing almost anything else normally. But it's really impotant that people have a sense of participating in and directing their own lives. It has to do with not sitting at home and hoping all this injustice will just go away. We have the right to the truth, to know who murdered these people and why, and to see that they are brought to justice.''
But the vast majority of those marching were Derry citizens - young, old, in between. One boy about 10 said he was marching ``because it was wrong what happened, and we want to show it was wrong.'' An older woman standing at Rathkeep Way said she was marching for the 14 people who'd died. It was the first march she'd been on in 25 years. She'd been scared. She said with fierce determination, ``now I'll come every year, till the 50th year if it takes it''.
Tony and Michael, two teenagers, told me that they were marching to get the case re-opened. ``It could have been anyone. If the British say they were innocent, why were they shot, and why are their medical files classified for 75 years?'' Darren, 17, said he was marching to remember them, even though he hadn't been born then. ``And if I have children I will definitely bring them every year too.''
At the bottom of Southway, everyone always looks up to see if the march is still coming at the top of the hill. This year, not only was the march still coming, but 14 huge canvas portraits of the dead had appeared standing like sentinels at the top of the hill, guarding the march and confronting the Walls where assassins lurked.
Struggling through thousands, I was lucky to reach Free Derry Corner. After waiting for nearly an hour for the march, Chairperson Paul Doherty apologised, ``We're going to have to start even though the march is still half way up William Street.'' Meanwhile, the portraits appeared, mute representations of those we had lost.
Mickey McKinley, whose brother was shot dead, spoke for the relatives. He began by thanking those ``ordinary men and women, many not even born on Bloody Sunday, for taking time to pay their respects and stand with us today. We cannot accept and cannot forget what the British Army did to us. Twenty-five years later, Paddy Mayhew is still sticking his head in the sand. I want to tell Paddy Mayhew that when he sticks his head up, we'll all still be there. It is evident that the British will stick to their guns. But we can be confident that the truth will out.'' He concluded by saying that ``Everyone has suffered. All suffering is equal but so should be all attempts to find a way out of this suffering. Britain has no right to refuse to talk to anyone in the search for people and justice on this island.''
Mrs Annemarie Sullivan, wife of Damien Sullivan, asked for support to free her husband from Long Kesh, where he is held unjustly for killing a RIR member.
Tina McLaughlin read a poem written by two other young people, Killian Mullan and Sharon Meenan, entitled I Wasn't Even Born
Martin McGuinness told the crowd that he stood there not as a political figure but as a Derry man. He paid tribute to the tremendous work done against the odds by the relatives in recent years, and added his voice to the call for a new enquiry into the murders. He stressed the significance of the new evidence on Bloody Sunday by Don Mullan and Dermot Walsh, which strongly challenged the British government to come clean and allow the truth to be told.
He spoke of many personal experiences of injustice in his own life which shaped him. He said ``Drop a stone in a pool and it will hit the shore. This is a city of connections. Hit one person with injustice and you hit us all. People decided there was enough discrimination, enough attempts to smother our Irishness, and when the civil rights movement came, they supported it... Before that, the people of Derry were a downtrodden people, servile people. But the people who marched on Bloody Sunday were not downtrodden or servile. They were putting it up to the British government. The people who marched on Bloody Sunday knew they could be killed. Hadn't they seen so many other innocent and unarmed people murdered like Sammy Devenney, Seamus Cusack and Dessie Beattie?
``The people on Bloody Sunday were brave decent, courageous people. The people who marched on Bloody Sunday were heroes.'' He mentioned Paddy Walsh from Broadway Creggan, crawling into the line of fire to help Paddy Doherty, who lay dying. He cited Alice Doherty, one of the Knights of Malta volunteers who tended so many of the dying and injured.
He added, ``It was as if in 1968 the British put us all on a rollercoaster of injustice, hatred and murder. Sinn Féin, along with the Irish government, John Hume and Irish America has tried to stop that rollercoaster. There are two roads before us, the road to further conflict and the road to the negotiating table. We have declared ourselves for the road to the negotiating table. Some say that we need a de Klerk figure to emerge from the church at Drumcree, a de Klerk to emerge from a Free Presbyterian church in Belfast. Of course we do. But most of all, we need a de Klerk to emerge from Number 10 Downing Street.''
Across the generations
Bloody Sunday has shaped the course of people's lives - both young and old. Here four of them describe what that day meant to them
There are some remarkable people whose destiny seems entwined with all of the tremendous, tragic and - in the case of Bloody Sunday - terrifying events which our ever-changing communal struggle throws up. Derry republican Barney McFadden is one of those people.
In the years after 1972 Barney was interned, grazed in the head by a British army bullet, the victim of a ``supergrass stitch-up'' and one of Sinn Féin's most respected councillors. But it was Bloody Sunday which has embossed itself most vividly on Barney's memory.
``I remember Gerry ``The Bird'' up on the lorry,'' Barney recalls. ``He was in charge of the formation of the crowd. I was in charge of about ten stewards and our task was to flank the lorry carrying the civil rights banner.''
Describing the crowd as ``being on their best behaviour,'' Barney remembers the march stopping at the top of William Street as a message came through to the stewards that a British Army barricade had located further down William Street at the old city picture house.
``The parade organisers did not want a confrontation and decided not to try going to the Guildhall, but to proceed to Free Derry Corner. But just as the parade moved off again a shot was fired. Undercover Brits who were lying in an old shirt factory had shot a marcher and of course at this, some of the crowd panicked and some just pushed aside the stewards at the front to run down to the Brits' barricade.''
After trying to calm the young people who, by now, had begun throwing stones at the British Army, Barney says stewards were forced to withdraw from the area ``due to the likelihood that we were going to get hit on the head with a stray brick!''
However, within minutes the atmosphere had changed drastically - as Barney puts it, ``you know the crack of a live round.''
The shooting had then begun, as the British soldiers began to charge up Chamberlain Street, William Street and across little James Street fanning out onto Rossville Street. Barney ran for cover beside a telephone kiosk at Rossville Flats, cramming tight against a wall with several others, including his son John. He describes what happened next:
``There seemed to be a lull in the shooting when one of our group got to his feet and took a few steps forward. A shot rang out and he collapsed on the ground. He was shot in the head. I hope I'll never see the like of it again. The blood form his head was very thick and was spreading slowly over the ground - I can tell you, I was scared. The Brits said he was firing at them but all the man had in his hand was a hankie.''
The shocking scene seconds later as Fr O'Geara despairingly stood over Barney McGuigan's dead body, just feet in front of Barney and John McFadden was permanently preserved in a press photograph. Barney is keen to correct those people who assume the priest is Denis Bradley. ``It was young Fr O'Geara,'' he says, ``He's dead now - a young man. He was moved out of Derry soon after Bloody Sunday because he was too revolutionary.''
Barney had another harrowing experience as he continued to take cover. He spotted his wife, Roísín, opposite on the far side of Rossville Street - knowing that any attempt to reach her would end in death, Barney was unable to go to her aid. Thankfully Roísín got cover from the shooting by lying behind a low wall at Glenfada Park.
In retrospect Barney is not confident that any tell-tale signs could have forewarned of the carnage that was inflicted by the British soldiers that afternoon. But he does recall one incident before the march. ``My son Brian and his friends used to go for a pint on a Sunday morning,'' he says, ``and before they got home, they were stopped by the Brits and one of the Brits told them, `we'll be sorting youse out today' ``
Although he agrees with the necessity of keeping the spotlight of blame fixed firmly on the British government Barney points out the role of Derry RUC boss Frank Lagan on the day. ``Lagan has been let off the hook too long. Legally the Brits were only supposed to be supporting his men. So either he ordered them in or he allowed them to take charge. Either way, Lagan has plenty to answer for,'' says Barney.
On Bloody Sunday the tragedy of partition was spelt out with British bullets and Irish blood. Individuals like Barney McFadden have kept this message alive. Barney says simply, ``We got out of the way. We were the lucky ones.''
Barney was interviewed by Deaglan O Coileain
It is vital to our survival as a party and movement that young people's opinions and ideas are seriously asked for and considered, especially on events that have happened ``before our time''. After all, they have shaped our lives
When asked to write this piece I tried to recall my first memory of Bloody Sunday. I could not. For as long as I can remember Bloody Sunday has been a part of my life and my family's life. However, it is very worthwhile to seek young people's memories of key events that have happened in our community, even if they were not born at the time in question.
Some may say that a person who was not born during Bloody Sunday doesn't have as important an opinion as someone who was present on the day. I would disagree. I believe it is vital to our survival as a party and movement that young people's opinions and ideas are seriously asked for and considered, especially on events that have happened ``before our time''. After all, they have shaped our lives.
From looking at pictures of Bloody Sunday and indeed the ages of those murdered, I think it is fair to suggest that Bloody Sunday was a young march and young people were centrally involved in the direction of the civil rights movement. The young people of `97 need to be motivated to the same level that they were in `72. Unfortunately I don't have the blueprint on how to do this but at least young people should be welcomed into the party and feel comfortable, not feel inferior because of the age and perceived lack of life experiences.
The reason why young people need to be involved is simple. The same injustices that existed in January `72 exist in January `97. Nothing has changed. The rights that people marched and died for on Bloody Sunday have not been realised, despite twenty five years of hard work and sacrifice.
Of course it is a two-way thing. Young people must want to become more involved and they must be matured to a greater extent by the older generation. Young people are our future leaders. We need their help to create a society where Derry's Bloody Sunday becomes the last that Ireland sees.
As a young Irish republican I do not believe in the philosophy of revenge or retribution, but I do advocate the concept of ``restitution''
Just a few months after the IRA ceasefire of August `94 a remarkable gathering took place. Crammed into a hall in the heart of the Bogside were representatives of the loyalist paramilitaries, the DUP, the UUP, the SDLP and leading republicans from all over Ireland. This diverse congregation assembled at the Bloody Sunday commemorative weekend two years ago to discuss the issue of ``Protestant/Unionist perspective.'' Every speaker got a respected and fair hearing and I believe it was a powerful testimony to those murdered on Bloody Sunday.
My first emotional experience of Bloody Sunday occurred just a few years ago. Not having grown up in Derry, but coming from a politicised family, I knew the facts, the street names and the politics. But I did not begin to understand the real feelings of hurt and loss until I was glancing through a photographic book one day and I gazed at the static despair of a priest silently screaming out as Barney McGuigan's life-blood soaked into the flagging below. The horrible poignance of that image had a strong impact on me. Yet I could only grasp a semblance of the anger, hurt and sorrow still suffocating the nationalist psyche in Derry. Which is why, I feel, the discussions on Protestant/Unionist perspectives and the personalities present that day were so significant.
As a young person I have been constantly amazed at the incredible ability of the Bloody Sunday survivors and our community, in general, to confound those who doubt our communal desire for truth and justice, and our never-ending capacity to confront our detractors and opposites on an equal and civilised basis.
The big problem is that the Protestant/Unionist community, who describe themselves as ``the real British presence' in the north, have never organised a comprehensive, civilised, open discussion about ``republican/nationalist perspectives'' informed personally by senior republicans/nationalists present among their community on the Shankill Road or Newtownards Road. Nor for that matter has the British government, either at Stormont Castle or Downing Street.
Older republicans often speak of their fear that their children will be forced to lead the lifestyles they have led. As one of those children, I share that fear. In general, the Protestant/Unionist community and the British government still do not appear to recognise that our dead are as important as theirs, that we are equal to them. The inevitable consequence of their collective unwillingness to recognise these facts, is that no meaningful attempt to tackle the roots of the conflict here can succeed. Thus, sooner or later, armed conflict will continue and more Bloody Sundays will be orchestrated.
As a young Irish republican I do not believe in the philosophy of revenge or retribution, but I do advocate the concept of ``restitution''. And I believe republicans need to aggressively urge the general Protestant/Unionist community and the British government to engage wholeheartedly in a process of restitution. For too long some republicans have allowed their fear of being misrepresented as ``sectarian warmongers'' to prevent them aggressively tackling hard issues and criticisms of the Protestant/Unionist community, in general, and the British government. But as Martin Luther King wrote:
``The comfortable, the entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change in the status quo. When millions have been cheated for centuries, restitution is a costly process.''
I wasn't even born
I remember people happy and the confidence of that morning.
The Creggan Shops.
I remember the banner that was carried. The gathered message.
I remember live fire.
A pool of blood on the pavement.
I remember Hugh Gilmour and Patrick Doherty.
I remember running. The Flats.
I remember Jim Wray and Micheal McDaid.
I remember screaming.
I remember William Nash and Gerald McKinney.
I remember a crazed army.
A white hanky.
I remember Micheal Kelly and John Young.
I remember it black and white. But blood is always red.
I remember Jackie Duddy and Bernard McGuigan.
I remember looking for my friend from the confusion and then through the quiet.
I remember Gerald Donaghy and Kevin McElhinney.
I remember hearing the news.
I remember John Johnston and William McKinney.
I remember thirteen coffins. Black flags.
I remember a young woman with an old face.
I remember my father crying hot angry tears.
I remember the lies.
And I wasn't even born.
Killian Mullan and Sharon Meenan. Age 21.
It is somewhat strange for an event to have so much impact and depth of emotion on people who were not born at the time. Bloody Sunday for young people in Derry is seldom thought of as a historical event, this is due to the legacy of fear and injustice it has imposed on our city, which has scarred all our lives.
Bloody Sunday forced the nationalist community to wake up to the reality that the murder and brutal treatment of nationalists would not only be sanctioned but in some cases rewarded and celebrated. It is frightening to think that a few of our Protestant neighbours danced on the night of 31 January 1972 and are offended by the justice campaign for fourteen murdered civil rights marchers. Frightening because this signifies the extent of the divisions which must be overcome if we are ever to have a lasting peace.
In the twenty-five years since Bloody Sunday the reality for nationalists is unchanged but never unchallenged. Young nationalists recognise this and their peaceful protest during the marching season of `96 reflects their commitment to justice.
Bloody Sunday remembered in US
In the United States more than three dozen events in 29 cities from Long Island to Los Angeles commemorated the 25th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
Paul Doris, national chairperson of the Irish Northern Aid Committee, expressed solidarity with the people of Derry. In a statement, he said:
``To our brothers and sisters of Derry, we join you in commemorating the 25th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and recall with great sorrow the murder of 14 of your sons and fathers.
``We salute your steadfast demand for peace, justice and equality in an Ireland free of British government interference. We recognize the natural right of the people of Ireland to determine, for themselves, their future.
``We in America remember that day when troops of the British Army First Parachute Regiment shot dead 14 unarmed sons of Derry during a peaceful protest - and we march with you, remembering their sacrifice for freedom.
``From the beginning, we have known, as you have known, that the British government will manipulate and lie, and place blame anywhere but where it belongs - on themselves.
``In light of new evidence of a British government cover-up, we call on the British government to admit their guilt and right the wrong, and to do it immediately - not tomorrow, not next week, but now.
``Remember always, we are behind your efforts to seek peace with justice and will continue to play our part in pressuring the British government to act in a reasonable and responsible manner towards the Irish people.
``We salute you on this sad day.
``We remain, as always, at your side.''