Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

5 February 1998 Edition

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Relatives campaigning produces inquiry

The British government has finally been forced to announce a, ``judicial inquiry'', into the killing of fourteen unarmed Catholics on Bloody Sunday. The announcement came on the eve of the 26th anniversary and is the result of the hard work and campaigning by the relatives of those murdered and those who supported them over the years.

Hopes are high that the new inquiry, to be headed by Lord Saville of Newdigate and two other Commonwealth judges, will get full disclosure of all relevant documents so that the truth of what happened that day is established. The new inquiry will have the power to subpoena witnesses and compel disclosure of documents under the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. No immunity will be offered to those called to testify, opening the way for future prosecutions.

In welcoming the new inquiry Tony Doherty of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign praised the efforts of the Dublin government in pushing the issue. But he has called on the British Queen to apologise for awarding medals to soldiers who took part in the killings, ``whether soldiers on the day of Bloody Sunday were guilty or not she still insulted the memory of the dead by decorating the senior army personnel involved in the slaughter. It was clearly a calculated insult.''

The announcement comes in the week that the former head of the RUC in Derry, RUC Chief Superintendent Frank Lagan, admitted that British Army commanders had intelligence reports which said the IRA would not be in the Bogside at the time of the march. Lagan revealed that Brigadier APW MacLellan and the Commander of Land Forces in the North, General Robert Ford both knew that the IRA would be absent that day. Despite this knowledge paratroopers were still ordered in.

Welcoming the new inquiry Jim Kelly, chairman of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign declared the ``Widgery inquiry, its report and conclusions are dead.''

Kelly's comments echo the view of the Dublin government who in their own report into Bloody Sunday describe the Widgery inquiry as ``wilfully flawed, selective and unbalanced''.

Ex-Taoiseach Albert Reynolds called for the ``full facts'' and the discovery of ``political responsibility'' to be established.

Also Eamon McCann, veteran human rights activist and journalist said the inquiry, ``will only be credible if it looks at the role played by leading politicians at the time and must go beyond the involvement of British soldiers on the ground that day.'' McCann asks, ``is there really a will on the part of the British Establishment to find the complete truth? As when the truth is laid out for the world to see, it will say something very ugly about the British state.''

Bloody Sunday: The beginning of the end

By Peadar Whelan

Three women were left widows, 20 parents lost a son and 99 people lost a brother and now in the intervening years as some relatives have themselves died the baton has been taken up by the grandchildren of the dead
FORTY THOUSAND PEOPLE marched through the streets of Derry on Sunday 1 February.

They were there to mark the 26th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Coming days after the British government were finally forced to order a new inquiry into the 1972 killings the mood, compared to the 24 previous commemorations, was hopeful.

Many of those marching have followed the route of 1972's fated march every year since, while for many this would have been their first march.

All were welcome and all had the same political point to make; without justice and truth the dead of Bloody Sunday could never rest.

Or as one marcher said, ``the inquiry is welcome, but the fact remains the British government are the only ones with all the information about the Bloody Sunday operation. So will they open up all their files and release the documents that lie under a 75 year secrecy ruling?''

That question, like so many others about Bloody Sunday, remains in the future.

For now, for the majority of Derry people, their memories and the direction of their lives after 30 January 26 years ago are firmly interlinked with the deaths and injuries of their neighbours and friends and relatives.

Three women were left widows, 20 parents lost a son and 99 people lost a brother and now in the intervening years as some relatives have themselves died the baton has been taken up by the grandchildren of the dead.

And the lesson of all this for those unionist begrudgers who say that Bloody Sunday doesn't deserve an inquiry is that the injustice, the inequality and the sectarianism that was meted out to nationalists by unionists and underwritten by the British government for fifty years has an effect that will reverberate and reverberate until the wrongs have been righted.

Without justice there can be no peace and as Sinn Fein chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said in his speech, ``the popular mood within nationalism expects genuine accommodation and an acceptance of change''.

``I remember Bloody Sunday,'' McLaughlin said, ``like thousands of other survivors I will remember it in precise detail all my life.

``A man lying dead at the corner of the flats, Hugh Gilmour. A small group of men and women in a line along the gable wall of the flats pinned down by British army sniper fire. Another man, already dead I was told, was lying to the left by the alley between Joseph Place and the flats. This would have been Paddy Doherty. I saw Barney McGuigan murdered because he tried to help a dying man. He I knew; he was a friend of my father's from Creggan''.

McLaughlin, while welcoming the British government decision to set up a new inquiry, warned the crowd of the need for vigilance if the terms of the inquiry falls short of a full and independent examination of events; ``the families do not want a cynical Widgery Mark 2''.

Whatever the future holds the lesson of the Bloody Sunday campaign is that the British don't understand us, ``they failed to realise that their murderous politics would make us more deteremined to build a society based on truth and justice''.


Internationalising Bloody Sunday

By Frances McGinley

A DELEGATION OF BELGIAN MPs and human rights lawyers on a fact finding visit to Derry at the weekend said, ``Bloody Sunday was a matter of international importance. It was not an internal problem for the British but a problem of human rights. Any new inquiry needs to have an international dimension so as to properly address the issue of Bloody Sunday and achieve the support of the families''.

During the visit the delegation attended a number of Bloody Sunday commemorative events as well as visiting Long Kesh prisoners. The group called for the repatriation of Irish political prisoners in English jails. Whilst here, they also took the opportunity to visit the relatives of Martina Anderson who is currently the longest serving female Republican prisoner and has now been incarcerated for 13 years.

Martina's family explained to the delegation that they are at the moment urging the British Home Office to change the conditions under which Martina is imprisoned.

She is still on a restricted transfer which means that she is under British Home Office conditions which curtails her eligibility for review of sentence. Although Martina has already served 13 years she has a tariff for the year 2005 and will not be eligible for review of her sentence until she has served 17 years. The delegation expressed concern at the severity of this decision despite the fact that Martina is imprisoned because of conspiracy charges which means that she is not responsible for inflicting hurt or injury to people. This is in direct contrast to the special treatment handed out to Lee Clegg, the British paratrooper who was convicted of the murder of teenager Karen Reilly. He was then released having served just over 2 years of a life sentence.


Rally hears call for Hamill inquiry

Diane Hamill, whose brother Robert was kicked to death by loyalists in Portadown within 15 yards of RUC members in a landrover, told Sunday's Bloody Sunday rally that her family would fight until they got a full public inquiry.

``Like the families of Bloody Sunday, who have campaigned for so long to gain justice, we intend to secure justice for Robert,'' she told the crowd.

In a moving speech she asked, ``Why did the RUC officers not stop the crowd from gathering? Whay did they not warn him that the crowd was there? Why didn't they heed the warning of a passerby that there would be trouble? Why didn't they intervene and give him first aid which would have been so crucial in saving his life? Why didn't they fire one plastic bullet, or any type of bullet in the air that would have saved his life? Why did the crowd feel safe to attack my brother within 15 yards of an RUC jeep?

``In these changing times we refuse to wait 26 years until they decide to tell the truth. We intend to pursue the RUC for dereliction of duty. We believe the RUC is responsible for Robert's death as much as the people who kicked and kicked him as he lay on the ground''

Diane Hamill said her family will launch private prosecutions against the RUC and those they believe are responsible for Robert's death. They also intend having an independent public inquiry.

``Robert died because of the hatred towards Irish Catholics in this society, especially in Portadown. As the victims of Bloody Sunday were special to their families, Robert was special to us. We loved him. For his sake and the sake of justice, we intend to see his killers pay for their crime and hold the RUC accountable for the way they have treated my family and treated nationalists over the last 70 years,'' she said.


Campaign booklet launched

The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign has published a booklet which provides a guide to events immediately prior to the atrocity, the shootings themselves and an overview of the aftermath, both in terms of the Widgery Inquiry and the subsequent effect on the families involved.

The booklet was launched in the Bookworm bookshop in Derry on Friday 30 January and is aimed largely at an international - including British - audience, who may have only a sketchy or somewhat inaccurate idea of what happened.

Speaking at the launch, Tony Doherty of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign spoke of the families' successful battle to re-open the inquiry. He said, ``the families welcome this development and we have also expressed our interest in sitting down with the British government to go through the detail to clarify exactly what is being proposed. The relatives feel grateful and relieved that this primary objective has been achieved but we pointed out long ago that we felt an apology is not enough. When the government is genuinely sorry then that is the time to apologise, but they can only do that once the truth has been established.''

The booklet entitled Bloody Sunday: a miscarriage of justice is available from the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, 1 Westend Park, Derry BT48 9JF for £3.00


Regaining history and memory

Delivering the Annual Bloody Sunday lecture last Friday in the Calgach Centre in Derry the poet, author and academic Seamus Deane spoke of how history and memory are controlled by the prevailing ideology.

In the case of Ireland's relationship with its colonial occupier, the interface of history and memory had, at worst, been utterly repressed by the British, he said. Historically, any resistance to British rule has always been successfully sectarianised for the political profit of the Unionists and British.

The effect of denying the Irish their own view of history had, he said, been so effective that, for example, the famine had until very recently been almost entirely erased from Irish national consciousness and where it was still present had been associated with poverty, humiliation and guilt. Deane spoke movingly of how for many survivors the famine was only recalled as being in some indefinable way self-inflicted or even deserved by those who had suffered its effects.

However, he said that the Bloody Sunday Campaign is significant in this regard in that it is seeking to correct this sectarianised, perverted history, focusing instead on the political motives behind the decision to attack protesters. Relatives of victims and witnesses are using their own memories of that day to re-write the given history which, again, has tried to implicate victims suggesting that they were culpable for their own deaths.

When asked what he thought the outcome of the new Bloody Sunday inquiry would be, Deane expressed a concern that this would merely be ``a thinner coat of whitewash'' than Widgery. He suggested that the British would seek a major sacrificial lamb to offer up, preferably someone already dead or discredited in some other way and hope that this would suffice to satisfy the families.


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