London marks Bloody Sunday
The 28th annual Bloody Sunday march and commemorative rally took place in London on Saturday, 22 January. It was attended by around 2,500 people and addressed by Paul Doherty, whose father Patrick was killed on Bloody Sunday; Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy MLA, Breandán MacCionnaith, Labour MP Tony Benn, and Shane O'Neill, brother of Diarmuid O'Neill.
The march, which in the past has been held on the Holloway Road in North London, was this year given permission to take a route taking it through the very centre of London, beginning on the Thames Embankment and passing Westminister, Downing Street, and Trafalgar Square before culminating with a rally at the University of North London in Euston.
As in previous years, the British National Party and other neo-nazi loyalist supporters waving UVF regalia and Union Jacks staged their own counter-demonstration. The first sighting of them was as the march made its way down Whitehall towards Downing Street, where a small contingent of about 30 British loyalists were waiting to shout anti-Irish abuse and threats. Towards the end of the route, marchers passed the Marlborough Arms pub, a known haunt of BNP members, and despite the presence of several hundred police officers and a helicopter, a group of loyalists were able to mount a charge out of the pub and attack a number of people at the back of the march, several of whom were beaten up.
Because of the continuing threat to those attending the rally throughout the afternoon, the police eventually sent a message to the platform, offering to escort those present to either the social event planned for the evening or to the nearest tube station. By about 4.30pm organisers were assured that the loyalist supporters had, as one policeman put it, been ``penned in'', although some people leaving the meeting shortly afterwards were confronted less than 200 metres away from the hall with combat-clad youths wearing hoods and Rangers scarves over their faces. Tony Benn had to be escorted back to his car.
Despite the antics of the British loyalist far-right, however, the day was a great success, particularly because the route brought central London to a virtual standstill and allowed the message about Bloody Sunday and the ongoing struggle for justice of the relatives of those killed to get through to a huge audience.
Addressing the rally, Paul Docherty said: ``My father was killed when I was seven, and for most of my life I was supposed to live with the fact that his killer has been considered a heroic and revered servant of the Crown and that his commanding officer was decorated ten months later by the British state.''
He spoke about his father's active involvement in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s, saying ``my father was a hero when he lived and a hero when he died.''
Tony Benn said: ``You cannot have peace unless people who have suffered are allowed to know the truth of what happened to them. The Bloody Sunday families who have fought so hard have not only lost their loved relatives, they have also had to live with the fact that the Widgery report indicated that they deserved to be shot, a burden that no bereaved person should be asked to bear. When Edward Heath said that there was not only a military but a propaganda war being fought in Ireland, he was right. It has been one of the most foul weapons in this whole story; the way propaganda has been used by the security services to distort the truth for their own purposes.''
Sinn Fein Assembly Member Conor Murphy warned that the British government wants the Saville Inquiry to be ``a meaningless inquiry which will never reach the truth.
``But British people should also see the Saville Inquiry as their chance to find out what has gone on, in their name, in Ireland. There is something rotten about a state which is not prepared to face up to its past.''