Thousands of people on Sunday retraced the route of the 1972 civil rights demonstration that ended in a massacre on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday.
British paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians on January 30, 1972. A further man died in June that year as a result of his wounds.
Lord Saville is due to publish his report later this year. The Bloody Sunday inquiry was the largest tribunal of its kind in British legal history. It followed a major cover-up of the killings in a previous inquiry under Lord Widgery.
Relatives of the dead bearing 14 crosses led yesterday’s procession as it wound its way from the Creggan estate to Rossville Street in the Bogside, the scene of the Bloody Sunday killings.
Prominent nationalist politicians attended the commemorative march. Marchers held photographs of those killed, and over 3,000 candles were distributed to the crowd to honour all those who died in the conflict.
At Free Derry wall, the main address was delivered by Kay Duddy, whose brother Jack was shot dead as he fled members of the first battalion of the Parachute Regiment.
Ms Duddy thanked the people of Derry for their support over the years. She said that the findings of Lord Saville, who oversaw the second inquiry into the events of the day, had the potential to send “a wave of hope or a sea of despair” to other victims of state violence in Ireland.
Ms Duddy said: “2006 will be a challenging year for all of us. In many ways, it will mark a potential watershed for the campaign for truth and justice concerning Bloody Sunday. It also has the potential to send either a wave of hope or a sea of despair to all the other victims of state violence on this island.”
Ms Duddy said Bloody Sunday had been viewed as a litmus test for the British government in Ireland “and as a beacon of hope for many other families and campaigns who have not had the opportunities nor witnessed the progress that we have achieved.”
She added: “We are conscious that there are many families throughout Ireland who are looking to the Saville report to get a sense of whether the British state is now prepared to face up to the consequences of their attitudes and their actions in Ireland.
“For make no mistake about it -- the true challenge of 2006 will be whether the British state can come to terms with the conclusions that I am confident the Saville inquiry will deliver, and that paramount among them will be that British soldiers murdered 14 innocent men and boys and wounded another 14 innocent men and women on the streets of Derry on the 30th of January, 1972.
“That is the challenge that will confront the British state when the Saville report is published because the tribunal really has no alternative finding to offer.”
In a significant departure, a man whose wife was killed in an IRA bombing gave the annual Bloody Sunday lecture in Derry’s Guildhall.
Alan McBride’s wife Sharon was one of ten people killed when an IRA attack on the leadership of the UDA exploded prematurely in west Belfast’s Shankill Road in 1993.
Mr McBride said it was vital that everyone accept responsibility for their actions but work together towards creating a better future.
He admitted that many people within his community were opposed to him taking part in last night’s lecture.
He said it was important that republicans work to build confidence within the unionist community. He urged Sinn Féin to support policing arrangements in the North.
He criticised the Democratic Unionist Party for its continued refusal to share power with republicans.
In a strong attack on the current stalemate in the political process, Mr McBride said he felt let down by politicians on all sides.
“It is almost eight years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and we still haven’t got an assembly. This is nothing short of shameful,” he said.
“This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency without each side blaming the other in a process that goes round and round but delivers nothing.
“Nothing is going to replace the Good Friday Agreement. There are people who are saying we can move on without others but this is not going to happen.”