The majority of Bloody Sunday families have signed up to an agreement that this month’s commemoration march should be the last.
However, some relatives have pledged to continue the annual marches remembering the 14 people who died after being shot by British soldiers on January 30 1972.
At a meeting in Derry last week, most families agreed to a proposal that the massacre be commemorated in other ways. They called on the people of the city to join them for one last time on January 30.
In a joint statement they said: “We believe that this year’s march should highlight similar quests for truth and justice by victims of state violence in the north (including in Ballymurphy and on the Shankill Road) and elsewhere in the world and encourage those who have supported us over the years to now give their active support to these campaigns.”
Their statement, published in full below, follows the publication of the Saville report last year which laid the blame for the killings at the feet of individual members of the Parachute Regiment.
The families proposed that in future the killings be commemorated with a “Gathering of Remembrance” on the Sunday closest to January 30. This would be held at the Bloody Sunday monument at 4.08pm. the time the killings started. A Remembrance Mass, a memorial lecture and a ‘human rights weekend’ will also be held.
A key theme of future commemorations will be a campaign to establish the complete innocence of 17-year-old Gerard Donaghy.
The Saville Inquiry concluded that the teenager had done nothing to justify his death on Bloody Sunday. However, the report refused to rule out the possibility that he had been carrying nail bombs in his pockets despite evidence to the contrary from eyewitnesses.
While the majority of families believe the march should be the last, Liam Wray - a brother of victim Jim - has pledged to continue the annual Bloody Sunday protest.
“I accept that some people do not want to march but I believe it should go on and I will be marching to commemorate the 40th anniversary next year,” Mr Wray said. The Derry man said the meeting at which the issue was discussed had been “tense”.
“My brother was killed at a civil rights march that was banned,” he said. “I am proud to commemorate his death.”
* Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has called for the ‘Queen of England’ Elizabeth Windsor to apologise for Bloody Sunday ahead of any visit to the 26 Counties.
Speaking on the state-run television on Friday night, the deputy first minister was asked by chat show host Ryan Tubridy if he thought the monarch should make the gesture.
Mr McGuinness responded by pointing out the “British Royal family are Colonels in Chief of the Parachute Regiment” and that he had never heard “Queen Elizabeth or any of her sons say anything about the murder of 14 people on the streets on my city”.
STATEMENT FROM BLOODY SUNDAY FAMILIES
Later this month, the families of the men and boys killed on Bloody Sunday, as well as some of those wounded that day, will take part in the annual commemoration of the massacre. This month’s march will be unlike any of the previous 38 commemorations; for the first time in almost 40 years, participants will take to the streets in the knowledge that their loved ones have been officially exonerated and that the victims’ innocence has been established for all the world to see.
The Saville Inquiry’s findings - revealed to an almost disbelieving Derry public on June 15 last year - finally exposed the Widgery Tribunal as the travesty we, the people of Derry, always knew it to be.
For the Bloody Sunday families this has been a long, difficult but successful journey. The murder of our loved ones, and the wounding of more than a dozen of our fellow citizens, was compounded by the lies told about the victims and by the on-going cover-up of the Parachute Regiment’s crimes. It has taken almost 40 years, but the truth about Bloody Sunday has finally been set free.
This would not have happened had we not received the wholehearted support of our own community and of campaigners from further afield, who have rallied tirelessly to the call for truth and justice. We owe these supporters a huge debt of gratitude.
However, we, the families, must now decide how best to mark future anniversaries of Bloody Sunday. For some, the exoneration of our loved ones means that the time for protest has passed; they would prefer to grieve privately in future for the fathers, sons and brothers they have lost. We are all fully aware of the very serious shortcomings of the Saville Report, and many of us believe that more must be done to hold the perpetrators to account for their crimes.
The majority of families and wounded are in accord with the following statement:
“We invite the people of Derry and supporters from further afield to join us for one last time, on Sunday 30th January this year, in following the planned route of the original civil rights march, from Creggan Shops to Guildhall Square.
“We believe that this year’s march should highlight similar quests for truth and justice by victims of state violence in the North (including in Ballymurphy and on the Shankill Road) and elsewhere in the world, and encourage those who have supported us over the years to now give their active support to these campaigns.
“We believe that this last act of solidarity will be an appropriate way of marking the 39th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre, and of celebrating our success in setting the truth about Bloody Sunday free.
“We have asked the Bloody Sunday Trust to organise and consider other ways of marking future anniversaries, including:
A major annual Gathering of Remembrance at the Bloody Sunday monument (on the Sunday closest to 30th January), for all the people of Derry coinciding with the timing of the original march. The Gathering of Remembrance will be dedicated to the ongoing quest to establish the complete innocence of Gerald Donaghey, as well as remembering the deceased and the sacrifice of the wounded; a Remembrance Mass; a Human Rights Weekend; the annual Bloody Sunday Memorial Lecture. “Furthermore, we are confident that the excellent Museum of Free Derry will continue to be developed and expanded as the main legacy project for remembering Bloody Sunday and the Civil Rights struggle.
“We again salute all those who have stood shoulder to shoulder with us, over the last 40 years, in our campaign for truth and justice and ask you to join us on the streets on 30th January to finally complete our journey.
“Our victory is your victory. Go raibh mile maith agaibh.”