Thousands marched through heavy rain showers in Derry on Sunday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre and to appeal for justice for the victims.
The annual commemorative march has been a feature of the political calendar ever since the original 1972 anti-internment protest in which 13 innocent people were shot dead by British paratroopers. A 14th victim John Johnston died later from the wounds he suffered when he was shot.
Relatives of families of those who died,and over two thousand supporters marched in Derry on Sunday in an event which had created its own controversy.
They were joined by, among others, former Stormont MP Ivan Cooper and Derry writer Eamon McCann, who were among the organisers of the original protest.
Frowned upon by the mainstream political parties in the North as well as by some of the families of the victims, the giant march justice was seen as opposing government efforts to draw a line under the deaths.
The march ended with the traditional rally at Free Derry Corner without any politicians present -- instead relatives of the victims spoke.
Kate and Linda Nash, whose teenage brother William was killed on Bloody Sunday, vowed to continue the march until justice was achieved for the victims. Kate Nash said the Saville report failed to investigate responsibility for Bloody Sunday.
“The report in its conclusions simply confirmed what we had already known -- that our loved ones were innocent. To me prosecution of the guilty should have been the next step and will be the only conclusion that I will accept,” she said.
“Nineteen months later, nothing.”
She told those taking part in the march that it had faced stiff opposition from a variety of sources in recent months.
“We have been both humbled and encouraged by the support we have received. We believe the march should continue until the perpetrators of this massacre are brought to justice for their actions on Bloody Sunday,” she added.
Ms Nash highlighted the case of Bloody Sunday victim Gerald Donaghey -- ‘Lord’ Mark Saville concluded that the teenager was “probably” carrying nailbombs when he was killed. This has been consistently denied by witnesses to his death.
Ms Nash said the march should also be used to support other victims of state violence and condemned the continued use of internment without trial, including the detention of republicans Marian Price and Martin Corey.
Liam Wray, a brother of Bloody Sunday victim Jim Wray, criticised the two traditionally nationalist parties, Sinn Fein and the SDLP, for not doing enough for justice.
“I am disappointed 18 months on from that great day [June 2010] that politicians who shared this platform over 39 years have not once in those 18 months, in Stormont, asked the question why have prosecutions not taken place,” he said.
Some of the former soldiers should also face charges of perjury over their evidence to the Saville inquiry. That matter also appeared to have been shelved, according to the families.
The brother of another of the Bloody Sunday victims blamed the delay in bringing charges on the police and the North’s ‘Director of Public Prosecutions’, Barra McGrory.
“We know that the matter is now with the Public Prosecution Service and the PSNI. But they’ve had it now for 19 months since the Saville report was released. Surely they must have had enough time to study Lord Saville’s findings,” said John Kelly, whose brother, Michael was shot dead at the age of 17.
“I have always said I want to see the soldier who shot Michael stand before a court. But it’s about more than that -- time is running out for many of the families.
“We already have a situation where the parents of all the victims have passed away. Many of the wounded have died. It is not fair on the other families that they should be forced to wait in this limbo-type situation,” he said.
Mr Kelly also called for people to support the Bloody Sunday families’ continuing campaign to clear the name of victim Gerald Donaghey. He said the 17-year-old’s case remained a miscarriage of justice, and that the conclusion that he had nail bombs at the time of his death was not acceptable to any of the Bloody Sunday families.
“When I look back to the day Lord Saville’s report was released, I can recall the excitement and joy on every-one’s faces -- but also the look of total dejection on the faces of Gerald’s relatives, Mary and Geraldine.
“The Bloody Sunday families will never give up until Gerald Donaghey’s name is cleared,” he said.
In another indication of the strains generated by political efforts to prevent the march from going ahead, the veteran journalist, Eamonn McCann, resigned as chairman of the Bloody Sunday Trust this week. The Trust, set up in 1997, traditionally organises commemorative events and manages the Museum of Free Derry.
Mr McCann particularly criticised the failure to even include the march in the official programme of events for this year.
“I think it would have been reasonable to include it,” he said, but accepted that the publishers of the programme had the final say “whether I or anyone else disagrees with it.”
* The names of those who died on Bloody Sunday are: Jack Duddy (17), Hugh Gilmore (17), Bernard McGuigan (41), Gerald McKinney (35), William McKinney (26), Kevin McElhinney (17), John Young (17), Michael McDaid (20), William Nash (19), Michael Kelly (17), Gerald Donaghey (17), Patrick Doherty (31), James Wray (22), John Johnstone (59).