Crowds of local people joined a diverse range of activists and bands at the Bloody Sunday March for Justice in Derry on Sunday. Relatives of those killed and representatives from the wounded led the march, carrying 14 white crosses to symbolise those who lost their lives on Bloody Sunday.
Under blue skies, the marchers made their along the traditional route into the Bogside with banners and flags carrying political, human rights, trade union and environmental messages.
At Free Derry Corner, Damien ‘Bubbles’ Donaghy, who was shot on Bloody Sunday, read out the names of those killed and wounded on January 30, 1972.
Kate Nash, whose brother William was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, and whose father Alexander was shot and wounded as he tried to reach his teenage son, addressed the crowds from the lorry set up in front of Free Derry Corner.
A rendition of ‘We Shall Overcome’ was performed during the rally at Free Derry Corner.
Ms Nash said that seven years ago there was attempts to shut the march down but that did “that did not sit well with us”.
“We felt that the battle had not been won,” she said. “We knew the Bloody Sunday victims deserved more. Here we are today still on this platform demanding justice for the families of Bloody Sunday.
“The Bloody Sunday murder investigation has recently been completed and sent to the Public Prosecution Service. So we await their decision. Meanwhile the British government are beavering away and talking about bringing in legislation to protect their soldiers -- they don’t believe old age pensioners should face prosecution.
“One law for them and another one for us. There you have it, a government that is giving their army a license to murder.”
Ms. Nash referred to others fighting for justice, including the families of the Ballymurphy victims, the families of Seamus Bradley and Daniel Hegarty who were killed during Operation Motorman, the family of Martha Campbell.
“All these innocent people cry out for justice. The list goes on and on.”
There were cheers and shouts of ‘Free Tony Taylor’ as Ms Nash mentioned his case.
“He was taken from his family almost a year ago. No reason was given by the authorities, nor indeed to Tony’s legal representation. No indication whatever, a clear abuse of power by the British government, but we are used to that aren’t we?”
Earlier on Sunday, all the Bloody Sunday families came together for a short commemoration at a monument at Rossville Street in Derry.
During the service, Gerry Duddy, brother of Jackie Duddy, paid tribute to the people of Derry and those from around the world who have supported them in their fight for justice over the decades.
“You understood our pain and anguish, you shared our frustration as we campaigned for truth, you shared our hopes that justice would eventually prevail,” he said.
“Today we thank our families and supporters far and wide. We could not have achieved any of this without you.”
Mr Duddy said the families particularly wanted to pay tribute to the late Bishop Edward Daly “who was a great friend to all of us in the years since Bloody Sunday and a great strength to the families in times of need”.
“Bishop Daly will be sorely missed by this city,” Mr Duddy said.
‘PROSECUTIONS MUST GO AHEAD’
He said: “What people fail to realise is that soldiers must be investigated now because they were never investigated in the past. Over 300 State killings here, only four soldiers were ever convicted of murder, all of whom were released early, some promoted.
“Elements within the legal system are attempting to protect the very soldiers who broke the law to murder and maim on Irish soil. We demand that those who murdered our civilians and loved ones be prosecuted in a court of law. This responsibility now lies with the Public Prosecution Service. We say to them do the right thing. Prosecute those who murdered without guilt or remorse. Justice must be seen to be done. Do it now.”
Mickey McKinney, whose brother Willie was also murdered on Bloody Sunday, said that 45 years on, time was a major factor in securing justice. “I want them in court, and all the other relatives want them in court,” he said. “Time is marching on. That’s one of the main factors in the whole process.”
In a provocative act, a number of former British soldiers in the north of Ireland staged a protest at Westminster on the 45th anniversary of the 1972 killings. The move was described as offensive by the Bloody Sunday Trust.
Trust chairman, Robin Percival said the timing of the protest was not coincidental. “They can’t have failed to notice that the end of January is the anniversary of one of the most notorious massacres carried out by their colleagues. The timing is deliberate and is intended to offend,” he said.
At the protest, soldiers claimed the recent naming of the paratrooper who in 1971 killed Henry Thornton, an innocent van driver and father-of-six, and the planned prosecution of two soldiers for the cold-blooded killing of OIRA Vol. Joe McCann in 1972, are examples of “bias” against them.
They have also claimed that up to 90% of the PSNI legacy investigations is focused on killings by the Crown forces -- however, figures revealed this week show such investigations account for only about 30% of the PSNI legacy workload.
In addition, no member of the Crown forces have been jailed since the 1998 peace deal, although several republicans have been convicted and imprisoned for pre-1998 offences, or have been interned as a result.
The soldiers’ claims were controversially backed up by Britain’s governor in the North of Ireland. James Brokenshire wrote in a newspaper column that investigations into killings during the conflict are “disproportionately” focusing on members of the Crown forces.
His comments appear to reflect a harder line in recent weeks by his government in the wake of the collapse of the powersharing institutions at Stormont. It was also apparent in a deliberate snub by the British Direct Ruler at a Gaelic sports event when he was seen to avoid beng present during the playing of the Irish national anthem.
John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was shot dead when the parachute regiment opened fire in Derry on 30 January 1972, described Brokenshire’s comments as scandalous.
“Over 300 civilians have been murdered by the British Army over the years and out of those 300 cases only four soldiers have ever been prosecuted for any wrongdoing,” he said.
“It baffles me when the Secretary of State, who supposedly represents all the people of this part of the world, comes out with a scandalous statement like that, he should be ashamed of himself.”