Bloody Sunday organisers shift focus from nationalist struggle

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A row has broken out over this year’s Bloody Sunday march in Derry, with some republican organisations preparing to boycott the event due to the appearance of a British soldier and other contentious names on advertising material.

The Bloody Sunday March for Justice 2018 will take place on January 28, and is traditionally held in memory of the 14 innocent civilians shot dead by the British Army during an anti-internment march in 1972.

Scores of progressive-left issues from across the world are name-checked on the marketing material for this year’s event. Republicans were angered at the inclusion of other names, such as that of William Best, a mercenary British soldier from Derry who died in the conflict, as well as the names of British spies.

Several republican bands have now pulled out of the event, including the John Brady Memorial Band from Strabane. Mr Brady’s sister Lorna said that she found the poster “inappropriate”.

“My family are annoyed at the organisers because we were not asked if we wanted to put John’s name on it,” she said.

“There are different names on the poster that I don’t believe should be on it. Our family fully support the Bloody Sunday families and their quest for justice. I have always attended the Bloody Sunday march.

“The poster just isn’t appropriate and it is taking away from what happened.

“There are names of MI5 agents, British soldiers and different things on it. I want my brother’s name removed. We are not boycotting the march and we are not asking others to boycott it, we just made the personal decision that we are not attending.

“It is hurtful to see my brother’s name on it. My brother was a republican. His licence was revoked so he was interned for seven years. Our family suffered because of this and they are putting his name up beside some of the people who caused it.”

Republican group Saoradh has decided to hold its own anti-internment rally and wreath-laying ceremony at the Bloody Sunday monument the day before the main gathering, on January 27.

The group withdrew support for the event, arguing the march “needed to get back to its roots”.

“Bloody Sunday was an anti-internment rally,” the group noted.

“The contradictory, and at times hypocritical material released in promotion of this year’s Bloody Sunday rally has ostracised a large section of support for the march.”

In a statement, march organisers said that everyone was welcome to attend.

“Everyone, irrespective of their political views, is invited to come to the events and offer their different views on how best to mark Bloody Sunday and on the connections between it and other State atrocities worldwide,” it read.

“We don’t have to agree on everything. It would be strange if we did in this argumentative city. But it’s more important than ever that we stick together.”

Patrick Gallagher, a Derry based member of the Saoradh National Executive, said the civil rights campaign of 1972 was being downplayed by the organisers.

“From Derry City alone we have two Irish republicans interned, Neil Hegarty and Tony Taylor. While Tony has been held for almost 700 days, Neil has only recently been interned,” said Mr Gallagher.

“As we enter into 2018 many Irish people are unaware that there are still men and women languishing behind the wire of British jails. It’s imperative we do our utmost to both highlight and expose their plight and to assist them in anyway possible.

“On this anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when innocent people from our city were murdered by British soldiers while protesting for Civil Rights issues and against British Internment, we’re again protesting the same issues,” he said.

Saoradh and the Derry branch of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association (IRPWA), in conjunction with The John Brady Memorial Flute Band, will be holding a wreath-laying ceremony at the Bloody Sunday Monument at 1.45 p.m. on Saturday, January 28. The ceremony will be followed by a rally and white line picket at Free Derry corner.

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