‘We will see them in the dock’

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Several thousand people marched behind the slogan, ‘There is no British Justice’ as the campaign for those killed and injured by the British Parachute Regiment in Derry on Bloody Sunday marked its 50th year.

The size of the demonstration reflected a new determination to end the impunity of the British military and the cover-up of the truth behind the 1972 killings of fourteen civilians, half of whom were teenagers.

The refusal of the British government to allow prosecutions of those who carried out the massacre has increased the belief that it was an intentional bid to end nationalist resistance to British rule in 1972.

Despite very difficult weather conditions, a huge gathering of people from all over Ireland and abroad showed complete solidarity with the victims’ families.

The march set off behind a coal lorry, just as it had on January 30, 1972, when the people of Derry had turned out en masse to protest against internment without trial.

The civil rights anthem ‘We Shall Overcome’ was played as relatives carried white crosses in remembrance of the dead and paused at various points as the march wound its way through the streets of Creggan and the Bogside.

At Free Derry corner, Bernadette McAliskey addressed the crowd. Ms McAliskey, who was then MP for Mid Ulster, was the first person scheduled to speak on Bloody Sunday in 1972, but had been forced to take cover when the Paras opened fire as she picked up the microphone.

On Sunday she rejected the idea that the British military had not been following orders on the day.

“This was a day on which nobody went berserk. Nobody lost the run of themselves in the British army,” she said. “This was the day when the change of British government policy, which had started weeks, if not months, before came to fruition on these streets.”

Fifty years after she was forced off the platform by British guns, she finally completed her speech.

“Internment was introduced to try and break the people. They had responded with more marches and strikes. People tend to forget history, but nowhere in the Six Counties has forgotten,” she said.

“It was that kind of mass action that the British government was afraid of. They were afraid of the marches as a result.

“It is the same today, what they are afraid of is this here. They are not afraid of the lone gunman, they are not afraid of the sniper, they are not afraid of the secret army. They can infiltrate, they recruit agents out of them.

“What they are afraid of is this here. Masses of people who won’t quit. People who will tell their children and their grandchildren.

“If I don’t see the British government in the dock, my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren will see them in it some day.”

Ms McAliskey recalled the hours after she was forced to interrupt her speech on the day of Bloody Sunday.

“I remember Nell McCafferty’s house. I was an MP so I was pulling a bit of rank on the phone and saying - for all the value that it was - that I’m a public representative and I demand to know [the names of the casualties].

“I’d been ringing the morgue at the hospital and people were saying that three or four people had definitely been shot. I remember at that time saying, ‘I need to know. Families need to be made aware. You can’t just be sending people to go to the morgue and them not knowing what to expect’.

“The person on the other end of the phone started to read out names and I started to write them down - one, two, three. I’ll never forget it. Four, five...and he kept going.

“I didn’t get to thirteen but I got to seven or eight just writing them down and everybody crammed into Nell’s mother’s hall and standing out around the door in total shock.

“I was afraid to say the names out loud because I didn’t know if any of the people standing there belonged to the people whose names were being written down.

“I don’t know how any of us kept our head at that time.”

She vowed that Bloody Sunday will never be forgotten.

“I’d like to say to everybody who has turned out today - thank you very much. This has to be one of the biggest crowds, after 50 years, that have attended this march which has gone on every year.

“I see young people here. I’m so glad to see so many young female faces here. There is one thing that is certain - that Bloody Sunday will never be forgotten and that the lessons learned from Bloody Sunday will never be forgotten.”

Eamonn McCann, who was also involved in the original march, said he had been fearful of a poor turnout given the weather conditions, but was amazed at how many people had taken part.

He also turned his thoughts and recollections back to that day of mass murder in 1972.

“It’s normal and natural on an occasion like this for people to remember where they were and what they were doing at the beginning of the Bloody Sunday shooting.

“One thing I can remember is that just as you heard the crack-crack of the rifles for the first time from the bottom of the street, there was a platform here - right here where we are speaking now - and Bernadette was on the platform too. I was walking from where the high flats used to be over towards here - about 50 yards from where I am now. I heard Bernadette beginning to speak. She was to be the first speaker. I heard that soprano Tyrone accent, that sing-song voice, beginning to speak.

“People began to hurry to reach the platform and she was interrupted by the bullets of the Parachute Regiment. I’m delighted that I’ve been around for long enough to hear her come back and finish her speech 50 years later.”

Mr McCann spoke of the huge impact the massacre has had on Derry, but he also placed it in its national and international context.

“What happened on Bloody Sunday was a Derry event. It has defined Derry over the subsequent years. All the major political disputes and splits in Derry have really reflected attitudes and reactions to Bloody Sunday but it is not just a Derry event.

“It is also an Irish event in the trajectory of history and Irish politics and Irish struggle down through the years and the massacres and atrocities visited upon Irish people that stood up for themselves and stood up for future generations as they looked forward.”

Kate Nash, whose brother William was killed and whose father Alex was seriously injured on Bloody Sunday, said she cried to see the thousands and thousands of people present in Derry. She told the rally that she and others have no intention of stopping their fight.

“The fact that the British government are looking to put legislation through to give amnesties to State perpetrators, of the Bloody Sunday victims, the Ballymurphy victims and everybody else who died here, means innocent people will get no justice.

“I can tell you we are going to be here for a long time to come if God spares me. We will be here and we will continue to fight this and it won’t stop. We’ll never give up.”

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