Eamonn McCann on the reaction to latest blow dealt to the Bloody Sunday families, followed by a statement from The Bloody Sunday March For Justice Committee on Sinn Féin’s decision to welcome the commander in chief of the Parachute Regiment within 24 hours.
Many people outside Derry say – and others may frequently feel like saying – that Derry does go on a bit about its grievances. This week was no exception – another eruption of rage over Bloody Sunday.
This time, the proximate cause was the announcement on Tuesday by Marianne O’Kane of the Public Prosecution Service that the decision last March to charge a single soldier with the Bloody Sunday killings would stand. None of the 15 other paratroopers present in the Bogside over the minutes of the massacre would face legal proceedings.
“Soldier F” alone, charged with the murder of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murder of five others, is to stand trial. The prospect is of one rank-and-file soldier taking the rap for the shooting spree which left Rossville Street littered with bodies.
Family members and other campaigners gathered at the Bloody Sunday monument on Rossville Street on Tuesday after word of the latest foretold development came through.
“How can they think that that will do us?” asked Kate Nash, whose brother, William, 19, was killed and her father, Paddy, wounded when he went out onto the street to comfort his dying son. “They are still asking us to call it quits. That’s not going to happen. They have a nerve.”
Appeals to “move on” in the interest of reconciliation cut no ice with Ms. Nash.
“Who do they want me to reconcile with?”
Bloody Sunday was different. Not in the scale of the killing – greater numbers died in other Troubles crimes – but in the circumstances of the deaths and the political ramifications.
Almost all of the atrocities which mark out the via dolorosa of the North’s last half century can be ascribed to groups purporting to represent one community visiting death on the other community. But not Bloody Sunday.
Neither were the Bloody Sunday deaths perpetrated by ambush in the dead of night, or furtive bomb affixed to a van, or acrid irruption into a late-night pub or a bookies’. The murders were done in broad daylight, on a crisp winter’s afternoon, in a crowded area where thousands had gathered after a civil rights march, each killing witnessed at close quarters by scores of local people scurrying for safety.
All of the victims, with one exception, came from the Bogside/Creggan/Brandywell area. From the evening of the day until now, Bloody Sunday has been experienced not as a series of killings leaving broken families to be comforted, but as a pitiless onslaught against the entire community. It has left the communal wound which was on display on Tuesday, as on every day for decades when a new possibly decisive development was believed to be imminent.
The men who did the shooting were uniformed to represent the British State.
Everybody surrounding the Bloody Sunday monument on Tuesday will have had it consciously in mind that the DPP in whose name Ms. O’Kane was speaking is an element of the Same state served by the paratroopers. Not an abstract theory but a felt fact.
It will go on. Tuesday’s event arose only because lawyers for the families announced a judicial review asking for the decision to charge only one soldier to be set aside. The families’ lawyers are now on their way back to court to ask for this decision, too, to be overruled.
Ms. O’Kane’s measured words were no doubt honestly offered. But against the background of the long march towards the truth, they are likely to elicit only cynicism. “I know that today’s outcome will cause further upset to those who have pursued a long and determined journey for justice over almost five decades. I can only offer reassurance to all of the families and victims of Bloody Sunday, and the wider community, that my decisions were conducted wholly independently and impartially, and in accordance with the Code for Prosecutors.”
There are many people in Derry quite prepared to disbelieve this.
“I wouldn’t trust any of them for a minute,” says Kate Nash. “The whole establishment wants us to shush. They say Catholics and Protestants should come together to make a united community.
“I have no problem whatsoever with that, but it’s got nothing to do with Bloody Sunday. Protestant people weren’t involved in shooting my brother and my father. It was the paras and the people who sent the paras.
“I don’t believe they give two hoots about any community here. They want to pretend their own hands are clean. But they have blood on their hands too, as much as a lot of other people.
“I have been looking for truth and justice for my father and brother and the other Bloody Sunday victims for almost all of my life. I’m not going to stop now.”
Statement from The Bloody Sunday March For Justice Committee following a meeting between representatives of Sinn Féin and the Commander in Chief of the Parachute Regiment:
The fact that representatives of the biggest Nationalist party in the North travelled to Belfast to greet the commander in chief of the Parachute Regiment has come as a bomb-shell to many citizens of Derry — to members of the Bloody Sunday families in particular.
It is astonishing that this should have happened within 24 hours of the families’ hopes of justice being dashed yet again. With just one exception, all of the members of Prince Charles’s regiment who took part in the Bloody Sunday massacre are to be let off the hook. At least, that’s the British establishment’s plan.
What has happened is a demeaning betrayal. We march for the truth for 50 years, then the leader of the liars is made welcome in our midst!
The Ballymurphy families will know what we mean.
If the lies were over, if Prince Charles and other military commanders were at last to tell the truth and say sorry, he might be entitled to a little bit of respect. But he doesn’t have any respect for the people of Derry or for the Bloody Sunday dead.
Prince Charles’ role in the Parachute Regiment isn’t ceremonial. The paras don’t do ceremony. There was nothing ceremonial about what happened around Rossville Street, Glenfada Park, Joseph’s Place, etc.
Murder was done in the name of the State which Prince Charles is heir to. To shake his hand while the bereaved are still hurting is to bring shame on the city.
The march towards truth and justice will continue for as long as it takes.