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'A terrible atrocity': Thousands attend Bloody Sunday memorial to remember victims

Several events are taking place in Derry to commemorate victims on the 50th anniversary of the massacre.

LAST UPDATE | 30 Jan 2022

2.65016132 Relatives of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday are taking part in a remembrance walk to mark the 50th anniversary of the atrocity. PA Images PA Images

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin have paid tribute to those who died on Bloody Sunday as several events are taking place to mark the 50th anniversary of the massacre.

Thousands of people today attended a commemoration event in Derry to remember those who died as a result of the massacre on 30 January 1972. Thirteen people died on the day itself and a fourteenth person died a few months later.

Earlier, relatives of those killed and injured, as well as political leaders, took part in a remembrance walk and retraced the steps of the original march.

The crowd gathered at Creggan Shops before making their way to the Bloody Sunday Monument in Rossville Street, where the annual memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony took place.

A performance of music and poetry hosted by actor Adrian Dunbar, from TV police drama Line of Duty, included a choral rendition of the US civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” – which was also sung by the 1972 marchers.

U2′s Bono and The Edge today released on an acoustic version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, the Irish band’s iconic song about the day.

Michael McKinney, brother of William, who was among those killed on Bloody Sunday, criticised the British government for its controversial plans to ban prosecutions for Troubles killings.

Addressing the crowd, Mr McKinney said: “The British government intend to announce an end to all legacy investigations.

“They intend to announce it because they’re scared.

“Scared that their soldiers, spooks and civil servants will be exposed, and that their role as a combatant and catalyst in the war in Ireland will be highlighted around the world.

“They are trying to deny us justice because they are scared to face justice.

2.65016227 Families in the Creggan area of Derry before the remembrance walk (Brian Lawless / PA) (Brian Lawless / PA) / PA)

“But we want to send a very clear warning to the British government. If they pursue their proposals, the Bloody Sunday families will be ready to meet them head on.

“We will not go away and we will not be silenced.

“We will expose them for what they are – an embarrassment to any democracy founded on the rule of law.”

Presbyterian minister Dr David Latimer said: “There’s a long road ahead and many more hills to climb, but let’s not allow any of that to hold us back from doing what in our hearts we know needs to be done.

“Clothed with the same spirit that sustained the Bloody Sunday families across 50 years, we will little by little succeed in lifting our city to greater heights of hope.

“That, my friends, will be testament to the struggles of those who’ve gone before and the legacy for those who will come after.”

Following the service, Mr Martin met privately with families at the Museum of Free Derry.

President Higgins has delivered a virtual address at the Breaking the Silence commemorative event in the Millennium Forum in Derry.

In a video message, Higgins said that the tragic events of 50 years ago today “reverberated across this island and around the world”.

He said Bloody Sunday was “one of the shaping events of our modern shared history” and the families of those killed had “a relentless pursuit of truth” for their loved ones.

“Your campaign required overturning those forces who sought to avoid the necessary truth of what took place, and evade accountability.

“Your use of memory, of recognition of fact and transaction of difference, or construction of intention, is a potential path to an inclusive, healing and ethical remembrance. It is one that allows for the necessity that must never be avoided, of coming to terms with recalled outrage. Transacting that outrage is an empowerment that may even prove to be emancipatory of grief. Amnesia, however it is based, and it is sometimes feigned or masked, is amoral, denying as it does those affected by painful historical events of any recognition of their losses, or the right to have memories of those losses.

“As we listen to their names being recited with deep sadness today, we remember them, and those tragic events, not simply as history on a page, but as part of the living memory of so many of the people of this city, and indeed of this island.

“Today Derry stands as a beacon of hope and justice, of battling and succeeding against the odds, a peace and a people with an inclusive achievement of dignified and respectful ethical remembering. That is your legacy and the legacy of those who lost their lives on that day, Bloody Sunday, and on subsequent days. It is a contribution to be sustained and extended.”

Higgins is not at the event in person, instead attending the annual National Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at the Mansion House in Dublin.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was among the politicians who took part in the remembrance walk and laid a wreath at a ceremony held afterwards.

Speaking today, Martin said he was “privileged and honored” to spend the day with the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday, “on the 50th anniversary of a terrible atrocity, where 14 people lost their lives and so many were injured”.

LR TAOISEACH LAYS WREATH _2746 Taoiseach Micheál Martin laying a wreath in Derry today Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

He thanks victims’ relatives for “their extremely dignified, persistent and courageous campaign to pursue universal principles of justice and truth and accountability”.

He earlier tweeted: “Today we remember all those who died or were injured as a result of the atrocity on Bloody Sunday, one of the darkest days for this island.

“We also pay tribute to the families of the victims, whose dignity and persistence in the search for truth and justice has never wavered.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald also laid wreaths at today’s ceremony.

Speaking from Derry today, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said: “The world knows what happened on the streets of Derry on 30 January 1972. The people of this city marched against institutional sectarianism, they took a stand against oppression and discrimination, they demanded their civil rights. And in return, the British Army murdered 14 innocent people.

Saville Inquiry

The Saville Inquiry replaced the verdict of the Widgery Tribunal which had largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame.

The Saville Inquiry found that none of the casualties on Bloody Sunday were posing a threat or doing anything that would justify their shooting.

It said no warning was given to any civilians before the soldiers opened fire and that none of the soldiers fired in response to attacks by petrol bombers or stone throwers.

Saville found there was “some firing by republican paramilitaries” but that on balance the Army fired first.

Former prime minister David Cameron told the House of Commons in 2010 that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

Higgins will also tell those present that the events of 30 January 1972 “will live on in our collective memory, as will your efforts of vindication of the truth. We honour the morality of that memory today”.

“We honour the men who died. And we continue to honour them into the future by our continued commitment to the rights that were won at such great cost. We do so best by protecting these rights won, and sustaining the principled and inclusive peace that we have built together.

“Let us all celebrate that, in transcending all the darkness and the wrongs, the exclusions, today Derry stands as a beacon of hope and justice, of battling and succeeding against the odds, a peace and a people with an inclusive achievement of dignified and respectful ethical remembering.”

Contains reporting from PA

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