25,000 retrace Bloody Sunday route

 

TENS of thousands of people took part in a march in Derry yesterday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday killings.

The event, attended by a crowd in excess of 25,000, followed the route of the original march which ended with British paratroopers shooting dead 13 men. A 14th victim died four months later from his injuries.

The commemoration march was led by relatives of the victims, each carrying a white cross bearing the name of their dead relative.

Although SDLP members were among the attendance, there was no official party representation because the SDLP is not involved in the organisation of the event, with which Sinn Fein is closely associated.

As the march left the Creggan estate and headed towards the Bogside, 14 large banners bearing photographs of the dead were unveiled in a field above the road at Southway.

The banners were taken down after the march had passed and were later erected below the city's walls overlooking Free Derry Corner in a spot from where, it is believed, an army sniper opened fire on the crowd below.

Republican leaders, both past and present, attended the march. Among them was the Sinn Fein president, Mr Gerry Adams, the party's vice president, Mr Pat Doherty, Mr Martin McGuinness and Mr Joe Cahill.

Four RUC Land Rovers were driven slowly in front of the march. Stewards frequently told the drivers that their lack of speed was delaying the march. The Land Rovers left when the crowd assembled at Free Derry Corner.

Along the route the families of the victims symbolically walked, through a large paper banner on which was painted a reproduction of the cover page of the Widgery report on the killings.

Earlier, at the Bloody Sunday memorial monument, a photo montage of the victims had been placed during a morning ceremony attended by the relatives.

The caption of the montage read, "All We Need Is The Truth To Help Us Heal Our Wounds." Below was a copy of Thomas Kinsella's poem Butcher's Dozen.

Such was the size of the crowd that those who arrived at Free Derry Corner first had to wait ford more than an hour before the entire crowd had assembled. At the rally Mr Michael McKinney whose brother William was one of the victims, said it was important that Bloody Sunday should be remembered.

"I stand here 25 years after the British government sanctioned the murder of 14 of my fellow citizens, 25 years after we were told the Parachute Regiment had behaved in the impeccable tradition of the British army, and 25 years after we were told the dead of Bloody Sun day deserved to die," said Mr McKinney.

"Can I say, as someone who has no political axe to grind, that as long as Patrick Mayhew and his government continue to spew the lies of Widgery, he has no right to lecture Irish people about democracy, about justice and about the creation of a more equal society."

"Everyone has suffered as a result of this bloody conflict. All suffering is equal but so should all the attempts to find a way out of the suffering be treated as equal," he said.