Derry prepares for weekend of commemoration for 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday

Relatives of victims renew call for prosecutions ahead of memorial events

A mural at the Free Derry corner depicts the white handkerchief waved by Bishop Edward Daly as the body of 17-year-old Jackie Duddy was carried during Bloody Sunday, in Derry. File photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday have vowed they will not give up their call for prosecutions as they prepare to mark the 50th anniversary of the atrocity this weekend.

"We are entitled to justice," said John Kelly, the brother of 17-year-old victim Michael Kelly. "Anyone who commits murder should feel the wrath of the law, and there should be no difference right across the board," he said.

"We haven't given up," said Gerry Duddy, whose brother Jackie was killed. "We have a legal appeal under way. We've come too far to stop now."

Thirteen people died when members of the British army’s Parachute Regiment opened fire on anti-internment marchers in the Bogside area of Derry on January 30th, 1972, in a massacre that became known as Bloody Sunday. A fourteenth died later from injuries sustained in the event.


The prosecution of one soldier, known as Soldier F, for murder and attempted murder on Bloody Sunday was halted last year after the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it intended to discontinue the proceedings following the collapse of another case against two former soldiers.

Judgment has been reserved in judicial review proceedings last year challenging the PPS’s decision and its decision not to prosecute several other soldiers for murder on Bloody Sunday.

Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, who represents a number of the victims' families, said the ruling could mean the decisions would have to be revisited.

“If the families are successful then we anticipate that all of the decisions reached by the PPS not to prosecute will need to be fully examined by a different prosecutor to take fresh decisions, taking into account whatever guidance the court gives in respect of the applicable legal principles,” he said.

Commemorative events

A number of commemorative events for Bloody Sunday are due to take place in Derry on Saturday and on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary.

President Michael D Higgins will deliver a virtual address to the families and to the people of Derry at a memorial ceremony in Guildhall Square on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Higgins is expected to pay tribute to the victims and their relatives and to families who lost loved ones during the Troubles.

He will also praise the courage and resilience of the campaigners whose efforts led to the groundbreaking Saville report on Bloody Sunday, and acknowledge how their example and the contribution they have made towards peace and reconciliation in the North has inspired others to work towards a better future.

At a 50th-anniversary Mass at St Mary's in Creggan on Friday night – where the funerals of the victims took place – Catholic Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown welcomed the victims' families and also the presence of his Church of Ireland counterpart, Bishop Andrew Forster.

He paid tribute to the “heroism and strength of character in those who sought and fought for the truth” and said he hoped the weekend’s commemorations would “help us all to build a future full of hope for our young people”.

"The people of this city have shown great dignity and courage, often leading the way for the rest of Northern Ireland to follow. The suffering endured has borne the seed of solidarity and not merely of anger," he said.

In an apparent reference to the controversy over British government plans for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles, Bishop McKeown said that “drawing a line under the past always suits those who have much to hide” and people “deserve an agreed system that creates space for the truth to be told about the thousands of unsolved murders”.

Walk of remembrance

On Sunday morning the relatives of the victims will take part in a walk of remembrance which will follow the route of the anti-internment march from Creggan, and heading towards the memorial in the Bogside for a memorial service.

Political and church leaders from different denominations are expected to attend, including Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, and Cathaoirleach of the Seanad Senator Mark Daly.

Also present will be Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and vice-president Michelle O'Neill, the North's Deputy First Minister; SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood, and Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry.

The News Letter reported on Friday that the North's First Minister, the DUP leader Paul Givan, would not attend, and quoted a DUP spokesman who said the "party is not aware of 'any requests' for Mr Givan to take part having been received by the Executive Office at Stormont".

The DUP had not replied to questions from The Irish Times at the time of publication, but the event organisers said an invitation was extended to all of the party leaders via the mayor’s office in Derry.

Maeve McLaughlin from the Bloody Sunday Trust said it was an “inclusive event” and “nobody had been excluded” and emphasised “people of all political and religious persuasions are welcome”.

She also praised the current mayor of Derry, the DUP's Graham Warke, who she said had been "very positive" in regard to a number of events, and had launched a painting to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday earlier this month.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times