SF will not take part in new body, rally told

 

THE biggest Bloody Sunday commemorative march and rally in local memory took place in Derry yesterday and was told by Mr Martin McGuinness that Sinn Fein would not take part in the new elected body sought by "unionists and the British government.

The 24th annual parade along the traditional route from Creggan to the Bogside, where a rally was held at Free Derry corner, drew an estimated 10,000 participants. More than 50 hired buses brought contingents from many parts of the North and from the Republic, with bands from Scotland also taking part.

Sinn Fein ardchomhairle member, Mr McGuinness, was the main speaker and he repeatedly criticised the proposal for elections. "The unionists want their assembly and the British government wants to gave them their assembly," he said. "We are not going to give them their new Stormont. We are not going to be part of their assembly."

He said republicans should not be demoralised downhearted or dispirited by the developments of last week. The failure in all of this was the failure of "a weak prime minister".

He added: "The question is not who is afraid of elections. The question is who is afraid of negotiations. The British government and the unionists are running scared of the negotiating table."

Mr McGuinness afterwards told reporters that one option which the Sinn Fein leadership would have to consider was the option of boycotting such an election. That, along with other options, would be considered by the party's national executive over the next couple of weeks.

Asked why he thought this year's march was so large, he said chat many people in the nationalist community were extremely; angry at the attitude which the British Prime Minister had adopted by "binning" the Mitchell report and his refusal to move towards all party talks.

Earlier yesterday, in a ceremony at the permanent Bloody Sunday memorial at the edge of the Bogside, relatives of the 13 people shot dead by British paratroopers on January 30th 1972, and a 14th who died later from his injuries, laid fresh wreaths in memory of the victims.

Fourteen white crosses were carried at the front of the march from the Creggan, followed by people carrying photographs of the victims. Ms Linda Ruddy, whose brother was among the Bloody Sunday dead, told the rally: "We are not out for revenge. All we demand is that the truth be told and the injustice acknowledged."

In a brief, minor incident, a few missiles were thrown at an RUC armoured Land Rover which preceded the march into the Bogside. In his address, Mr McGuinness asserted that the RUC would never be acceptable to the people of Derry, where some 50 unarmed people had been shot dead by the British army or the police over the years of the Troubles, but none of those responsible had ever been prosecuted.

The march was the culmination of a weekend of commemorative events, including workshops and forums on the peace process. In the annual Bloody Sunday lecture, in Derry's Guildhall on Friday night, the Sinn Fein president, Mr Gerry Adams, said that the 1972 massacre remained an open wound because the British government had yet to own up to what happened.

In a reference to the current proposal for an elected body, he said: "If the unionists really want a mandate, then let David Trimble go and tell John Major that he is not, going to support him, and we'll all go for a mandate."

Mr Adams, who is to travel to the US this week, returned to Derry yesterday to take part in the parade.