Bloody Sunday relatives want justice for the dead

15th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Clutching photos of their loved ones, relatives of the 13 men killed on Bloody Sunday marched silently through Londonderry Tuesday, vowing to clear their names 38 years on.

Each black-and-white image was captioned in red with the slogan "Set the Truth Free" as the marchers walked to the town hall in Northern Ireland's second city to finally hear the results of a 12-year probe into the 1972 killings.

"They've been dead for 38 years, maybe now we'll be able to lay them to rest," said Kay Duddy, whose 17-year-old brother Jackie was among those gunned down when British soldiers opened fire on a civil rights march.

A photograph of Jackie's dying body being carried through the streets of Londonderry behind a priest waving a white flag became one of the iconic images of that day, and was replicated in a huge mural near the march site.

On nearby Rossville Street, where most of the shootings took place on January 30, 1972, Duddy gathered with other relatives by the memorial to the victims.

The monument says the 13 victims and a 14th man who died of his wounds six months later were "murdered" by British paratroopers. The army maintains the men were armed and the soldiers only opened fire after coming under attack.

After a widely condemned 1972 inquiry confirmed the army's position, the relatives expressed confidence that Tuesday's report by Lord Mark Saville would make clear their innocence.

Duddy's brother was accused of being a petrol bomber, which she denies, telling AFP: "It is so important that the stigma is removed for him."

She added: "We'll get the truth today about what happened that awful day."

John Kelly, whose brother Michael died, was also looking for proof that the victims, seven of them teenagers, were doing nothing wrong beyond participating in a banned march against the British government's policy of internment.

"We have never looked for an apology... it's about the acknowledgement of what happened that day and the declaration of innocence," the 61-year-old said, adding: "Hopefully we will see justice be done."

Despite that, Kelly would like to see the report end in prosecutions of the soldiers involved, saying that the paratrooper who killed Michael -- identified only as Soldier F in the inquiry hearings -- was a "serial killer".

"Soldier F murdered my brother. He also murdered three more that day," he told AFP, adding: "Serial killers are prosecuted and serial killers go to jail, and as far as I'm concerned that's where Soldier F should go -- to jail."

Kelly's sister Kathleen Cooley said that after the killings, many young men in the city turned to violence, swelling the ranks of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitaries and fuelling the deadly civil strife that only ended in 1998.

"A lot of young boys, they wanted to join the IRA because they were so angry, and that's how the city got out of control," she said.

Walking with the relatives was Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a member of the Sinn Fein nationalist party who has admitted to being part of the IRA at the time of Bloody Sunday.

He told AFP he had answered questions about his role at the Saville inquiry, insisting: "I've nothing to fear from the truth, absolutely nothing."

Whatever the report concluded, he said it would not lead to a return to the divisions of the past, insisting: "The peace process of very strong. All of these families are huge supporters of the peace process."

He added: "My hope has to be that this is a very clear exposition of the terrible deed that was committed by the British state and the British armed forces on that day.

"And also that that feeds into the need to ensure that we never, never again see, in any community, acts of violence such as this."

© 2010 AFP

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