Bloody Sunday 50th anniversary – Belfast solidarity speech

Mark Thompson, CEO Relatives for Justice,

speech to honour those killed on Bloody Sunday on the 50th anniversary.

Groves Reilly Corner, Belfast, 30th January 2022

organised by the Campaign Time For Truth.

A Dhaoine Uaisle,

Let us begin by remembering the slain of Bloody Sunday.

Patrick Doherty 31

Gerald Donaghy 17

John Duddy 17

Hugh Gilmore 17

Michael Kelly 17

Michael McDaid 20

Kevin McElhinney 17

Barney McGuigan 41

Gerard McKinney 35

William McKinney 27

William Nash 19

James Wray 22

John Young 17

John Johnston 59

(Died four months later from his injuries)

I’m oftentimes struck by the fact that six of those gunned down on the streets of Derry were only children, 17 years of age.

Let us all remember why these men, and young boys, were demonstrating along with the tens of thousands of others on that day 30th January 1972 – why they decided to take to the streets in peaceful protest. It was against internment and for basic civil and human rights.

In the weeks and months beforehand peaceful protesters, including students, demanding basic human rights were attacked by Paisleyites, RUC B-Specials, and loyalist mobs. The same mobs that had burnt Bombay Street here in west Belfast. The same mobs that murdered nine-year-old Patrick Rooney as the RUC fired into the homes of Catholics in Divis flats, and murdered the first British soldier to be killed in the conflict Trooper Hugh McCabe.

And in Ardoyne they murdered Sammy McLarnon and Michael Lynch in similar style attacks.

The armed forces of the six-county partitionist statelet went into an anarchy of state-led sectarian violence when met with modest and democratic demands of the Civil Rights Movement.

And in Derry on January 30th, 1972, the guns of the Parachute Regiment were once again turned on nationalist civilians.

The world witnessed these atrocities and the images are forever ingrained into our consciousness as a people.

Fr. Edward Daly waving his white handkerchief as he faced the soldiers without fear, accompanied by a young Jackie Duddy, who would later learn that his wee brother was one of those murdered.

The awful scenes of the deceased who lay lifeless, and life ebbing away from them, on the ground where once they stood so full of life, energy, vigour, and determination to march against injustice and for an equal future for all of us.

Each individual trauma and the collective trauma of what was witnessed will forever remain.

And no doubt had the film crew that captured those images of Fr. Daly and others, carrying a young Gerald Donaghy who was dying, not have been there then he’d likely have been killed too along with the others.

This is precisely what the very same Parachute Regiment did six months earlier in Ballymurphy when they murdered Fr. Hugh Mullan and 10 other civilians over three days of absolute carnage.

The green we stand in here today is slightly larger than the small green in Ballymurphy known as the Manse where Joan Connolly was shot as she went to aid a young boy, Noel Phillips, who was shot and crying for help. Joan Connolly was a mother of 8. Shot in the face, and unable to see, she lay for hours under fire from the soldiers, also crying out for help. Both would die there alongside Danny Teggert and Joseph Murphy.

And then again in July 1972 in the neighbouring and adjoining district of Ballymurphy in Springhill and Westrock the British army murdered five unarmed people including three children and Fr. Noel Fitzpatrick – who like Fr. Mullan was administering to the injured and dying.

And then in the New Lodge in north Belfast on February 3rd, 1973, the British army, and its undercover murder gang the Military Reconnaissance Force (MRF), murdered six unarmed men. We also believe MRF and loyalists were behind the shooting of six-year-old Jim Doherty across the way as he played in his garden.

Also, in the New Lodge they drove over five-year-old Denise-Anne Dickson in a military vehicle, leaving her little broken body lying on the street as they callously drove on.

The people of our city know full well the brutality and murderous actions of the British army and the RUC. We’ve seen it far too often up close, and we have all borne witness to their summary justice, political assassinations, extra-judicial killings, and casual use of lethal force. And we live with the ongoing impunity for their actions.

We owe those killed that fateful day in Derry a huge debt – they took a stand against injustice and paid the ultimate price.

Their families, and the people of Derry, have shown huge resilience and determination and have been an inspiration for all other families seeking justice and not least those whose loved ones were killed through State violence and collusion, and who face a constant of impunity. We are a proud and resilient people, and we demand justice. Peace demands justice.

The Saville Inquiry exonerated the bereaved and injured of Bloody Sunday and consigned the Widgery whitewash to the history bin where it had long belonged.

Beyond the immediate families no one worked more tirelessly for that inquiry than the late Martin McGuinness. And when others told the families they were wasting their time or that their persistence might threaten the emerging peace process Martin McGuinness was one of the few that encouraged them to continue.

We stand here as a community in solidarity with the Bloody Sunday families and all other families seeking justice and accountability – not least those impacted by State violence.

We stand here at Groves Reilly Corner – appropriately named after wonderful and inspirational women, who through their own personal experience of injury and loss, gave leadership and equally took a stand against injustice.

The film footage of Emma being brought from her home after being shot at point blank range through her living room window by the same Parachute Regiment during mass raids in this district – the towel covering her face soaked with blood – her eyes lost. Forever blinded.

Emma and Clara supported many of you here today who had loved ones killed. They also supported those who were abused and tortured, including the Hooded Men. The British brutalised thousands in interrogation centres and in the gaols.

Today we remember Terry Laverty who sadly passed away last night. Terry was accosted and tortured by the Parachute Regiment. He was made to run a gauntlet barefoot over broken glass before being taken to Girdwood military base where he was again abused. This was during the Ballymurphy killings. Terry’s brother John was one of those murdered.

Unfortunately, to our infinite cost, we know only too well the full brutality and sectarian killing reputation of British forces in our country. And yes sectarian. They turned their guns on this community exclusively save with a few exceptions.

Over there just yards away the British army shot dead young Fian John Dempsey.

They killed 12-year-old Carol-Ann Kelly in Twinbrook, 14-year-old Julie Livingstone in Lenadoon. They killed 11-year-old Francis Rowntree and 10-year-old Stephen Geddis in Divis. And 13-year-old Brian Stewart around the corner. He was buried on what would have been his 14th Birthday.

They killed mother of three Nora McCabe. This act was captured on film by a Canadian TV crew. This footage emerged after all those responsible gave evidence to her inquest. It proved beyond doubt that all those RUC officers in the patrol perjured themselves – lying about the circumstances and denying even shooting her. Justice was denied. The lead officer James Crutchley was promoted and decorated by their monarch.

In 1977 when the British monarch visited our city on her jubilee her soldiers shot and killed young Paul McWilliams aged 16 in Springhill.

In October last we stood across the road in Miltown to remember sisters Maura Meehan and Dorothy Maguire, murdered by British soldiers 50 years ago in Cape Street. Billy Davison and Flo O’ Riordan survived the attack. Shortly afterwards Flo’s 14-year-old son Sean was shot dead by British soldiers. Billy’s brother was murdered by loyalists. The remains of the car they were attacked in, which was an item of forensic and ballistic evidence held by the RUC, was placed on a loyalist bonfire the following July.

They killed Gerard Gibson aged 16, Desi Healy aged 16, Seamus Simpson and many more.

In Ardoyne they killed Johnny Copeland and Michael McLarnon 50 years ago in October past. They killed young Leo McGuigan and many other teenagers in north Belfast. 99 residents of Ardoyne were killed, and the British army and loyalists were responsible for the majority of these.

They murdered young Jimmy Bonner believing it was Jim Bryson – who they later killed alongside Paddy Mulvenna.

They murdered Eamon McCormick, he too, like many of the Bloody Sunday dead, was only 17.

Thomas ‘Kidso’ Reilly was shot dead not far from here also.

Pearse Jordan, unarmed, was executed a few hundred yards from where we stand.

My own brother Peter was executed along with two others just a few minutes from here.

MRF killed Daniel Rooney, Patrick McVeigh and shot many others. MRF who were behind the bombing of the Whitefort bar, Hunting Lodge, and Glenowen Inn. They were also behind the Bridge bar bombing in Short Strand claiming lives.

And when they weren’t killing people in our community, they were sending their proxies to do it for them.

McGurk’s Bar in north Belfast, Kelly’s Bar at the top of the Rock.

Three of the largest bombs in the conflict have the fingerprints of the British. McGurk’s, Dublin/Monaghan and Omagh. More recently the Belfast High Court determined that an inquiry was required into the latter.

They targeted women in this city: Philomena Hanna, Sadie Larmour, Sharon McKenna, Sheena Campbell, and Maire Drumm, to name a few.

The Glenanne Gang, responsible for over 120 murders mostly across Mid-Ulster, comprised member of the British army and RUC.

They targeted the National H-Block/Armagh Committee torturing Miriam Daly in her home and murdering her, again just yards away from where we stand. Her children found her dead body on returning home from school.

They murdered Ronnie Bunting and Noel Little, and shot Suzanne Bunting, in their home just around the corner.

They shot Bernadette and Michael McAliskey in their home in front of their children in Tyrone. And across towns, villages, and hamlets they brought their terror.

In 1987 they rearmed loyalism with weapons imported from South Africa.

Across in Miltown as this community buried Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage and Dan McCann, summarily executed in Gibraltar, they used these weapons to attack mourners killing John Murray, Thomas McErlean, and Caoimhin Mac Bradaigh as they courageously pursued the gunman. Scores more were injured.

This week will mark the 30th anniversary of the attack on the Sinn Fein center by RUC man Alan Moore. He killed party members Pat McBride and Paddy Loughran and Michael Dwyer, a constituent visiting the advice center with his young toddler son witnessing his daddy’s  murder.

It will also mark the 30th anniversary of the attack on the Ormeau Rd bookies that killed five people and injured seven. One of the guns used, a British army weapon, was provided by RUC special branch. The other from the batch of weapons imported from South Africa with full knowledge and oversight of all three arms of the so called ‘security’ forces.

The report by the police ombudsman into that atrocity is due for publication in the coming fortnight. It will also examine six more murders involving collusion including that of Theresa Clinton, Mickey Gilbride, and Larry Brennan.

The attack on the Kennedy Way council depot behind us.

The murder of Damien Walsh in Twinbrook.

And many, many more deaths in which irrefutable evidence of collusion is established and where culpability of successive British governments, and its so-called ‘security’ forces and intelligences services, rests.

And of course, many of these same families, and you here today who experienced terrible loss, sought help. And the person you went to and who listened in his offices, visited your homes, and took your statements, made public calls for witnesses, and helped champion your cause for justice – well they eventually murdered him too, Pat Finucane.

All of you, like many, many more who have been bereaved and injured through State violence, have faced every obstacle in pursuit of justice – faced impunity. You’ve shown great courage and dignity.

The GFA provided for the incorporation of the ECHR/HRA. And for the very first time this gave families agency to challenge impunity, seek justice and accountability.

And over this past two decades the fight for accountability and justice has taken on a more significant dimension that for the British has been unavoidable.

That is precisely why they’ve invested in thwarting justice. It is why they are corrupting the rule of law yet again in the very same way they used the law as part of their arsenal during the conflict to get away with what they were doing.

That is why they’ve sought to undermine the police ombudsman with vexatious challenges – challenges by the very people subject to its investigations: RUC special branch.

That is why they, in desperate bids to keep a lid on their activities, the British government are resorting to what amounts to an amnesty.

It is why they colluded with the DUP to deny funding to the Lord Chief Justice for legacy inquests and it is why they seek to close down every avenue to justice including civil cases that seek disclosure and discovery of files.

The very people that lectured about the primacy of the rule of law now seek to subvert the rule of law.

It tells us they have much to hide. They are forced to this place of last resort because of you and your efforts to obtain justice and accountability.

But the truth will out.

It cannot be buried.

We’ve all borne witness to too much and it’s time for truth – time for justice.

Stand against the British government amnesty proposals.

We are a resilient and determined people – we are never giving up!

Take a stand like those who died on January 30th, 1972, did. They stood for us, and we must now stand for them and everyone else.

Ní neart go chur le chéile. Go raibh mile maith agaibh.

The speech as delivered on 30th January 2022 can be watched here Mark Thompson at vigil to remember 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday