One year on from the publication of the Saville Report, TONY DOHERTY- whose father was among those gunned down by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday - proposes that June 15 should be regarded as an alternative to official remembrance days with the focus on civilians killed by state forces.
In our statement, read to a smiling, cheerful yet tearful crowd in the Guildhall Square on June 15 last year, we said: “Bloody Sunday was a great injustice. But the fight for the truth has been an inspiration too. It has deepened our sense of who we are and made us more aware that we are citizens of the world. Nobody who struggles is a stranger here. Nobody who dies in the struggle for justice is forgotten here.”
Having just returned from the Basque Country after meeting family and friends of Germán Rodruíguez, a young man murdered by the Spanish police during the San Fermines fiesta in Pamplona-Iruna in 1978, I am prompted to remember not just these words but also the same sentiment behind the “One World-One Struggle” series of events organised to mark the 20th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 1992 in Derry.
During that week in late January 1992, Derry reached out to peoples in many places in the world struggling variously towards a better state of human relations, national independence or the recovery of history in danger of becoming lost.
We, as organisers, very consciously sought to bring international attention to what happened on our own streets and to the enduring legacy of the Widgery Report. In doing so, we forged links with South Africans emerging from Apartheid, Chileans and Bolivians seeking the truth regarding the murderous activities of their armies and governments, and working class black activists struggling for socio-economic justice in Boston, USA.
At that time, exactly 20 years after Bloody Sunday, very few if any of us were aware of the huge global significance of the event and we had no inkling of either the battle that lay ahead or could we begin to imagine its outcome. It is no accident that, just a few weeks after getting the global experience of contemporary struggle, we established the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign. International solidarity is a wonderful thing!
Over 18 years later, our campaign, once ignored and vilified, stood entirely vindicated before the world on the steps of Derry’s Guildhall. The outcome included the reversal of Widgery, the putting right of our history and a full apology from the British Prime Minister David Cameron. It is also true to say that there is rarely such a thing as a perfect victory as there are aspects of the Saville Report, such as the treatment of Gerald Donaghey, that are clearly not acceptable and run contrary to natural justice.
Nevertheless, we stood united and vindicated with messages of support and congratulations coming in from around the world. Indeed, on June 15, 2010, the Bloody Sunday Trust and the families were keen not just to remember everyone victimised during the conflict here but also to acknowledge people everywhere in the world who dare to stand up against injustice.
“Wounded Knee, Sharpeville, Groznyy, Dafur, Fallujah and Gaza. Let our truth be their truth too,” we said.
We now fully recognise and accept that Derry’s day in the sun is held up as a beacon around the world for people struggling for truth and justice. Since last year, members of the families and Trust have been actively supporting human rights causes, both here and abroad.
In March this year, myself and Tony Gillespie visited Vittoria-Gasteiz, also in the Basque Country, at the behest of families of five men murdered by the Spanish police in a Catholic church in the district of Zaramaga in 1976. Bienbenido Pereda, Franciso Aznar, Pedro Ocio, Romualdo Barrosa and José Castillo. These men’s families have never been given truth or justice by the Spanish state whose repressive methods, perfected during Franco’s era, are the most draconian in modern day Western Europe.
As recently as Saturday past, several Trust members and family representatives met the families of the Loughinisland Massacre that occurred on the evening of June 18, 1994, the same evening that saw Ireland beat Italy in the World Cup. These families have been conducting an inspirational campaign for a thorough and professional investigation into the murders of their loved ones. Adrian Rogan, Barney Green, Dan McCreanor, Malcolm Jenkinson, Patsy O Hare and Éamon Byrne. The story of the RUC “investigation” is as fascinating as it is disturbing and goes to very heart of state collusion with Loyalist informers in the murders of ordinary working class Irish people.
Over the past few months, the Bloody Sunday Trust has been considering the conceptual development and practical outworking of letting our truth be the truth of others struggling for justice around the world. We are now proposing that, on June 15, 2012, we will have our inaugural ‘International Day of Vindication’.
The proposal is that June 15 should become the International Day of Vindication for Civilian Victims in War and Conflict; a day when people have an opportunity to reflect on, and take action about, the many ordinary people and non-combatants killed or injured by state forces during times of war and conflict. It is a day to celebrate their lives and achievements and to focus on the need to provide practical support to relatives and friends to seek justice and truth.
The reason we are taking this proposal forward is because civilian victims of war and conflict are rarely, if ever, remembered nor is their cause celebrated or taken up, least of all by governments across the globe. Wars are remembered and celebrated by governments and those who fought in them simply because they happened while the causes of war are often obscured and the civilian victims of war are rarely remembered with equal status.
We hope and we are confident that those who wish to participate will host events in their own localities with the purpose of highlighting the issue of civilian casualties and to raise money for a variety of related causes such as a mental health need, an economic development need, a museum or a truth and justice campaign.
The International Day of Vindication could also be used to highlight the inadequacies of protections for civilians and non-combatants such as the failures of the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands and the failures of the UN especially in Palestine and Israel.
In essence, the proposal is to develop June 15 as an alternative to official remembrance days with the focus on civilians killed by state forces, particularly those killed s they struggle to achieve change. It is also a day of vindication in which the achievements of those who have struggled to achieve truth and justice can be celebrated and acknowledged.
The Bloody Sunday Trust welcomes views and opinions on this putative proposal from any citizen or organisation. Our intention is that we will refine and develop the proposal by the Autumn of this year with a view to encouraging and facilitating participation in 10 locations around the world in 2012. The Trust can be contacted on 02871 360880. Give us a call.