Split over Bloody Sunday Guildhall window memorial

The old Bloody Sunday stained glass window in Derry's Guildhall (pictured) has now been removed and is due to be replaced with a newly designed stained glass memorial, but there is controversy over one of the panels. DER3513JM038.
The old Bloody Sunday stained glass window in Derry's Guildhall (pictured) has now been removed and is due to be replaced with a newly designed stained glass memorial, but there is controversy over one of the panels. DER3513JM038.
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One of four new stained glass windows illustrating the events of Bloody Sunday will now not be installed with the others in the Guildhall after concerns were raised over its content by some of the families.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein failed to agree on a way forward on the new memorial at this week’s full Derry City Council meeting.

The four panels were due to be installed close to the Guildhall entrance on the ground floor, after it emerged that a previous stained glass depiction of the 1972 tragedy had spelt a victim’s name wrong and contained features deemed unsuitable.

This window has since been removed and there are now four plain glass panels in situ ahead of the new stained glass memorial being ready.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Derry City Council revealed they had earlier this month appointed a mediator to work with all families to try an find an agreement and consensus on the replacement windows but a spokeswoman said “despite all efforts the two sides could not be reconciled”.

The matter was raised at the January council meeting in the Guildhall on Tuesday by SDLP Councillor Gerry Diver, after he requested that standing orders be suspended.

Colr. Diver proposed that the other 75% of the stained glass installation go ahead as planned, while one depicting the day the Saville Inquiry report was published on June 15th 2010 be held back.

He said: “We have been approached by some of the families of those murdered on Bloody Sunday. They have expressed concern at what is proposed for this panel. It would seem in relation to the consultation process there are shortcomings or concerns around how that panned out.”

He said this was the perception among these families, who were still campaigning after 43 years for justice, that to go ahead with the fourth panel would cause a “level of distress and upset” to them.

“Because Bloody Sunday was such a huge event in this city it is difficult to have a process where you can please everybody and have everybody on the same page, but nonetheless the legacy of Bloody Sunday belongs to the families and it should not be about a process of trying to pitch one set of families against another set of families.”

Colr Diver said that the Saville Inquiry was already well represented in the Guildhall, and added that there was a precedent for adapting artistic interpretations of events, including one of the Bogside Murals which was altered after the Good Friday Agreement to reflect the move towards peace.

The proposal was seconded by his SDLP colleague Councillor Brian Tierney.

Sinn Fein Councillor Barney O’Hagan said various councillors have tried to assist in finding a solution to this issue over a protracted period of time.

“Bloody Sunday was a very significant and dark day in the history of this city. It impacted on every citizens in this city and others further afield,” adding that those events had shaped history, and shaped the thinking and actions of many who were there that day.

“It is fitting that a fitting mural to those killed is installed in what is the civic building for this area. It is unfortunate there is a disagreement in the design of the window ad so given that there still isn’t a consensus I think it is wrong to make a proposal here in the absence of that final agreement because I know there is a large section of families that wouldn’t be comfortable with what has been proposed. I would suggest maybe that the SDLP consider supporting deferring this matter further until we get the issue resolved in a way that is satisfactory to all involved rather than do anything that would leave people feeling hurt in any way. That has to be avoided at all costs. I would suggest we defer the matter further and make further efforts to get a resolution.”

He later added that going the way of the SDLP proposal would be to “go contrary to the wishes and views of the majority of the families affected”.

“It is in that context that we in Sinn Fein couldn’t support that proposal,” he said.

“In the absence of that consensus I think the most sensible thing course of action would be to defer the matter further, To do anything else is to come down on one side of a difference of opinion.”

Colr. O’Hagan’s proposal was seconded by Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue.

Despite a five minute adjournment,to discuss the matter, the two nationalist parties failed to reach an agreement, and during a vote, Colr. Diver’s proposal was carried with the support of all SDLP Councillors present by a margin of 12 to the eight Sinn Fein Councillors present who all voted against. Unionist councillors did not take part in the vote.

A spokeswoman for Derry City Council said after the meeting: “Earlier this month, members of the Development Committee agreed to appoint a mediator to consult with the families in an effort to get a resolution to the issue before today’s Full Council meeting, however despite all efforts the two sides could not be reconciled.

“Following a vote taken at a meeting of Full Council today, the majority of members voted in favour of the SDLP’s proposal to explore the option of installing three of the panels, with a view to redesigning and installing the fourth panel at a later stage, after further consultation with all the families to gain full consensus on a design.”