Free Derry: Heated meeting at Pilots Row over museum plans

Vincent Coyle chairs a somewhat heated debate at Pilot's Row Community Centre on Friday night. The meeting was called to discuss the proposed new Free Derry Museum. DER3014MC185
Vincent Coyle chairs a somewhat heated debate at Pilot's Row Community Centre on Friday night. The meeting was called to discuss the proposed new Free Derry Museum. DER3014MC185

A heated debate concerning future plans for the Museum of Free Derry took place in Pilots Row community centre over the weekend.

Last Friday night’s meeting on plans to revamp the Museum of Free Derry began with a presentation from civil rights campaigner Vincent Coyle. The presentation showed that new plans were submitted to the Planning Office on December 23, 2013 and differed from the original plans mooted in 2010.

Mr Coyle said that he welcomed the museum but that he regarded the entire environment in the Bogside as a monument to the civil rights and conflict period and on that basis it was unacceptable that new plans would see the civil rights mural beside the museum obscured.

Other issues of concern put forward by Vincent Coyle and Bogside residents centred on the removal of a ramp to flats at Glenfada Park on which marchers on Bloody Sunday took shelter from British Army

bullets and the possible exclusion of a local shop, in the area since the 1980s.

It also emerged that to date £500,000 given by the Heritage Lottery Fund has been spent bringing the plans to the stage there are at now.

The at times, ill tempered meeting, heard an accusation from the floor that Mr Coyle was ‘cherry picking’ aspects of the development to complain about. But, Vincent Coyle with reference to the preservationof the ramp said: “I’ll die before I’ll let a digger drive throughthat memory.”

Liam Wray, brother of Jim Wray who was shot dead on Bloody Sunday told the meeting:” I was there on Bloody Sunday and used that ramp for cover. Where it is possible to keep these things intact in relation to

Bloody Sunday then they should be. Other countries do their best to preserve these these type of artefacts and so should we.”

Newly appointed Chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust, Julieanne Campbell responded by saying that the ramp was included in the plan in 2010 but a recent opportunity to select an option for a green space at the

front of the museum was taken in an effort to make it “ a world class museum.”

“We did consult. We did publicise this. We are trying to do somethinghere for the entire community. I am here to listen not to be attacked,” she continued.

However, residents of the area claimed that there had been no wider consultation on the museum.

One woman said: “I’ve been a resident of Rossville Street for 22 years. I’ve never been invited to anything to with Bloody Sunday. We have buses coming up the street and unloading tourists at 8am and we’ve never been


Adrian Kerr, Manager of the Museum of Free Derry addressed the concerns of a local shop owner who fears the new plans will see him loose his livelihood and assured him he was included in the plans.

“There were a number of options and there were hard to deal with because of funding. We understand it isn’t ideal, it is the best we can do given the constraints.”

One audience member, Danny Bradley, also asked the representatives of the Bloody Sunday Trust if they were aware of or had discussed the possibility of a memorial garden for the museum which would include remembrance plans for the British soldiers and RUC members killed in the conflict.

Responding, Adrian Kerr said: “It’s at the idea stage. The talks are about something that may happen in the future but we haven’t got to the point of discussing who would be included.”

At the conclusion, the members of the Bloody Sunday Trust withdrew from the meeting with the Chair Julieann Campbell stating that the meeting was “getting us nowhere” and that anyone with concerns was welcome to contact the Trust.

Before the meeting disbanded Vincent Coyle asked for a show of hands on the basis of retaining the original plans listed in 2010. The majority of people raised their hands in favour of the proposition.

Earlier in the proceedings, Julieann Campbell had said: “We can go back again and look at the plans to see if it can be changed but it may jeopardise the entire plan.”