Bloody Sunday 50: Taoiseach Micheál Martin leads Bloody Sunday tributes in Dáil Éireann

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin led tributes to the 'resilience and hope' of the Bloody Sunday families in the Dáil this week.
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"I stood with the Bloody Sunday families and the people of Derry as we marked together the 50th anniversary of one of the darkest days we have seen on this island. It is a testament to the families and to the city of Derry that this anniversary was marked with such dignity and grace, with creativity and a message of hope for the future.

"It is a city that has endured too much loss and yet there is such resilience and hope abides. The Bloody Sunday families had to work tirelessly in the face of almost inconceivable injustice to finally have acknowledged what they had always known to be true: the deaths of their loved ones were unjustified and unjustifiable. As a result of their dignified and unflinching campaign history will record that truth.

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"The breakthrough of justice represented by the Saville report and by the apology of the British Prime Minister was not a breakthrough simply for the families or for the city or for one community. The struggle and the grief of the Bloody Sunday families is shared by countless families across these islands from all communities," said An Taoiseach.

Relatives pass the mural on Westland Street depicting those killed Bloody Sunday. Photo: George Sweeney, DER2205GS – 015Relatives pass the mural on Westland Street depicting those killed Bloody Sunday. Photo: George Sweeney, DER2205GS – 015
Relatives pass the mural on Westland Street depicting those killed Bloody Sunday. Photo: George Sweeney, DER2205GS – 015

Simon Coveney, the Fine Gael Foreign Affairs Minister, said: "On Sunday, the Taoiseach and I travelled to Derry where we met the families of those who were killed on Bloody Sunday.

"We stood in solidarity with them as the city marked, with characteristic dignity and courage, the 50th anniversary of that terrible day. It was a fitting tribute to those whose lives were lost. The memory of that day continues to resonate across the island, as the story of the campaign that finally ensured the truth was brought into the light.

"Experiences of the Bloody Sunday families, the Kingsmill families, the Birmingham families, the Dublin and Monaghan families and many others must drive us to find a better way forward. I have met regularly with families from all communities who lost loved ones in the conflict. They campaign with great determination but I am deeply conscious that with every year that passes the burden on their shoulders gets heavier and the struggle a little bit harder."

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The Leader of the Opposition, Sinn Féin T.D. Mary Lou McDonald said: "On Sunday, I had the privilege of accompanying the Bloody Sunday families as they walked the same route taken by those who marched for civil rights 50 years ago.

"I listened to the families recall those they lost and share their memories of that fateful day. Their pain is still very raw and their deep sense of injustice burns still. They say time heals all wounds but this has not been so for the families of the 14 innocent people shot down by the British Army on 30 January 1972. How could it?

"For them, the five decades since the murder of their loved ones at the hands of the parachute regiment have been dominated by British Government denial, cover-up and lies about what happened that day, thwarting at every turn the families’ quest for truth and justice.

"The integrity of these families stands in stark contrast to shame of the current Tory Government."

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The leader of the Labour Party Alan Kelly said: "Last weekend marked 50 years since the terrible slaughter of Bloody Sunday, a day nobody will ever forget. Having learned about it as we grew up or through various different formats, it is a day that will be always etched in our memories. On behalf of the Labour Party, my colleague, Deputy Duncan Smith, laid a wreath in Derry on Sunday. The day's events were a powerful and moving ceremony for all those who were killed and injured.

"Despite half a century having passed, the impact of that day is so raw. It is a date and a time that is pencilled into Irish history. When we talk about legacy, truth and reconciliation, it can be very hard for those of us more removed from the direct impact of the Troubles to really appreciate what is at stake. I was struck by the remarks of Kay Duddy at the weekend when she made the following simple request to the British Parachute Regiment: 'Please put your hands up and say you did it, so we can lay our wee brother to rest. My wee brother, Jackie Duddy, has been buried for 50 years but up to this minute in time, he hasn’t been laid to rest'.

"That struck a chord with me."

Brendan Smith T.D., chair of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, said: "I was struck by an article in the Derry Journal at the weekend. It was written by Colum Eastwood, MP for Derry, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of that awful and tragic day in Derry. It stated: 'The world knows what happened on the streets of Derry on January 30, 1972. Faced with peaceful civil rights demonstrators standing against institutional discrimination which had denied them, their parents and their children the same opportunities in housing, voting and jobs that others had, the British Army responded by indiscriminately murdering 14 unarmed men and children.

'Fourteen people, six of them children, went out without so much as a stone in their hands to demonstrate their strong and peaceful opposition to the oppression visited upon our communities by a state steeped in sectarianism and they didn’t come home'.

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"It went on to state, 'And, now with clear plans to prevent the investigation or prosecution of historic offences, this British Government is launching a full scale assault on victims and survivors across our society.' I always recall the comment of John Hume after those awful murders on that day 50 years ago. He described the soldiers as 'uniformed murderers'. He was a man who campaigned for decades and was a champion of peace in our land. He aptly said it all with that particular phrase."

Social Democrat T.D. Gary Gannon said: "We have all watched the footage of that fateful day, which was caught by both Irish and British journalists who were present on the streets. We have heard the testimonies of those who watched friends and family members fleeing and then falling.

"We saw the bloody handkerchief in the hands of a priest who was trying to get those who were shot to safety. Twenty-six unarmed and innocent people were shot by the British army that day, 14 of whom were killed. They were shot from behind and while trying to help the injured. They died while being blocked from getting to hospitals for urgent medical care. There are so many witness testimonies. It was quite simply horrific."

People Before Profit T.D. Bríd Smith said: "The British establishment always tries to portray the conflict in Ireland as some kind of war between two tribes and itself as the awkward piggy in the middle trying to keep us apart.

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"However, Blood Sunday in particular shows that it arose from a cold-blooded decision by the British establishment to suppress the mass movement for civil rights, the result of which was absolute carnage throughout the North. The Parachute Regiment was sent to Derry, not to keep two warring factions apart, but to conduct a massacre and break up and intimidate a mass movement."

Socialist Party T.D. Mick Barry asked: "Does anyone seriously believe that the massacre of 14 unarmed civilians in Derry 50 years ago last weekend was merely down to rank-and-file soldiers losing control on the day?

"Three weeks before Bloody Sunday, Major General Robert Ford wrote: 'I am coming to the conclusion that the minimum force necessary to achieve a restoration of law and order is to shoot selected ringleaders.' The Tory Government in London, led by Edward Heath, did not remove Major General Ford from his position."

He went on: "I have no confidence in the capacity of the State or sectarian politicians to subject their roles in the Troubles to real scrutiny. I do, however, have confidence in working class people to bring the truth to light. This could, for instance, take place through some form of wide-ranging inquiry into the Troubles made up of respected trade unionists, genuine community groups and human rights organisations."

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Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said: "The names of the boys and men who were murdered by the British military on the streets of Derry 50 years ago are: Patrick Doherty, 31, Gerald Donaghey, 17, Jackie Duddy, 17, Hugh Gilmour, 17, Michael Kelly, 17, Michael McDaid, 20, Kevin McElhinney. 17, Barney McGuigan, 41, Gerard McKinney, 35, William McKinney, 26, William Nash, 19, James Wray, 22 and John Young, 17, and John Johnston, 59.

"The murders of these peaceful civil rights campaigners changed the course of history forever. When a government murders its own citizens who are marching for equality in broad daylight, it becomes clear that the state itself is the problem.

"Aontú was proud to join with the other political parties in laying wreaths in Derry on Saturday to remember these boys and men. It still surprises me - maybe it should not - that the emotion of what happened 50 years ago still catches me with the same intensity every single time I attend a commemoration in Derry."

Independent T.D. Thomas Pringle said: "On Sunday, I, along with thousands of others, walked in remembrance on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. We paid tribute to the 26 who were shot and the 14 killed by the British Army in Derry in 1972. These people were marching for their rights when they were so brutally massacred. Devastatingly, their families are still seeking justice today.

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"I take this opportunity to remember those who lost their lives on that day in 1972 and express my solidarity with their families who, 50 years later, are still seeking justice.

"As was said by Bernadette McAliskey and Eamonn McCann from the podium afterwards, they are prepared to have their grandchildren stand to get the truth. They should not have to but they are prepared to do so. The British do not understand and have never really understood that it is the desire to see the truth that drives people to continue to march and fight for justice."