Derry ‘celebrates’ with Kathleen Thompson’s family

People from across NI and beyond gathered in Derry’s Guildhall Square on Saturday to ‘celebrate’ a court ruling that a British soldier was unjustified in firing shots that killed a Creggan mother-of-six more than 50 years ago.

A section of the crowd who gathered at Guildhall Square for Saturday’s event.
A section of the crowd who gathered at Guildhall Square for Saturday’s event.

Kathleen Thompson (47) was shot dead in the back garden of her home at Rathlin Drive in November 1971.

Last week, Mrs Justice Sandra Crawford ruled that the fatal shots were fired by an individual know as Soldier D as the British Army withdrew from the Southway area of Creggan following an arrest operation in the area.

The coroner said Mrs Thompson had gone to the rear of her home and was banging a bin lid or another object on the ground to warn people of the army’s presence when she was shot.

Tony Doherty, Bloody Sunday Trust, hugs Minty Thompson.

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She said that Soldier D had claimed he had opened fire after he was fired upon, and was thus acting to protect himself and his colleagues.

The coroner said: “I cannot be satisfied that Soldier D held an honest belief he was under fire.”

At the weekend, people congregated at Guildhall Square where they stood alongside the Thompson family to acknowledge their victory after decades of campaigning.

Mrs Thompson’s daughter, Minty, told the crowd that, after more than 50 years, her mother had, finally, been acknowledged as totally innocent.

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Kathleen Thompson.

Ms Thompson, who was only 12 years old when her mother was killed, said: “On the night she was murdered, the British State thought she was not even worthy of an inquest, an investigation. When they did give us an inquest, it was an open verdict. The mother of six children was worth £84.07. That was the value they put on her.

“But the State forgot that, for all of those who have been murdered, behind them is a family. A family that is going to fight for the truth, the acknowledgement and the justice. Kathleen Thompson was our mother and we fought and we fought hard but, without the support of the people of Derry and across the North, we may never have won. But we did.”

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane has paid tribute to the “strength, courage and tenacity” of the Thompson family.

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Sandra Duffy said: “Their strength and determination has been inspirational to many other families. My thoughts are absolutely with them at this time.”

Her sentiments were echoed by her party colleague on Council, Paul Fleming, who praised the family for always campaigning with “courage and dignity”.

He added: “It gives hope to others in a similar situation and we know many families who are in that situation and it will give hope to each of them.”

The leader of the SDLP grouping on Council, Brian Tierney, also hailed the Thompsons’ campaign for truth and justice.

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He said: “I know it’s been a long hard fight for them and, when you look at what they suffered over the last of these 50 odd years, it’s quite a significant day, not only for the Thompson family and for victims across the North but for the people of Derry to stand up and have the strength to call out wrongdoing whenever it happens in our streets.”

Sending her party’s support to the family, Alliance Councillor Rachael Ferguson remarked: “I know Kathleen Thompson’s family fought really, really hard and I wanted to extend our help in any way in their journey going forward.”

Commending the Thompson family’s ‘tireless’ campaign, People Before Profit Councillor Maeve O’Neill said: “It’s just a shame it has taken over 50 years for a court to say what we all knew and what the Thompson family have been saying for 50 years.

“It’s good to see this day has come.”