The brother of murdered London teenager, Stephen Lawrence, said he has been ‘inspired’ by the struggles of the people of Derry and how the families of the Bloody Sunday victims have conducted themselves in their search for justice.
Stuart Lawrence and his family fought a long campaign for justice after his 18-years-old brother was fatally stabbed in a racially motivated attack in south London in 1993.
Two of the group of up to six men who attacked the aspiring architect and his friend, Duwayne Brooks, have been convicted of murder, but the rest have evaded justice.
There was a Judicial Inquiry into the killing and the subsequent investigation chaired by Sir William Macpherson accused the Metropolitan Police of institutional racism for their conduct during the investigation into Stephen’s death.
Stuart Lawrence is an Academy Coach at Brighton & Hove Albion and he was in Derry last weekend as a guest of junior club, Foyle Harps F.C.
He was presented with a signed Derry City shirt at half-time during the Sligo Rovers match on Friday night marking the 26th anniversary of his brother’s death.
Indeed, Stuart said he could empathise with the families of the Bloody Sunday victims given his family’s campaign for justice and following his short trip to Derry last weekend, he said he was ‘shocked’ and moved by the Bloody Sunday story.
“It’s my first time in Derry and N. Ireland,” said Stuart. “I’ve had a bit of a tour and talking to some people about the problems and struggles Derry people have been going through which has been quite an eye-opener, especially coming from England where we’ve obviously had a really bias news feed coming back here which is quite disappointing.
“My eyes have been opened and I’m definitely going to be spreading the word. The local community weren’t being violent that day, they were trying to be peaceful and march and protest and do things the right way and that was met by violence.
“For the soldiers to say the people were being violent and to make excuses for the way they acted, I couldn’t understand why they would want to do something like that.
“I watched the film (Bloody Sunday) but you don’t really get to understand by watching documentaries and films,” he said. “It’s not until you actually come and see for yourself.
“It’s really moving and shocking. People can be bitter and angry about these situations but in Derry I found it inspiring how such a small community could be so disciplined and dignified as they sought the truth,” he said.
Twenty-six years have passed since Stephen Lawrence’s death and the family have ensured his legacy through the good work of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust set up in his name, with the aim of transforming the lives of young people and campaigning for social change.
The first national day of commemoration for the murdered teenager, labelled the Stephen Lawrence Day, will take place on April 22, and Stuart is hoping their good work and charitable donations can help people in Northern Ireland in the future.
“After my brother died, my mum and my dad fought for justice and that course has now finished. We’re not going to keep trying to fight for justice because there isn’t any more evidence.
“So as a family we’ve thought legacy, how can we make sure we help young people of the future.?
“So we set up an architecture bursary programme. That then rolled into other things. We’ve got one in journalism, we’ve got one in law and on April 22nd this year - Stephen Lawrence Day - is the first one.
“I’ve got a son myself now and it’s all about the future of the younger generation.
“I just want to make sure the world I grew up in isn’t the world he grows up in. It’s a different world. We’re learning from our mistakes and we’re trying to be better human beings.”
Having coached members of the Foyle Harps youth teams at Leafair Park last weekend, Stuart Lawrence took the opportunity to seek out answers on Derry’s troubled past, relating the heartache and injustices to his own family’s plight in London.
“It’s been a great in so many ways and, fingers crossed, I will get the opportunity to return to Derry and engage with so many decent people,” he said.