Families of the victims of Bloody Sunday on Tuesday addressed a crowd of thousands outside the Guildhall, Derry, and gave their reaction to the just-published Saville Inquiry Report.
At 3.30, as the inquiry was released, large banners of the faces of the 14 civil rights marchers killed were unfurled. 54 people were also injured in the onslaught.
While UK Prime Minister Cameron was delivering his statement in the British House of Commons, the crowd in Derry listened intently.
When he spoke of the shootings being ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’, the concentration of the crowd intensified.
But when he claimed ‘those looking for premeditation will not find it,’ listeners shook their heads in disgust.
Thousands packed the square as relatives of the dead lined up to give their reaction.
Massive pictures of the protesters were carried aloft on banners and a minute’s silence was held to remember the dead.
Earlier, two thumbs raised by somebody inside the Guildhall symbolised the families’ delight.
Mikey McKinney said: ‘My 27 year old brother was murdered by British paratroopers in Derry. This is an historic day for Derry.’
Tony Docherty, son of Paddy Docherty, killed aged 31, said: ‘Unjustified and unjustifiable. Those are the words we have been waiting to hear since 1972.
‘It can now be proclaimed to the world that the dead and the wounded of Bloody Sunday, civil rights marchers, one and all, were innocent, one and all, gunned down on their own streets by soldiers who had been given to believe that they could kill with perfect impunity.
‘Medals of honour awarded to the Parachute Regiment have to be removed. The truth has been brought home at last.
‘It can now be proclaimed to the world that the Parachute Regiment are the frontline assassins for the British establishment.
‘It was the paratroopers’ mission in Derry to massacre. Bloody Sunday wounded Derry very, very badly. We may hope that from today we can begin to bind those wounds.’
He said: ‘The issues arrising from the report are wider and deeper.
‘When the state kills its citizens, it is in the interests of all that those responsible be held to account. It is not just Derry, or one section of the people, but democracy itself which needs to look out.
‘The British people need to know, the Irish people need to know, the world now knows.’
He added: ‘We’re also mindful of the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre.’
He continued: ‘Bloody Sunday was the price the Bogside paid for a free Derry.’
He said: ‘The repression that came upon us’, makes the people of Derry identify with others, such as the people of Fallujah and Gaza.
‘Let our truth stand as their truth stands.’
Concluding, to loud cheers: Tony Doherty said: ‘Nobody who struggles for justice will be a stranger here.’
Terry Duddy, brother of Jackie Duddy, said: ‘Widgery destroyed our loved ones’ good names, Saville restores them.’
John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was killed by the paratroopers, he told crowds outside the Guildhall: ‘The report is very long and very detailed and covers a wide range of topics.
‘However, for us what matters above all else, what has been in our constant thought all these years, is the innocence of our loved ones.
‘Everything else fades into insignificance compared to the fact that those shot down on Bloody Sunday were ordinary, decent Derry people.
‘That’s the verdict we wanted. That’s the verdict we have today.
‘That will be the verdict of history for all time. That is what matters.’
Nineteen-year-old William Nash was killed by a single shot to his chest.
Eyewitness accounts state that Nash was unarmed and was going to the aid of someone else when he himself was shot.
His sister Kate Nash said: ‘Thirty-eight years ago a story went around the world concoted by General Mike Jackson.
‘He said there was gunmen and bombers on our streets and they were shot. Today that lie has been uncovered.
‘My brother William knew he was innocent. We know he was innocent, we’ve always known and now the world knows.’
Jim Wray was 22 he was shot twice, the first’ from right to left across his body, the second bullet entered his back and travelled from right to left.
Eyewitnesses said Wray was shot and wounded and then was shot dead, from close range, while he lay on the ground.
His family said in a statement: ‘He was deliberately shot.
‘This inquiry has vindicated the Wray family and much more so the people of Derry.
‘We always knew the truth. Jim was innocent. Jim was murdered.’
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams commented on the Saville Report: ‘Today is a day for the families of those killed and those injured on Bloody Sunday.
‘They have campaigned for 38 years for the truth and for justice.
‘They have campaigned for the British government to end their policy of cover-up and concealment.
‘The facts of what happened on Bloody Sunday are clear – the British Paras came to Derry and murdered 14 civil rights marchers and injured 13 others.
‘They were unarmed, they posed no threat and they were completely innocent.
‘Today Saville has put the lies of Widgery into the dustbin of history and with it the cover-up which was authorised of the highest levels within the British Establishment and lasted for almost four decades.
‘Sinn Féin will continue to support the Bloody Sunday families in the time ahead.’
Some of the Saville Inquiry’s conclusions are:
• ‘Despite the contrary evidence given by soldiers, we have concluded that none of them fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombers.’
• The report added that no one threw, or threatened to throw, nail or petrol bombs at soldiers.
• The accounts of soldiers were rejected, with a number said to have ‘knowingly put forward false accounts’.
• Lord Saville concluded the commander of land forces in Northern Ireland, Major General Robert Ford, would have been aware that the Parachute Regiment had a reputation for using excessive force. But he would not have believed there was a risk of paratroopers firing unjustifiably.
• The commanding officer of the paratroopers, Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford, disobeyed an order from a superior officer not to enter troops into the nationalist Bogside estate.
• Lord Saville found his superior officer, Brigadier Patrick MacLellan, held no blame for the shootings as if he had known what Col Wilford was intending, he might well have called it off.
• No blame was placed on the organisers of the march, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.
• Neither the UK nor Northern Ireland governments planned or foresaw the use of unnecessary lethal force.
The public prosecution service in Northern Ireland issued the following response to the Saville report:
‘The decision whether any individual will face prosecution arising out of the Saville Report is solely for the public prosecution service acting independently in accordance with the test for prosecution.
‘The director of public prosecutions, together with the chief constable, will consider the report to determine the nature and extent of any police enquiries and investigations which may be required to enable informed decisions as to prosecution to be taken.
‘The undertaking given by the attorney general in 1999 to witnesses who provided evidence to the Inquiry will also require to be considered.
‘It is not practical, at this stage, to say when such decisions will be taken other than to indicate that the matter will be considered as expeditiously as possible.’