McLaughlin - 33 years of campaign has yet to bring out the truth about Bloody Sunday
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA speaking in his address to the annual Bloody Sunday Commemoration said "Thirty-three years of campaigning has yet to bring out the Truth about the Bloody Sunday massacre. But we must not be deterred from our fight for Equality, Justice, Peace and Human Rights for all by a political establishment that pays lip service to democracy while playing fast and loose with human rights and civil liberties and the truth." He also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Martin Doherty
Many of you, as I was myself, were present on this day thirty-three years ago when British Paratroopers were unleashed on the people of Derry. The intention was to teach the uppity fenians that failure to obey British law would have dire consequences. And the result of that policy was indeed dire for the families of the thirteen men murdered in the name of the British government that terrible day and John Johnston and Peggy Deery who later died as a result of the injuries inflicted. But the consequences of the 30th January 1972 were so far reaching that the repercussions catapulted us into a spiral of conflict that left few in Ireland untouched. Because Truth was also a casualty that day and the denial of truth is a denial of justice.
The intention was to teach us a harsh lesson and indeed we were taught a lesson that day. Actually we learned a number of lessons. As we recoiled in shock and horror and began to count and identify our dead and wounded, the British Government was telling the world that a gunbattle had erupted in the Republican stronghold of the Bogside and that a number of republican gunmen and bombers had been killed. We called it Bloody Sunday but many believed the propaganda line and called it Good Sunday. And a compliant media repeated and regurgitated that lie. No need for evidence, as after all, only the IRA could have mounted such an assault on the British Army and only the superior field-craft of the British Army saved them from injury or worse. No need then, for questions.
Yes, we learned lessons that day, but not the one that was intended because we emerged even stronger and even more determined. But we learned that our oppressors owned the law and they owned substantial and hugely influential sections of the communications and media networks, and this is as true on the West bank in Palestine and in Baghdad and Basra as it is in Ireland. We learned that when the lawmakers are the law breakers, then there is no law. We also learned something else that there will be an official version of every single event that is reported in the media and then there is the truth. And that is why we are here today demanding not just freedom for ŒDucksie‚ Doherty, we are demanding that the truth also will be set free.
The theme of this weekend is ŒBogside to Basra‚. Since Bloody Sunday 1972, we have witnessed further erosions of Human Rights on this island and in other conflict areas in the world. The current most graphic illustration of this is witnessed on a daily basis in Palestine and Iraq. We should, but we don‚t hear enough or truthful accounts about Human Rights abuses in Belmarsh Prison or in Guantanamo Bay. The political establishment attempts to criminalise the struggle for self-determination, Equality, Justice and Peace, whilst these same forces and their allies are involved in the criminal invasion of a sovereign nation on the pretext that it was in possession of WMD. They would claim to be bringing democracy to a nation that suffered under a despotic dictator (previously an ally of the West) and that is the justification for British and American troops murdering hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians ˆ men, women and children. We know from our own bitter experience that they killed our friends and neighbours on the same spurious grounds of Œdefending democracy from terrorism‚. We recognise their lies because we have heard them so often. In the meantime the oil has begun to flow again in Iraq under new management and in all of this they have been aided and abetted by the Irish government through the use of Shannon Airport to deliver war to the people of Iraq.
The negation of Human Rights is also being perpetrated daily by the Israeli government against the Palestinians. Since the second Intifada there has been eight times more Palestinians killed than Israelis. Now that is not to dismiss the suffering on all sides but listening to media coverage one would be led to believe that the Palestinians are terrorists responsible for every death in the region. Mind you we are no strangers to that approach where the deaths of nationalists and republicans were always treated with less importance ˆ almost to the point of contempt - than that of British soldiers, unionists or RUC personnel.
The families of the Bloody Sunday victims are acutely aware of this depiction of their loved ones. Thirty-three years of campaigning has yet to bring out the Truth about the Bloody Sunday massacre. But we must not be deterred from our fight for Equality, Justice, Peace and Human Rights for all by a political establishment that pays lip service to democracy while playing fast and loose with human rights and civil liberties and the truth.
I take this opportunity to recommit myself and the republican community to continue our support and solidarity for the families campaigning against Collusion, the Thompson family here in Derry and the many hundreds of other families seeking Truth and Justice about the murder of their family members. We are here to stand by the Bloody Sunday Families in their determination to achieve Truth and Justice for their loved ones. We await, of course with great concern and not a little scepticism, the outcome of the Saville Inquiry. Many of us, when Tony Blair announced that he was setting up the Inquiry and that it would receive the full co-operation of his government and its agencies took a very sceptical view of such an announcement. Experience had taught us that British governments and their agencies did not have a history of co-operation with inquiries into their activities and particularly when it concerned their involvement in Ireland. And so, events during the Inquiry ˆ the mysterious disappearance of evidence, the destruction of the weapons used that day which was carried out immediately the Inquiry was announced, the issuing of Public Interest Immunity Certificates, Edward Heath‚s contemptuous treatment of the Inquiry and the families. Many other events during the tenure of the Inquiry and indeed much more proved that our scepticism was well founded.
The disgraceful imprisonment of Martin ŒDucksie‚ Doherty was just further evidence of the British government and its agencies determination to criminalise republicans rather than expose the truth of its dirty war in Ireland. It is a scandal that Ducksie, an unapologetic Irish Republican who wasn‚t even present at the march should be the only one to see the inside of a prison because of Bloody Sunday. We are here today demanding the Truth about Bloody Sunday and we are here in solidarity with ŒDucksie‚ and his family and we demand his immediate and unconditional release. I reject from this platform Paul Murphy‚s claim that he has no powers to intervene. Does he think that we cannot remember when British Ministers intervened to release British soldiers convicted of murder here in the North?
Ducksie‚s offence, for which he now has a criminal record, was to challenge the British judiciary and their demand that he attend the Saville Inquiry. Not because he was in any position to help the search for truth about Bloody Sunday, but because he was expected to acquiesce under pain of imprisonment, to play a part in a comprehensive conspiracy to hide the truth about Bloody Sunday. He on a point of principle refused to answer allegations made by a perjurer about events that were separate in time and location from the murders on Bloody Sunday. British justice is blind alright, when it suits.
People will wonder and ask, will Saville be different, will he look at the evidence without prejudice and come to a conclusion based solely on the evidence presented to his panel of Inquiry, or will he too, like Widgery be influenced by his political masters and make his determination based on the effect it will have on the reputation of his government? We will just have to wait and see. If the treatment of Ducksie Doherty is an indicator, then it doesn‚t bode well for the outcome. But one thing is for sure, whatever the result, we will take our lead from the decision of the families and support them in whatever avenue they decide to travel. I commend all those people and organisations that have shown solidarity and support for the families down through the years and I am sure that they too will continue that support through this time of limbo.
The battleground, as always is about Truth and I would like to share with you and in particular all of the families who are searching for Truth and Justice, a little verse written by a South African poet that may be of comfort to you.
It is titled simply:
Covered in the dust of defeat
Or so the conquerors believed
But there is nothing can be hidden
from the mind, nothing memory
cannot reach, touch or call back
We know the truth and we will stack our truth against their propaganda and lies until we prevail and the world also comes to know that there can be no Justice without Truth.