President Higgins praises Bloody Sunday families for 'relentless pursuit of truth'

President Higgins praises Bloody Sunday families for 'relentless pursuit of truth'

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to the families of the Bloody Sunday victims for their "relentless pursuit of truth".

Their determination has helped turn Derry into a "beacon of hope and justice… battling and succeeding against the odds".

President Higgins made the comments in a pre-recorded message played at the Beyond the Silence event at the Millennium Forum Theatre in Derry this afternoon.

The special event was one of several marking the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, which resulted in the deaths of 14 innocent civilians in 1972.

In his address, President Higgins praised campaigners' efforts to continue to seek justice after the 1972 Widgery Tribunal, which blamed the protestors for creating a "highly dangerous situation".

'Grievous wrong'

"Let me pay tribute to those who have made, and continue to make it possible, for us to stand in this ceremony of memory and solidarity with you today," said the President.

"The families and neighbours of those who lost their lives in Derry all those years ago, those who, in a relentless pursuit of truth, stood in solidarity with you during your long campaign to vindicate the memories of your loved ones.

"Your campaign required overturning those forces who sought to avoid the necessary truth of what took place, and evade accountability.

"Forces that stood between you and your efforts to overturn, for example, the historic, grievous wrong of the Widgery Tribunal."

In 2010, 12 years after it was established, the Saville Inquiry ultimately absolved the protestors, leading to an apology from then Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Inquiry followed years of campaigning from families and the result was an inspiration to those everywhere seeking truth and justice, said President Higgins.

'Courage and endurance'

"We remember today that breakthrough of justice that is represented by the Saville Report and the importance of recognising and acknowledging the courage and endurance of those involved in the campaign that precipitated its publication," said Higgins.

"We remember it, not as something perfect or complete, and not as a resolution for the families or for the city or for one community, but rather as a step away from any form of collusive evasion, a step forward for everyone, everywhere seeking the truth of actions, a gain in common with every other effort at achieving a measure of an enabling justice for the future, one that can succeed, and in that it comes after historic injustice, invites to a future in peace."

The determination of those seeking truth, just like those seeking their civil rights in 1972, had helped forge Derry into a "thriving" city, added Higgins.

'Transformed society'

"Yours is a city of diverse sources of pride, ideas and of energy with a vision for the future," he said.

"Yours is a city thriving in its efforts at achieving a transformed society, one that was made possible by the Good Friday Agreement – built, as it is, on ideas that reflect the values for which those thousands of people marched that day 50 years ago: equality, justice and respect for civil rights for all."

He added: "Let us all celebrate that, in transcending all the darkness and the wrongs, the exclusions, today Derry stands as a beacon of hope and justice, of battling and succeeding against the odds, a peace and a people with an inclusive achievement of dignified and respectful ethical remembering.

"That is your legacy and the legacy of those who lost their lives on that day, Bloody Sunday, and on subsequent days."

The Beyond the Silence event was preceded on Sunday by a Families' Walk of Remembrance and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Bloody Sunday Monument.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gave the 2022 Bloody Sunday Memorial Lecture at Derry's Guildhall, in which he criticised those impeding justice for the victims of Bloody Sunday.