Bloody Sunday families protest over Army names on exhibition
Tempers flared as the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday attended a protest outside the Museum of Free Derry yesterday to demand the withdrawal of soldiers' names from an exhibition.
Up to 50 people - including Kate and Linda Nash, whose teenage brother William was killed on Bloody Sunday - gathered at the Bogside museum at noon to protest at the inclusion of the names of murdered soldiers alongside civilians who were gunned down by the Army.
Inside, the names of everyone killed during the Troubles from 1969 to 1972 - IRA terrorists, civilians, Army and police personnel - flash up on a screen on one visual exhibition.
Owned by the Bloody Sunday Trust, the museum opened again in February after a multi-million pound redevelopment project.
Protesters descended on the facility yesterday afternoon, congregating at its entrance. Staff members who came out to speak with the crowd were met with chants of 'shame on you'.
There were heated arguments between opposing sides during the hour-long protest as a steady stream of bewildered tourists entered and left the museum.
Jean Hegarty, whose teenage brother Kevin McElhinney was shot on Bloody Sunday and who works at the museum, says she understands the view of some of the families, but that the truth is hard to ignore. "There is no doubt that it is a traumatic experience," she said. "There is no doubt that it is difficult to live with that a soldier did this, but it is a fact that soldiers did die in the same place as my brother.
"It is difficult for a lot of people to look at that. But it is a fact, and it is a fact that we can't change."
Margaret Wray, sister of Jim Wray who was killed on Bloody Sunday in 1972, confronted museum staff outside the building.
"My brother's blood-soaked jacket is one of the exhibitions in the museum," she said. "It has the bullet holes in it where he was shot. I will take that artefact back if they don't take the names of the soldiers down."
Kate Nash, who delivered a 1,000-name petition calling on the exhibition to be removed, said the campaign will continue.
"Emotions were running high today," she commented. "We understand how everyone feels. The fact of the matter is that there is a display in the museum that is not appropriate for the area that it is in, with respect to the RUC and soldiers. They have their commemorations in other places.
"I feel they (the families) should have been consulted. This is about having respect for people."
Bloody Sunday Trust member Tony Doherty, whose father Patrick was killed on Bloody Sunday, said he was taken aback by the anger of the protesters, but added that people can't "pick and choose history". "People have the right to their opinions," he commented.
"The exhibition that is currently in the museum has been accessible at any stage over the last 10 years, including the chronology of deaths that people are now complaining about.
"The history of Free Derry is the history of Free Derry, you can't pick and choose bits and pieces to suit your own political perspective on this.
"It's not a memorial. It's a straight-forward chronological sequence of all deaths that took place in 1969 to 1972.
"It's as simple as that. People are obviously angry about this, as was evident today.
"I am taken aback by the anger. I think we need a levelled debate and I would be quite happy to engage in that debate.
"We will listen to what the small number of people who came here today have said but we are confident that the vast majority of people in this city are happy with what we are doing."