Belfast Telegraph

US civil rights hero Jackson opens new Free Derry Museum

By Donna Deeney

American civil rights veteran Rev Jesse Jackson has ended a two-day visit to Londonderry by officially opening the Museum of Free Derry along with Martin McGuinness' widow and son.

Rev Jackson, who had earlier laid a wreath at the grave of Mr McGuinness, said Northern Ireland had moved from bombs and violence to reconciliation and politics through the efforts of people like him.

The museum, in Glenfada Park in the Bogside, tells the history of Troubles-related events from 1968 to 1972 in the area known as Free Derry, including the deaths of soldiers and policemen.

Its main emphasis is on Bloody Sunday on January 31, 1972, when 14 civil rights marchers were shot dead by British paratroopers.

Last night's opening coincided with the seventh anniversary of the publication of Lord Saville's report into Bloody Sunday, which declared that all 14 victims were innocent.

Rev Jackson said: "Free Derry is the cornerstone of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.

"This is sacred ground - holy ground - set apart to remind and teach future generations what happened here.

"We look inside this museum and we see what we have been through and the thing we are saying is we are not going backward, we are going forwards with hope and through democracy.

"The museum has put the struggle that took place here in the context for freedom, peace and justice everywhere."

John Kelly, who works at the museum, and whose brother Michael was among those who died, said the opening was symbolic of of a small acorn growing into a mighty oak.

He explained: "It is very fitting that Jesse Jackson, who is such a giant in the civil rights movement, opened the museum which tells the story of the civil rights movement here. We are so proud of where we are now, it has been a long journey, like a small acorn growing into a giant oak tree from a small room with a few photographs and a television screen to this £2.5m building where 13,000 people have already come."

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