Belfast Telegraph

Bloody Sunday: Emotions high as relatives' 47-year battle for justice nears its climax

Families of victims to learn this week if Paras to be tried over killings of 14 people

Liam Wray at the spot where his brother Jim was shot dead
Liam Wray at the spot where his brother Jim was shot dead
A mural paying tribute to the Bloody Sunday victims
Kate Nash tends to the grave of her brother William
DUP MP Gregory Campbell
Liam Wray's brother Jim
Kate Nash's brother William
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

From Jim Wray's grave in the cold and lonely cemetery overlooking Londonderry his brother Liam can see the spot in the Bogside where the 22-year-old fell after being killed by a British Paratrooper on January 30, 1972.

Jim was shot twice as he ran for cover in Glenfada Park. Two witnesses to the Saville Inquiry said he was lying on the ground, wounded when a soldier fired the shot that snuffed out his life.

As snow settled on his headstone, Liam (65) says the family have waited a lifetime for this week. For after 47 years they will discover on Thursday if soldiers involved in Jim's death will face prosecution.

He says they have never given up fighting for justice for the man they knew as "the gentle giant".

"There is an anticipation and anxiety coming into this week," he said. "After 47 years obviously this is a moment in time that our family have, from day one, always demanded happen. It will be a big day when we hear the news and we just hope that it won't be a big disappointment.

"I am caught up with those emotions - hope and a little bit of fear over what will happen.

"I wouldn't be a blubbery type of person, but I feel that this last few days. Maybe it's the tension, the anxiety and the fear that you could go in and not get a good result. But we will not give up. We will still keep going to get the truth."

Liam says he relives the horrific memories daily of the day he lost his "big brother". His mother Sarah died two years later.

Family members have dedicated their entire lives to seeking justice and ensuring that what happened on Bloody Sunday never happens again. He says he wants his brother's death "not to have been in vain". He does not, however, want soldiers to serve time in jail.

"I certainly want prosecutions," he said. "I wouldn't care if soldier F and H were prosecuted and convicted of the murder of my brother and the judge said that they could go home and behave themselves. It's not about vengeance. I don't care if they never spend a day in jail. I would get no pleasure or satisfaction from that.

"Forty-seven years ago it might have. But now it wouldn't make one iota of difference to my life if they were told they were convicted murderers and told to go home."

Yards away in the City Cemetery Kate Nash (69) tends to her brother William's grave. The 19-year-old dock worker was shot in the chest near the Rossville Street barricade. His dad Alex saw his son being shot and went to help him, and was then shot himself.

Ms Nash says her stomach is "in knots" waiting for this week's news on possible prosecutions. She has dedicated her life to being a voice for her brother and says the families, "just want justice".

"I want prosecutions and I want convictions," she said. "My view is that whatever a judge decides is punishment, I will accept. I want murder convictions, that is what is important to me.

"The sentence would not be important to me, it is the prosecution and conviction. That would give me a little closure because it is a burden too. There's a constant struggle in my mind and thinking 'how dare they do this', all the emotions you go through.

"I hear politicians talking about jailing this one and that one, but not soldiers, because they shouldn't have to face that. What makes them special that they shouldn't have to face it?"

Across the city in the Waterside, DUP MP Gregory Campbell says the unionist community feels "angry over double standards". He says that soldier prosecutions will set a "bad precedent" and that the two police officers killed in the city by the IRA in the days before Bloody Sunday "have been totally forgotten".

"It appears that there is a hierarchy of victimhood," he claimed.

"Because there are some relatives of victims who seem to get an inordinate amount of money, resources, investigations and now possibly challenges in court to lead to conviction or whatever, whereas for others there are none of that. So there is nothing that displays a hierarchy of victimhood more than that.

"So there is anger that there is a two-speed system of justice, whereas the infinitesimally small number of people who were killed by the state services compared to those killed at the hand of terrorists - like at Claudy, La Mon, Kingsmills - get very little if any attention paid to them, and certainly no prosecutions. And this week we will again see evidence of double standards."

In England, as soldiers involved in the events of Bloody Sunday await to hear their fate, Alan Barry, founder of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group, claimed pushing for convictions in the Bloody Sunday case is "sick and twisted".

"I do not condone what happened on Bloody Sunday. I think it was awful, certainly discipline was an issue. But no one knows how you are going to act when you come under fire. And the soldiers that day were fired upon and mistakes were made.

"Why is it that nationalist community cannot live with the past and put it behind them? Why is it that they feel the need for old men to be dragged through the legal system? Basically, it's sick and twisted. This isn't about closure, it's about revenge and it's about the republican machine of Sinn Fein constantly pumping their narrative into people's heads where we are portrayed as the bad guys and the IRA are the portrayed as these Robin Hood freedom fighter characters."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph