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Derry council set to provide £50k support for Bloody Sunday 50th anniversary event


Bishop Daly (right) on Bloody Sunday

Bishop Daly (right) on Bloody Sunday

Bishop Daly (right) on Bloody Sunday

Approval was given for Derry City and Strabane council to provide financial support of £50,000 for a major event to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday next January — despite opposition from three unionist councillors.

The costs of the overall event planned by the Bloody Sunday Trust are estimated to be around £150,000 with an estimated request of £50,000 for costs from the council.

The Bloody Sunday Trust approached the council about ways they could support the milestone event.

The report, presented by the council’s head of culture, Aeidin McCarter to its business and culture committee, noted that the main event, Beyond The Silence, will be held on Sunday, January 30, 2022.

This will be a large-scale event attracting in excess of 7,000 attendees that will mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and events since that day.

The focus will be on the lives of the 14 civil rights marchers who were killed — one of these died later from his injuries, and those wounded, but will also include a dedication to everyone killed during the Troubles.

It is envisaged that there will be a significant international media presence at the event along with dignitaries and VIPs.

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The event will begin in William Street at the same time the shooting began, with a symbolic event. The families will then proceed to Guildhall Square along a route animated to commemorate the events of Bloody Sunday and its aftermath.

The majority of the crowd will be gathered in Guildhall Square/Waterloo Square waiting for the families.

SDLP councillor Rory Farrell described Bloody Sunday as ‘one of the seminal events in Irish history’.

He said: “The 50th anniversary of that terrible day is six months away and it’s right and it’s proper that council makes a financial contribution for events to remember and commemorate the atrocity.”

Sinn Fein councillor Sandra Duffy put on record Sinn Fein’s continued support for the Bloody Sunday families.

She added: “I, like others, have met with the Bloody Sunday Trust to discuss their plans and I have to say it is a powerful programme and it is impressive the amount of work they have already put into it and it will have huge international interest.

“It was a hugely significant day in our history and it has indeed shaped our future and where we are today and we absolutely should be supporting it.”

People Before Profit councillor Shaun Harkin gave his support to the recommendation, saying: “Bloody Sunday changed Derry’s history, it changed history in the north of Ireland, it changed Irish history, it was an international event and is now part of international history but it’s not something that is in the past because there has not yet been justice for the families.

“The 50th anniversary should be properly marked in our City and people should have the opportunity to learn about Bloody Sunday.”

DUP Alderman David Ramsey said his party would not be in a position to support these recommendations.

He added: “We need more information on how this event will be inclusive based on our history in our city, our legacy and how we move on as a people. I think it is very important that we find how we can be inclusive considering the many families that suffered in this area who lost their lives in the Troubles.”

Mr Ramsey also had an issue with the Robert Ballagh painting of the Bloody Sunday event which is proposed that it will hang in the Guildhall.

“The Guildhall is a neutral space. How do we as a council make sure we are including all the victims of the Troubles in our City and District? This was not a one religion thing, a lot of people lost their lives from all religions.”

UUP Alderman Darren Guy said he had no problem with people marking the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, however, he had concerns about the amount of money council would be contributing.

“Everybody should be able to mark such significant events freely,” he said. “However, I do question the request for assistance of funding for this specific event from council of almost £50,000.

“£50,000 is almost 1% of our rates budget, a budget that many Members wanted to reduce to zero per cent yet now back requests such as this when there are staffing issues in some departments which has already begun to affect council services.”

Independent councillor Raymond Barr spoke passionately about the events of January 30, 1972.

“This was a slaughter of innocents which impacted greatly on this City and the island of Ireland and reverberated throughout the world and received condemnation throughout the world and still does,” he said.

“As one who witnessed the attack on marchers and one who spoke with one of the victims shortly before his murder, I welcome this report and wholeheartedly support this recommendation.”

Independent Councillor Gary Donelly agreed, saying: “Bloody Sunday was the deliberate, cold blooded murder of innocents and this significant anniversary needs to be marked.”

DUP Alderman Maurice Devenny referred to some of the comments made about the amnesty.

He said: “I have listened intently to some of the comments in and around the amnesty and once again all that’s coming across from republicans is that this protects British soldiers. When I look at that amnesty, I see that it protects members of the IRA, it protects all those republican groups and all others who carried out atrocities across Northern Ireland and it sends out a very negative message to all those innocent victims.

“Our party has put on the record many, many times that wrong is wrong, it’s never right. I’m sure the members of the families who had loved ones killed on Bloody Sunday would agree with my comments that everyone is entitled to some justice and answers about who murdered their loved ones and why they were murdered. It’s the innocent victim who I’m thinking of.”

An attempt by UUP Councillor Derek Hussey to have the 50th anniversary of the murder of Winston Donnell, the first UDR soldier killed, also marked by council was described by Mr Duffy as ‘mischievous’, with Mr Donnelly accusing the Alderman of trying to ‘lead us astray’.

Committee chair, Sinn Fein councillor Conor Heaney, refused to accept the proposal and the recommendation to approve the provisional financial commitment subject to an application to the major events fund; the provision of in kind advice and assistance from the various Council departments to enable the Bloody Sunday Trust to deliver the event and the locating of the Robert Ballagh painting in the Guildhall for a set period was approved with eight votes for and three against.

The decision will go before the Full Council for ratification at the end of the month.

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