Derry museum protest ends as exhibition row resolved
Two pensioners occupying the Museum of Free Derry in protest at a controversial exhibition have gone home after the organisers bowed to their demands.
Helen Deery, whose 15-year-old brother Manus was shot dead by a British soldier in 1972, and Linda Nash, whose 19-year-old brother William was killed on Bloody Sunday in the same year, had been sleeping on the floor of the Bogside museum for the past six days.
They had been left outraged after their relatives' names had been displayed on an exhibit alongside the names of soldiers who died in the Troubles.
But after a meeting of the Bloody Sunday Trust yesterday evening and the intervention of a mediator, an agreement was reached that the exhibition would be taken down and replaced.
"We gave our proposal," said Helen. "They accepted it and we agreed to leave. Before we left I wanted to watch the museum manager switch off the exhibition.
"I saw him take out the ladder, pull out the wires in the ceiling and I watched the screen go blank.
"Only then I was able to walk out of there with my wee brother.
"I felt I could take him with me. I know my mother was looking down on me, proud as punch.
"I know my brother Manus was too, God love him. I am happy at the outcome. I am totally exhausted. I just want a bath and my own bed now." Linda said she was happy to be outside in fresh air after spending six full days and nights on the floor of the museum, but she says did not see the move as a victory.
"I wouldn't call this a victory, absolutely not," she said. "It was sad the reason we had to go in there, but we felt it was something we had to do. We tried everything else - protest, petitions, calling them continually. We had to go in and protest.
"I just could not put up with something that was so wrong.
"The exhibition was taking people's peace of mind away."
Bloody Sunday Trust chairman Robin Percival said an agreement was reached with the women that would see the exhibition in its current form removed and replaced with what was originally on view in the museum - the names of those killed on a computer that the public could scroll through.
"The Bloody Sunday Trust, in an attempt to resolve the impasse, and in response to the expressed concerns about the health and wellbeing of the protesters, is prepared to remove, in the interim, the current exhibit, and redisplay it more in keeping with its original format," Mr Percival said.
"If you are a visitor coming to the museum you will be able to see the exhibition, sitting down on a computer, rather than standing watching it flashed up on the wall. On that basis the women have left the building.
"We are committed to beginning discussions with the two ladies on Monday, September 11.
"The Trust also wishes to say that the consultation with relatives of victims who live in Derry has now been completed and these results will be published within the next few days."
Last night Helen and Linda met well wishers outside the Museum of Free Derry who had gathered to welcome them home.
"People are asking me how we did it," said Linda. "If it were their family, they would find the strength from somewhere like we did. We are glad it's over and we can go home."