Bloody Sunday: Victims' families march in silence to read Saville report

Relatives of 14 killed on Bloody Sunday arrive at Guildhall in Derry to applause and emotions ahead of inquiry conclusions

Families of the men killed by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday began poring over the long-awaited and voluminous report into the deaths today, ahead of its official publication later.

Bereaved relatives hugged each other and cried as they marched in silence to the Guildhall in Derry, where they began reading the conclusions of Lord Saville's inquiry into the killings of 14 men on 30 January 1972, an event that led to 30 years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland.

Amid emotional scenes, they arrived at the venue to applause. Relatives clutched placards bearing the photographs of the dead, bearing the motto "Set the Truth Free".

The 60-page executive summary of the report was delivered overnight under heavy security. Lawyers involved in the inquiry were allowed in at 8am.

Two representatives of each of those killed or wounded – a total of 56 family members – gathered under the city walls at 9.45am.

In the warm sunshine, they collected around the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association monument to the fallen that stands on the edge of Bogside, the district of Derry in which the protest that led to the killings began.

The names of the 14 who died are engraved in the grey stone beneath the heading: "Their Epitaph is in the continuing struggle for democracy." Six of the dead were 17 years old.

Joe Friel was shot in the chest by a paratrooper on Bloody Sunday. Bleeding heavily, he staggered away from the soldiers and was carried by friends out of the Bogside.

Friel, now 58, was in the first group of families permitted into the Guildhall in Derry today to be given early sight the long-awaited inquiry into what happened on that day.

"I was in Glenfada Park estate when the shooting started," he recalled. "I was trying to get home across the road to the Rossville Flats.

"There was a real crowd and when I heard [the gunfire] I hid behind a broken down car.

"There was a lull in the shooting so I got up but I saw a soldier who was firing from the hip. Other soldiers came running into the estate and Jim Wray [another civil rights marcher] went down. A soldier put two bullets into him as he lay on the ground.

"I managed to stay on my feet and kept moving. I had been hit in the chest. I kept going but fell to the ground. People picked me up and carried me away."

One of the soldiers later claimed Friel been throwing nail bombs. "So one soldier tried to murder me and one tried to frame me. Total scum.

"I want to see them prosecuted but I know it won't happen."

John Kelly, whose brother died that day, was another of those allowed into the Guildhall early to read the report. "It will be down to the crown prosecution whether there will be any prosecutions now," he said. "My brother's right to life was taken away that day."

After a round of applause, the families walked through the Bogside where the killings took place in 1972. As they moved forward in silence a phalanx of cameramen and photographers walked backwards in front of them.

At William Street, where army barricades blocked their progress into the city centre on that day, the procession turned towards the Guildhall.

Some wore suits, some T-shirts. Many had grey or white hair, a reminder of the passage of time and their long wait for what they hope may finally deliver justice.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael Kelly was killed, said he had been unable to sleep last night as he awaited the release of the report.

"We are not looking for an apology, you cannot apologise to the dead," he said.

But Kelly said he hoped that a 38-year struggle to have the circumstances of his brother's death officially acknowledged was about to end.

"Murder happened here in this city and the politicians will hopefully agree," he said.

"Bloody Sunday had a great impact on the Troubles here. It was a major historical event and today is a major historical event."

Sinn Féin politicians Martin McGuinness and Conor Murphy accompanied the procession.

McGuinness, who was second in command of the IRA in Derry in 1972 and who now fills the role of Northern Ireland deputy first minister, said people around the globe would be anxiously awaiting the publication of the Saville report.

"This is a big day for Derry," he said. "This is a big day for Ireland. This is a big day for the world, because the eyes of the world are looking at what is going to happen."

The report, which runs to 10 volumes at 5,000 pages and reportedly cost £191m to produce, will be officially launched by David Cameron at 3.30pm. An estimated 10,000 people are expected to congregate in Guildhall Square to watch the prime minister's announcement of the report's publication. A small number of police officers have been positioned close to the banks of the River Foyle, discretely away from the main event in Derry city centre.


Owen Bowcott in Derry and Haroon Siddique

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Bloody Sunday: Victims' relatives welcome Saville report findings
At each mention of the innocence of victims of the 1972 shootings, applause and cheers reverberated from Derry Guildhall's walls

Owen Bowcott

15, Jun, 2010 @4:25 PM

Article image
Bloody Sunday: the Saville report as it happened

Full coverage as Lord Saville's inquiry publishes long-awaited report into killings of 14 people in Derry in 1972

Paul Owen and Andrew Sparrow

15, Jun, 2010 @8:57 AM

Bloody Sunday report: the victims

Known circumstances of the deaths of 14 people who were shot on Bloody Sunday by British soldiers in Derry

Syma Tariq

15, Jun, 2010 @11:40 AM

Article image
Bloody Sunday report due at end of March
Families of 14 shot dead by British soldiers in Derry concerned government will see Saville report before them

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent

05, Mar, 2010 @9:32 AM

Derry remembers Bloody Sunday victims
Former bishop of Derry Edward Daly today joined more than 1,000 of the city's people in remembering Bloody Sunday 30 years on, wearing the same clerical stole he wore that day.

Staff and agencies

30, Jan, 2002 @5:31 PM

Article image
Bloody Sunday inquiry delay angers victims' relatives
• £200m and 11-year-long Saville report into Derry shootings delayed again
• Families fear new March publication date may clash with possible election

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent

24, Sep, 2009 @9:21 AM

Article image
Bloody Sunday report: David Cameron apologises for 'unjustifiable' shootings
Prime minister 'deeply sorry' for killings by British paras as Saville report opens possibility for prosecution of soldiers

Henry McDonald and Owen Bowcott in Derry, and Hélène Mulholland

15, Jun, 2010 @4:47 PM

Article image
Bloody Sunday report: we will soon have to decide what happens next | Michael White

Michael White: Before we are faced with that difficult decision, it is worth looking at the global context of the Derry shootings

Michael White

11, Jun, 2010 @10:31 AM

Bloody Sunday: Soldiers may face prosecution over 'unjustifiable' killings

David Cameron apologises for killings by British paras as Saville report opens possibility for prosecution of soldiers

Henry McDonald and Owen Bowcott in Derry, and Hélène Mulholland

15, Jun, 2010 @5:50 PM

Article image
Families of Troubles victims warn against amnesty for soldiers
Emmett McConomy, whose 11-year-old brother died in 1982, said cases ‘not going away’

Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor

16, Feb, 2020 @6:26 PM