Northern Ireland news

Eastwood calls for Bloody Sunday apology from British army

SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood said the British army should acknowledge what its soldiers did in Derry on Bloody Sunday.
Seamus McKinney

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called on the British army to formally apologise for Bloody Sunday.

In an address to the House of Commons ahead of the 50th anniversary of the massacre, Mr Eastwood said the army should acknowledge what its soldiers did and the pain they caused.

Mr Eastwood said the army was right to condemn the flying of Parachute Regiment flags in Derry last week as it was a “grossly offensive act” against Bloody Sunday victims.

"They have yet to apologise and condemn the actions of their soldiers in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972. It is far beyond time they acknowledged what those soldiers did, the immense pain they have caused to families and the indelible mark it has left on our city,” the SDLP leader said.

While asking his question, comments could be heard coming from the DUP MPs bench.

Upon the Foyle MP stating to the house that the Parachute Regiment had been "sent to my city to murder 14 people" East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson was heard to remark "shame", and "they were there to protect the people of Northern Ireland".

Responding to the SDLP leader, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said it was right that the British government apologised for Bloody Sunday in 2010.

"I've added my own personal apology to the government's for that. That is something we also need to ensure that we are all working together to find a way forward to ensure that people are clear that violence is not an answer," Mr Lewis said.

Conservative MP and former defence minister Johnny Mercer criticised Mr Eastwood's comments when later raising a point of order.

"The member for Foyle made an extremely incendiary allegation that British troops went to his constituency in the seventies with the express purposes of murdering the people who lived in Derry," he said.

"We all have a responsibility in this place around the language we use. Legacy is extremely difficult to deal with."

At Prime Minister's Questions, Boris Johnson echoed the words of Mr Lewis when he said: "This Sunday marks a tragic day in our history, this was one of the darkest days of the Troubles. I echo his call to learn from the past, to reconcile and build a shared peaceful and prosperous future."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said in a statement: "In 2010, the chief of general staff (Gen Sir David Richards) fully supported the prime minister's apology on behalf of the government of the United Kingdom, the army and those involved and this remains the army's position."

Meanwhile, a Derry SDLP councillor has called on DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson to explain the comments made by Mr Wilson while Mr Eastwood was addressing the chamber.

Councillor Brian Tierney said the remarks were "outrageous", adding: "Jeffrey Donaldson should explain why his circus of MPs felt it appropriate to denigrate the people of our city at such a difficult time. The people of Derry have faced down bigger bullies than the DUP front bench before and we’ll continue to demonstrate the dignity that they so obviously lack."

The Irish News contacted the DUP last night for comment.

The anniversary of Bloody Sunday will be marked in Derry with a range of events. Former Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn will deliver the annual Bloody Sunday lecture at the Guildhall on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin will lay a wreath at the Bloody Sunday monument in Derry’s Bogside area on Sunday morning.
The ceremony will take place after a ‘Family Walk of Remembrance’ which will re-trace the route of the original civil rights march. Afterwards, the taoiseach will meet families privately in the Museum of Free Derry.

Later in the day, two events have been organised to coincide with the actual anniversary.

The majority of families are expected to join a Beyond the Silence commemoration at Guildhall Square. A march will also take place, again retracing the original protest, culminating at Free Derry Corner where it will be addressed by Eamonn McCann, Bernadette McAliskey and independent Dublin MEP, Clare Daly.

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