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Taoiseach Micheál Martin backs Bloody Sunday families' quest for justice

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has backed the Bloody Sunday families' quest for justice. Picture by Julien Behal/PA Wire
John Manley and Seamus McKinney

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has said he supports the Bloody Sunday families in their quest for justice and that his government "does not believe in amnesties".

The Fianna Fáil leader was speaking to The Irish News last night, ahead of travelling to Derry on Sunday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the killing of 13 civil rights marchers by British soldiers.

He described the atrocity as "terrible violence inflicted by the state", which acted as a "catalyst for an awful lot that happened subsequently".

The taoiseach was 12 years old in January 1972 but says he has clear recollection of the killings and their fallout.

"I’ll always remember it because it had an enormous impact on society right across the island," he said.

"I remember the iconic image of Fr Daly with the white hanky, the outrage and revulsion afterwards, followed by the funerals and the families' very sad stories and sense of loss."

He said Bloody Sunday became an "enduring injustice at the heart of Northern Ireland for a long time".

"It's important to remember it because it was a catalyst for an awful lot that happened subsequently, but fundamentally it speaks of the importance of giving people access to truth, justice and closure," he said.

Recalling how he was minister for foreign affairs when the then British prime minister David Cameron apologised to the families, he said they had "waited too long" before being "vindicated" by the Saville Inquiry.

Mr Martin said he supported "absolutely" the families continued quest for justice and rejected British government legacy proposals, which he said had "united in opposition" every party in the north.

"I’m very clear – I don’t believe in amnesties," he said.

"I believe we had an agreement with the British government on how we deal with legacy and we've made it clear to them that we don’t believe that’s the correct approach at all.

"Those that committed violence on all sides need to come clean, need to give closure, and I continue to support the families entitlement to pursue justice."

The taoiseach said any legacy process needed to make victims and their families "the number one priority" and he urged the British government to "pull back from their position".

Mr Martin praised the Bloody Sunday families for their "dignity and persistence" over five decades.

"That in its own way has inspired others to seek truth and justice," he said.

The taoiseach will lay a wreath at the Bloody Sunday monument in Derry’s Bogside on Sunday morning.

He said it was important to show solidarity with the families and to "remember and share their loss".

Sunday's 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.

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