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John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to Kate Nash of the Bloody Sunday March for Justice via telephone from Doire about the Justice for Veterans UK march that was planned to be held near The Bogside and about the status of the prosecutions of Bloody Sunday soldiers. (begins time stamp ~ 31:03)
Martin: I believe we have on the line Kate Nash. Kate, are you with us?
Kate: Yes, indeed I am, Martin. Hello.
Martin: Yes, Kate, hi. Kate, I’m just reading something from BBC – Bloody Sunday, of course, where your brother was killed, January 30th 1972 – your father was wounded. There were thousands of people on the streets marching in a civil rights march against internment – shot down by British troopers. And there was almost another march, it was originally scheduled for March 4th but it’s been called off, and I’m just reading from the BBC about a group, Northern Ireland branch of the Veterans for Justice and how they’re upset by ‘false prosecutions’ of British soldiers. And the leader of that group said:
if soldiers break the law they face the rigours of the law and rightly so and it’s the same as it should be for any other member of the community. But where’s the investigation into my colleagues and friends who were murdered? It seems to be forgotten about.
Now Kate we thought we’d call you. You’re still marching for prosecutions of any British soldiers as the result of the murder of your brother and – actually a total of fourteen people, the wounding of so many others – in plain site, plain view, openly, observed by thousands of people in Doire. Exactly where are we in terms of getting prosecutions of British soldiers for that?
Kate: Well, several months later we’re still waiting for the Public Prosecution Service to send us word that either these soldiers will be going into court or it’s not in the public interest to prosecute them. That’s exactly where we’re at. We haven’t heard anything from them. Actually, we have a letter here that I’m sure all families got and there’s a number on it for a care worker who we can liaise with at the Public Prosecution Service and Liam Wray actually tried that number and it’s dead. It’s a non-existent number. So that’s how much they care.
Martin: Alright. Now, this march – it’s just fascinating to me, they are now claiming they were going to march, it’s been called off. I know you were involved – there are quite a number of people in Doire – the Saoradh political party, others – but I just – they say that no one, no Republicans, have ever been prosecuted for killing British troopers. About how many people, between internment, between charges, between sent to Maghaberry, between Long Kesh, between Crumlin Road – all the other prisons – how many people were inside, Republicans or Loyalists, were inside British prisons because of attacks on British soldiers?
Kate: Well I’ll tell you: There’s been twenty-five thousand Republicans have gone through the courts and prosecuted. And there’s been twenty thousand Loyalists. So when they say to you that there are only – and in fact only a handful, I mean four maybe five soldiers, have gone through the courts in all that time. They got small sentences, even for murder. They got small sentences and in fact, came out, got back into the British Army and indeed some of them were decorated. As you know the Bloody Sunday soldiers were actually decorated for what they did on Bloody Sunday. But these soldiers went back into the Army and rose up the ranks.
Martin: And one wonders, when they say they went to prison, like for the murder of Kidso Reilly and others, whether it just was that they were put into a different barracks or a different type of duty serving with the British Army. I just want to – you’ve used the term, or it has been used, that the British troopers have impunity’ – they had an undeclared amnesty – that they weren’t being prosecuted. And now, as it looks, you and the other Bloody Sunday families, the people in The North of Ireland who fought behind your campaign are at the point where prosecutions or acts – well files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, sort of like a District Attorney there, Barra McGrory, a decision will be made – it hasn’t been made yet – whether to prosecute or not. That seems to have gotten all this action: threats of marches, calls for amnesty, call for a statute of limitations which would whitewash everybody, calls in Westminster for there to be new laws that they shouldn’t be prosecuted. I just want to go through what your family and the others who support you have gotten, how much it has taken, even to get to this stage – after Bloody Sunday what happened? What was said about your brother, about the others who were killed that day? What sort of claims were made about them by the British?
Kate: Yes. Yes. My brother – in the newspapers – they claimed he was a gunman. He was completely demonised. The whole family were, in fact. The British newspapers said that we were a pro-Republican, violent family – actually nothing was further from the truth. Although I did have brothers involved in boxing even at professional level – not then but later on. (One of them actually went to the Olympic Games in Munch that same year.) However, that was the sort of thing they said about us. As you know, we got hate mail. We got hate mail from everywhere and saying that he deserved to die. In fact, what we had to do was, because my mother wasn’t very well – she’d had a heart attack – we had to actually watch for the postman so that we could actually get the mail and keep it away from her – she was just so upset – some of the ugly, terrible things that were being written you know? So…
Martin: …So I just want to explain to our audience: It’s a civil rights march, it was publicly called, it was well-known, there were thousands of people who attended. People had been interned without charge or trial in Doire and across The North that previous August.
Kate: That’s right.
Martin: Your brother and a number of other people, fourteen died – thirteen that day, a fourteenth later on – others were wounded, severely wounded, including your father.
Kate: That’s right.
Martin: They’re obviously marching. This is seen. It’s witnessed. And the British government says your brother was a gunman, others were nail bombers or assisted nail bombers or other excuses. You get hate mail. You get demonised. So you not only have to live with close family members being killed or wounded but you have to live with that type of demonisation – with hate mail, with being having him branded as a gunman, somebody who deserved to die – that sort of thing. Alright. It took months but because of the outcry, because of the campaign, you got a tribunal – it was lead by a famous Lord Justice who was going to bring justice to The North named Lord Widgery. And what happened at the end result of that tribunal?
Kate: Well what happened was they basically blamed the victims and although they did admit that soldiers might have been a little bit hasty basically the victims were to blame for themselves. And that’s what happened. In fact, my father, at one stage, was actually told that he didn’t really know his son. You know, I can tell you… (crosstalk)
Martin: …Well I remember the Widgery Report, it actually became famous because I remember being in Ireland just a few months later and somebody would tell a crazy tale or something like that and people would shout out: Oh! Widgery wouldn’t even accept that one or You couldn’t Widgery your way out of something (If you wanted to tell a lie.) It was a complete whitewash. So your brother stayed branded as a gunman. Others stayed branded as nail bombers or assisted nail, bombers. How much longer did you have to campaign, march, struggle to get something changed?
Kate: Well the families marched I mean for years and then some fell away obviously because they didn’t want – because the Provisional IRA took over that march the families didn’t want the association with the you know – innocents victims really and the IRA – because they would have given them a whip, really, to beat us with, you know? But then again the campaign started again then in I believe in ’92 – well when the Good Friday Agreement happened and …(crosstalk)
Martin: …Alright. Now that was in 1998. And because of Doire and Bloody Sunday being so important – I mean it’s unfortunate but there have been many, many families who lost people – innocent victims of either British troops or the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) or people that they hired, their hirelings – Loyalist killers, etc. For example, the Ballymurphy Families, that I know you’re close to, they still are branded as criminals, as gunmen – that sort of thing. Those killings occurred in August of 1971. But because Doire and Bloody Sunday was witnessed by so many people it was made part of the Good Friday Agreement that we’re now going to get justice, that we’re now going to – a new day has dawned, new justice will happen. How long did it take before there was a finding clearing your brother and the others who were victims of Bloody Sunday from that inquiry that was announced as part of this Good Friday Agreement in 1998?
Kate: Well the inquiry took six years and then we waited a further six years to get the conclusions. And we got the conclusions in 2010, June of 2010. We’re now into almost the seventh, it’ll be seven years. And you would have thought with those conclusions, because they said the victims were killed without fear or panic, and the soldiers knowingly lied about this so you would have expected prosecutions to follow but that didn’t happen. We’re now seven years, almost seven years later, in June, and so – we wait.
Martin: Alright. Now you’re on the verge of a decision being made on whether there’ll be prosecutions and all of sudden you hear about this march being announced by the Veterans for Justice group about who feel they are being mistreated. There are announcements in England, in Westminster – one person whose a Member of Parliament said he used to torture people in The North of Ireland. What was planned for March 4th in Doire?
Kate: Well these guys had decided, these veterans, had decided they were going to march. As you know here, Martin, when you march here you have to apply to what we call the Parades Commission for permission to march – I think it’s usually thirty days notice – something like that. So these guys, the Parades Commission obviously gave these guys permission to march and it was announced in the press. And I can tell you all hell broke loose in Doire. The Parades Commission were inundated with phone calls and emails totally against – people, people telling them that they didn’t want these guys to march. There was just such a rage. And it was like you know – it could almost take you back forty-five years. This had the potential to turn into something extremely violent because the people of Doire, even though it’s been forty-five years, the people of Doire are still very raw at what happened and that was palpable. You could feel it in the city, you know? Everybody. There was rage everywhere.
Martin: Alright. And there were also counter-demonstrations called – groups like Saoradh and others were going to march against…
Kate: …Saoradh, a group here, Saoradh were planning to march from Free Derry Wall but you have to understand though, that this, these veterans, these old soldiers would have been marching to The Diamond which is literally a five minute stroll from The Bogside where all these victims died. So this is where these guys were going to come to.
And Saoradh was going to march from Free Derry Wall up to The Diamond and I believe the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party), we call them the Irps, they were going to march and of course, we would have had to definitely arrange a counter-demonstration through the families and supporters of course and that would have brought, I know that would have brought thousands and thousands of people onto the street. I was very afraid, to be honest – very, very afraid – because I knew something would – there would have been a tremendous amount of trouble and you don’t want people hurt. I just wouldn’t want anybody hurt. So I was really, really glad when it was called off. But thank God, through the auspices of the pressure that the people here in Doire – and Belfast – other people were contacting us as well – were putting on the Parades Commission the pressure to stop that march and obviously they realised then that would have been the sensible thing to do.
John: Alright now Kate, this was definitely a political decision – where to march. They could have marched Ballymena or some Loyalist area…
Kate: Of course. Of course.
John: …and they probably would have gotten a great reception as they marched through. But they deliberately said we’re going to march through Doire. And then how did it move…
Martin: …It was like the Ku Klux Klan when they wanted to march in Skokie or somewhere like that – they have to march in an area – worst type of area…
John: …And what’s the official reason they’re not marching now?
Kate: Well according to the Parades Commission they actually withdrew, they actually withdrew their – what they asked for they withdrew the – to ask for the march. They just withdrew that application. But I don’t believe that. I believe actually what happened was the pressure, I know the pressure was great. I had called all the MLAs in the city and strangely, the only one that didn’t get back to me was the Unionist, I’ll not name him, the Unionist MLA at Stormont – he didn’t get back to me though I really wasn’t surprised at that. But I called my solicitor. I was going to mount a legal challenge to have it stopped because I knew there was potential for great violence. And the people – just so raw – what happened here Bloody Sunday – it’s just so raw with the people and I knew it had the potential for (inaudible). We didn’t want that.
Martin: Alright, Kate, there are – we’re at the stage, Barra McGrory is going to make a decision one way or another on whether there’ll be prosecutions or not. It seems all of a sudden the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) has said there should be a statute of limitations, a cut-off, so that none of those troops – it would cover all of them – give them that undeclared amnesty or impunity. It seems like there’s discussions in Westminster to put pressure on Barra McGrory or talk about new legislation. What – How do you react when you see the – I can’t tell you how many times I was on interviews with BBC and they always say: Well, if British soldiers did anything wrong they should face the courts. Everyone should face the courts. Yet now, at this point, you’ve fought for so many years since 1972 to get British troopers into the courts for the crime of Bloody Sunday which was seen by and witnessed by so many and which even a British Prime Minister has said it was ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’, how do you feel when you see all of these moves up there just to get that undeclared amnesty put into effect and continue?
Kate: It’s appalling. It’s appalling but then that’s what the British have done here for as far back as I can remember. They’ve always bent the law, manipulated the law and broke the law so that actually they could just get their own way. They, I mean, the Bloody Sunday case could have been seen to very, very – could have been finished a very long time ago had the police, had the police here been allowed to do – or had the police done their job – this should have been through the courts very many great number of years ago. But because of government pressure and because of the, well British government pressure, that hasn’t been allowed to happen. The law of the land has not been allowed to take its course. Look, we just had dinner there just recently with a guy who was here on Bloody Sunday – an Italian photographer.
His name was Fulvio Grimaldi. And he wrote a book about it. And he told us, even at eighty-three years of age, he said he’s been to Syria, Afghanistan – he’s been all sorts of places where wars were taking place and he said he never got over what happened at Bloody Sunday. He’s never witnessed anything more brutal. He says the innocence of people and he said these soldiers just shooting at them. They shot at him, too, by the way – he had to get film out you know by way of – apparently Martin McGuinness, he was saying, helped him – get film out of the city and out of the country, you know – to save it because the British were looking for it, you know? But he said he’d never seen anything more brutal in all the wars that he’s seen than what happened here that day on Bloody Sunday. So I mean that’s says it all really.
Martin: Alright, Kate. We’re talking to Kate Nash of the Bloody Sunday March committee…
Kate: …Martin, can I say one more thing more, please?
Kate: I heard you saying about keeping your station on the air. I didn’t know it was in any danger of not being on the air. I think it’s so important to keep that station on the air because I feel, and I know lots of other people here, we feel that that’s our voice. People in America, I urge America and others: Hear what’s happening, the real truth, about what’s happening here in Ireland and please, please get behind that station and support it. Keep it on the air.
Martin: Alright. And we’ve been talking to Kate Nash. Kate, I want to thank you. I know you listen every week. You’ve helped us get guests on the programme to help to keep it going. (Martin makes a fund raising appeal/testimonial.) Alright thank you, Kate. We’ll be following and we’re hoping to have you on when prosecutions are announced and we’re hoping, finally, that you know – although it won’t be the top people – the people who gave the orders, the people who gave the commands – at least it’s a start that someone will face justice for murder in front of so many thousands of people in Doire in January of 1972. Alright, thank you, Kate.
Kate: Please God. Thank you very much, Martin. Thank you. (ends time stamp ~ 50:40)