Poison of Bloody Sunday finally seeps away as city moves on
The people of Derry yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday -- the event which shaped the history of their city when 14 youths and men on a civil rights march were killed by British soldiers.
Fewer people turned out than in previous years in a city whose atmosphere has improved greatly since British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged in 2010 that those shot dead by paratroopers were innocent.
Only a few of the bereaved joined yesterday's march, which attracted more than 1,000 people.
Most families instead attended an outdoor service, where a minute's silence was observed and wreaths were laid to remember those killed on January 29, 1972.
"The lancing of the boil that occurred with Cameron was incredible," said Pat McArt, who edited the 'Derry Journal' for almost a quarter of a century.
"Bloody Sunday was a massive poison on the city. You could feel it. Now there's a different atmosphere. The whole cultural and social thing is moving on."
Tommy McCourt, a community worker, added: "People were delighted and there was a lot of relief that those killed were exonerated.
"There is a lessening of the anger and urgency. But a lot of people still feel there is a distance to go."
For many of these people, the key issue is whether the soldiers involved will be prosecuted. For 18 months, police and the authorities have been studying the legal and political issues involved.
"Families have different views," said Liam Wray, whose brother Jim, then 17, was killed.
"What Cameron did was admirable but he said the shootings were unjustified and unjustifiable. That means those who were shot dead were murdered. I will campaign for prosecution as long as I've air in my lungs."
But no one predicts an early end to the sporadic violence of local dissidents, the splintered remnants of the now-inactive major republican groups.
Ivan Cooper, a retired politician and civil rights leader who was present on Bloody Sunday, said: "Public opinion is strongly against them, but it's not difficult for a hundred people to keep the whole thing going."
Mr McArt added: "These dissidents got into a groove in 1972. They haven't got out of it -- and they're never coming out of it until the day they die, but the rest of Derry has moved on."