The Tirconnail Tribune, 30th January 2000
It was mighty. We set off-all 20,000 of us- from the Creggan.There were elderly AOH men from the States.
There was a Republican Flute band from the West of Scotland.
Both were affirming their part in the Irish story, both had a right to be there, we all had a right to march.
So did the people of Derry 28 years ago, but the Paras hadn’t heard of Parity of Esteem.
The parade followed the route to have been taken by civil rights demonstrators in the city on January 30, 1972, when British paratroopers opened fire into the crowd.
At the point where a British army barricade barred the way of the 1972 march, relatives of the dead stood in silence yesterday before completing the route set out 28 years ago.
In 1972 military victory in a rebellious colony was the agenda.
Show the whip hand teach the damn natives a lesson. Bloody Sunday was defining moment for this island as it headed towards the end of the last century.
Victims’ relatives and local children carried 14 white crosses, photos of the dead and a banner that read: “Bloody Sunday: the day innocence died.”
There had, until then, been a type of innocence in many people in Derry that “their” government in Dublin cared about them.
As the Paras pumped bullets into unarmed men the stark reality dawned on the people of Derry that they were- with the exception of the heathen hinterland of Donegal-largely on their own.
It was defining moment for the pretend Republicans in the South.
Soldiers of Destiny?
Do me a favour.
Jack Lynch apologised for telephoning British Premier Heath on the night that 13 Derry men lay in the morgue at Altnagelvin.
Dublin ran up the white flag, rolled over and played dead.
The Bogside joined the Ra.
Sunday’s commemorative march took the original route.
This was the route the orginal march was to take, but was banned by the Stormont government.
So, 28 years after they set out, the natives reached the guildhall-symbol for generations of British oppression in an Irish town. That in itself is a form of closure.
A new chapter is surely beginning.
The Unionist supremacy in Derry is gone, done with, over, a thing of the past.
So, increasingly, are the Unionists themselves.
They are fleeing out of Derry.
No one is chasing them, but they can’t, it would appear, share a city with Croppies who won’t lie down.
Sad that, tragic in fact.
The Loyalists on the Waterside talk of not feeling welcome on the West Side of the Foyle.
They talk of the “chill factor”.
This is Poor White Trash bemoaning the fact the Niggers don’t say “Massa” they way they used to in the old days.
I proudly marched behind the Mayo Sinn Fein banner.
Nearly a hundred years ago now my father’s family set up Mayo Sinn Fein in Westport.
I was once-in a heated union meeting 25 years ago in Glasgow called a “Marxist”-definitely a Groucho Marxist.
I wouldn’t be in anything that would have me as a member.
But I admired those young people from Mayo-they get harassment from the Guards that my grandparents got from the RIC.
They won’t give up.
They don’t want anything for themselves.
Admirable would be a fair description of them.
These fine young people from Mayo are rare though.
All of them bright, able & energetic could by cynical cubs of the Celtic Tiger, but here they were marching from the Creggan to the Guildhall in Derry.
People forget with the comfort of peace.
They forget what it cost.
In the Republic flab has grown around the principles for which my grandparents took on the might of the British Empire with a handful of guns.
In Derry the belief system of the native Irish is lean & honed.
The Risen people of Derry tip the scales at their fighting weight-for them it isn’t a lesson in the history books-its their lives.
What people in the 26 have taken for granted for generations has cost thousands of lives over 30 years to get the British government to the stage where they might say sorry, might consider their position, might, one day, go for good.
I’ve been all over this island man & boy.
With the view of an outsider that considers the place home and only ever has wanted to belong here.
I tell you this.
I have been in no place on this island as confidently Irish as Derry is today.
There is a spring in their step that says “Youse couldn’t bate us!”
There is a confidence on the West Bank of Derry that is a testament to the fighting qualities of people who had been told by their Unionist overlords for generations that they were worthless Fenian trash.
The nationalist people of Derry have won.
Sunday’s march was a way of saying that this was their town and no one was ever going to lord it over them again.
Driving back to Donegal I didn’t pay heed to any Oul Border.
Phil Mac Giolla Bhain