Veterans’ Bloody Sunday protest: ‘It’s London, not Londonderry’ says organiser

Alan Barry of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group at a rally in London in 2017
Alan Barry of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group at a rally in London in 2017

A veterans’ rally in protest against the prosecution of a Bloody Sunday soldier is being planned for London...not Londonderry as reported, the organiser has said.

Alan Barry of Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans (JFNIV) said the group only organises protests in London as “Parliament is the only place that matters” in terms of ending the “witch hunt”.

On Thursday, the NI Public Prosecution Service announced that a former member of the Parachute Regiment, identified only as ‘Soldier F’, will face a trial charged with the murder of two men and the attempted murder of four others in January 1972.

A total of 13 people were shot dead by soldiers following a Civil Rights march in Londonderry on what became known as Bloody Sunday.

Following reports of a JFNIV protest rally, the dissident republican Saoradh grouping vowed to “radically confront” any event organised by military veterans in the city.

In statement issued on Friday morning, a Saoradh spokesman said: “Following the announcement that former British mercenaries are to travel en masse to Derry to celebrate their campaign of murder in the city, Saoradh wish to make it abundantly clear that we will provide an opportunity for republicans to radically confront this potential grotesque gathering in the city.”

The statement added: “We refuse to allow such a display of support for imperialism, occupation, colonialism and slaughter to go unchallenged.

“Saoradh hereby publicly state that we will mobilise the people of Derry and beyond to ensure that these former Crown Force members are denied access to the streets of our city.”

However, Mr Barry told the News Letter that it was never his intention to provoke confrontation in Londonderry.

“Any protest we hold will always be in London outside Parliament as that is the only place that matters, and the only way this witch hunt will stop.”

The JFNIV founder also said the march would be timed to coincide with the next major development in the Dennis Hutchings Supreme Court case.

Former soldier Mr Hutchings, 77, has been charged in connection with the death of John Pat Cunningham in Co Armagh in 1974.

Mr Cunningham, 27, was shot in disputed circumstances near Benburb.

Mr Barry said: “We are planning to hold the rally as soon as possible, most likely when Dennis expects to hear back about his appeal.”