CATHY McCafferty was a teenage protestor on Bloody Sunday and at this week’s meeting of Shannon Town Council, the Sinn Féin representative said the Saville Report had provided some closure.
She put forward a motion, which was unanimously passed, asking that the council write to Derry City Council to congratulate its citizens and “the bereaved families for their steadfast commitment to vindicating the good names of the innocent victims of Bloody Sunday”.
At the meeting, she recalled the day of the civil rights march on January 30, 1972.
“Bloody Sunday changed everything for me. It was the day innocence died; the day that the civil rights movement was silenced. It was the day that normal life, as we knew it, ended.
“Five of the dead were just 17 years old. They were just kids caught up in the excitement of a civil rights march. I remember the march. The mood was light-hearted, we sang all the old songs We shall overcome and slogans like ‘One man, one vote’.
“The day after the killings, I remember the numbness, the shock, the disbelief. I was with my friends when I saw Barney McGuigan’s eyelid being scraped off the wall into a matchbox at the Rossville Flats, while all around the Bogside, there was an eerie silence.”
Nearly 40 years later, she said that the subject is still deeply upsetting for her.
“Even today, I find this difficult to talk about. I cannot begin to describe the raw emotions and feelings of helplessness that we all experienced on that terrible day.”
She had praise for David Cameron’s endorsement of Saville.
“Many of us had feared that David Cameron and the new Conservative Government might shelve the Saville Report. To his credit, Mr Cameron acted in good faith by publishing the tribunal’s findings as quickly as possible after the General Election.”
She said that in Derry, people had appreciated his candour.
“The families of the Bloody Sunday dead and those who had survived were generous in praise of Cameron’s words and I also want to acknowledge that historic contribution from the new prime minister.”
Councillor McCafferty praised the extensive research that went into Saville.
“There are 5,000 pages in the Saville Report. Two lawyers travelled from England to take eye-witness accounts from me and my husband so I must commend the legal teams who travelled far and wide to learn the truth.”
She summed up by saying that all protestors had sought was what they were entitled to but that at least the truth had eventually come out.
“The overriding fact remains that these 14 people, who were cut down in their prime, were innocent victims of a savage attack on all of us who wanted and expected no more or no less than our civil rights. Today there is a monument to the dead of Bloody Sunday on Rossville Street. It says on it ‘Their epitath is in the continuing struggle for democracy’. To that we can now add ‘We have overcome’.”