Forty years ago the Stormont government banned the Civil Rights march scheduled to take place in Derry on January 30th 1972. The ban was unsuccessful, but the British Tory government followed through its counter-insurgency strategy, which began with the introduction of internment in 1971, by shooting down peaceful marchers who came out on the streets in defiance of state terror. Today, another Tory government and its middle-management in Stormont denies human and civil rights by upholding internment while also trying, by some rather desperate means, to prevent people from marching again in defence of these rights. On January 29th, we, as former Long Kesh internees, will join the march that will mark the fortieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Derry. We will march under a banner calling for an end to internment in 2012, and our numbers will include survivors of the ‘hooded treatment’, who were tortured in August 1971. We now call on every ex-internee and ex-prisoner who reads this letter join us and help carry our banner.
People are now being held without trial in the six counties at the whim of an English Secretary of State. This present-day internment is the same in all but name as that introduced in August 1971, and is the same type of repression that people marched against so bravely in January 1972. We oppose internment no matter how the British decide to implement it – whether via the ‘suspension of license’, the denial of pardons, the use of non-jury courts and the gamut of other repressive legislation at their disposal. We will march in defence of human rights, in protest against present-day internment and in opposition to the torture that continues to be practiced by the British state in Ireland and abroad. In doing so, we will salute the memory of the brave men, women and children who once marched for our freedom and who were murdered, wounded and brutalised by the British army on the streets of Derry forty years ago. We will also remember our friends who died prematurely as a result of the torture - Pat Shivers from Toomebridge, Mickey Montgomery from Derry and Seán McKenna from Newry.
The march that took place on January 30th, 1972, was a protest against internment and torture – crimes that were employed by the British state to terrorise the population of the six counties. All of the demands raised by the popular Civil Rights Movement, which the Bloody Sunday massacre was designed to destroy, remain unfulfilled. Today, the right to decent housing and jobs is denied to young people across Ireland, while the uninhibited use of stop and search powers targets not just adults but even children on their way to and from school. Along with widespread PSNI brutality during arrests, raids and other, more ‘routine’ incidences of harassment, these abuses underline the six counties’ enduring status and notoriety as a police state.
The order to commit mass murder was issued in Derry just as it was to deal with every other popular anti-colonial insurgency against British rule. These repressive policies remain central to British state strategy today: internment is still taking place in Ireland, while prisoners in Maghaberry jail are, on a daily basis, subjected to strip-search torture. These human rights abuses do not end here: through their army and intelligence agencies, the British continue to torture prisoners abroad, both in British-occupied territory and on behalf of dictator-clients like Muammar Gadaffi via practices such as ‘rendition’, abduction and outright murder.
Let no individual or political party imagine that they are the exclusive owners of the Bloody Sunday march. The people of Derry mobilised in January 1972 in a courageous, brilliant and popular protest against internment, and in defence of universal human rights. Their bravery continues to inspire people across the world, and their example will always have a truly global resonance; therefore, we believe that the fortieth anniversary Bloody Sunday march should take place, because human rights and civil rights are still being denied by the British state and its agents in Stormont.
We call on everybody who believes in these basic and universal rights to join the march and show their opposition to the continuation of repression, internment and torture, wherever it may occur. In doing so, we will all mark the fortieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday and inspire the world again by declaring that no apology from any British government will ever be acceptable while they and their allies continue to terrorise those who stand up against oppression and believe in freedom. By coming on this march, we will help build a great and enduring monument to the memory of all of those who died protesting against internment and defending all of our civil rights,
Michael Donnelly, Derry
Gerry McKerr, Lurgan
Patrick McNally, Armagh
Brian Turley, Armagh
Francie McGuigan, Belfast
Kevin Hannaway, Belfast
Joe Clark, Belfast
Jim Auld, Belfast