Victims' families lead Bloody Sunday walk of remembrance as Derry marks 50th anniversary

Thousands of people have joined with bereaved families in a memorial walk to mark the 50 years since Bloody Sunday

Families of those killed and injured led the walk through Derry, as Northern Ireland prepares to remember the victims.

The walk was led by relatives of the victims carrying their pictures, ahead of a day of ceremonies to mark the deaths that shook the world during a peak of the Troubles era.

Thirteen civil rights protesters were shot dead by British soldiers on 30 January 1972 in the city.

Another man shot by paratroopers on the day died four months later.

While many consider him the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday, his death was formally attributed to an inoperable brain tumour.

In a statement, a representative for the families said 50 years on they still haven’t secured justice for their loved ones murders, which they say amounts to an amnesty.

No soldiers have ever been convicted over the deaths or wounding.

The families also spoke out against the Government plans for dealing with legacy in Northern Ireland.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin lays a wreath during a ceremony at the Bloody Sunday Memorial in Derry to mark the 50th anniversary. Credit: PA

On Sunday, the crowd gathered at Creggan Shops before making their way to the Bloody Sunday Monument in Rossville Street, on the Bogside, for the annual memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony.

Taoiseach Michael Martin, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood were among the political leaders who laid wreaths.

The names of those who were killed and injured were read out during the 45-minute memorial service.

Michael McKinney, brother of William, who was among those killed on Bloody Sunday, criticised the British government for its controversial plans to ban prosecutions for Troubles killings.

"They are trying to deny us justice because they are scared to face justice," he said.

"But we want to send a very clear warning to the British Government. If they pursue their proposals, the Bloody Sunday families will be ready to meet them head on.

"We will not go away and we will not be silenced. We will expose them for what they are - an embarrassment to any democracy founded on the rule of law."

Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Deputy Lord Mayor of Derry Christopher Jackson, and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald join the ceremony. Credit: PA

Following the service, Mr Martin met privately with families at the Museum of Free Derry.

Speaking afterwards, the Taoiseach said: "It was a privilege to be here and meet with the families of Bloody Sunday on the 50th anniversary of the terrible atrocity.

"I thanked them for their extremely dignified, persistent and courageous campaign to pursue universal principles of justice, truth and accountability."

Later, the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins will deliver a recorded message to the Bloody Sunday families.

The president's message will be shown publicly during the commemorative event Beyond the Silence, which will take place before a limited audience in Millennium Forum Theatre.

His message will be broadcast on a large screen and the occasion will be livestreamed to an online audience.

People walk past a mural in Derry commemorating the victims of the events of Bloody Sunday.

The event will be hosted by Northern Ireland star, the Line of Duty actor Adrian Dunbar, and will feature tributes to the victims, as well as music and public performances.

The forum will fall silent on Sunday at the precise time when 50 years earlier paratroopers opened fire on civil rights marchers in the Bogside.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar spoke during the morning's commemorations.

He said: "Today we remember the 14 innocent people who were killed in Derry 50 years ago on Bloody Sunday.

"The events of that day cast a long shadow over the city and the country that many are still dealing with today.

A rainbow forms overhead as wreaths are laid in the 50th anniversary tribute. Credit: PA

"We salute the courage and perseverance of the victims and their families who have campaigned tirelessly for justice and who continue to do so today.

"Their tenacity serves as an example to other Troubles-related victims to never give up the fight for justice.

"We pledge to honour the memory of those who died on Bloody Sunday by standing with all victims of the Troubles and continuing to work for permanent peace on our shared island."

Some other families are due  to hold a separate march this afternoon, setting off at exactly the same time as the Civil Rights march in 1972.