The Last Bloody Sunday March?

Saturday’s Irish News reports that this year’s annual Bloody Sunday March in Derry may be the last. Apparently some family members of the victims, satisfied that justice has been done through the Saville report and the Prime Minister’s apology, believe that this should be the last time the event goes ahead.

The march is held on the Sunday nearest the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, 30 January. It is the centrepiece of Bloody Sunday weekend, which includes lectures, a commemorative mass and other events throughout the city.

The Irish News story quotes family member John Kelly, who says that Bloody Sunday weekend should continue but that this should be the last year for the march. He says,

This should be a march of celebration. It should be a victory march celebrating the victory over injustice.

Family member Liam Wray disagrees, saying that the march is ‘known internationally’ and can serve as a ‘platform for other campaigns and organisations to highlight their causes.’

It’s interesting that this discussion is beginning to take place and it demonstrates how when some steps are taken to ‘deal with’ the past, other steps may be considered.

Whatever the fate of the Bloody Sunday March, commemorations of Troubles-related events are set to continue for the foreseeable future. This will happen whether or not there is an official or public ‘truth telling’ or ‘dealing with the past’ process.

Like the conflict itself, these commemorative events are usually done by and for one community or the other. This means that while they may offer some solace to the families and friends of victims and honour the dead, they do little to promote empathy across the divide.

So my question is: are there ways in which events like Bloody Sunday can be remembered that can foster understanding and empathy, or is that asking too much?

Gladys is a Research Fellow in the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. She also blogs on religion and politics at www.gladysganiel.com