The most expansive commemoration programme to date was planned for the twenty-fifth anniversary. The aim was to turn the Bloody Sunday weekend into an international event.
The campaign had broken into the mainstream British media. In January 1997, Channel Four News broadcast the first of an explosive series of reports - an interview with an anonymous paratrooper who admitted that unarmed civilians had been targeted on Bloody Sunday. The following week, on Tuesday 21 January 1997, author Don Mullan launched his groundbreaking book, 'Eyewitness Bloody Sunday' in Creggan. Almost 700 people turned up.
The same week saw more than a dozen Conservative and Labour MPs lodge early day motions at Westminster calling for a new independent, international inquiry into Bloody Sunday.
The 1997 milestone anniversary culminated in two key shared events – the launch of the newly established Bloody Sunday Trust and the publication of Professor Walsh’s analysis of the new evidence unearthed by Patricia Coyle.
The Bloody Sunday Trust planned to submit Professor Walsh’s 'The Bloody Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry – A Resounding Defeat for Truth, Justice and the Rule of Law' to the British and Irish governments as part of a renewed bid for a fresh inquiry.
The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaigners pictured outside West End Park before taking their campaign to the US. (Derry Journal).jpg
The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaigners pictured outside West End Park before taking their campaign to the US. (Derry Journal)
By the time the twenty-fifth anniversary arrived, public support for the campaign was at its highest point. On a crisp, cold Sunday afternoon, more than 40,000 people took to the streets and marched along the original 1972 route.
In February 1997, a delegation of relatives held talks with John Bruton in Dublin. They urged the Taoiseach to use his influence with the Clinton administration in the US to raise the issue of a new inquiry.
The impact of Don Mullan’s book helped the families solidify their contacts with the Irish government. On 20 February 1997, a busload of campaigners, lawyers and family members set off for Dublin for a packed itinerary of meetings with various dignitaries, including the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and Foreign Affairs Minister. The Irish government, swayed by the mountain of new evidence, agreed to do all it could to help and vowed to draw up a compendium of all the new evidence for submission to the British government.
A delegation of relatives and author Don Mullan prepared for a week-long lobbying trip to the US, where they took part in New York and Boston St Patrick’s Day parades, attended a St Patrick’s Day event in the White House and spoke to Congressional leaders at Capitol Hill. Congressional representatives vowed to write a letter in support of a new inquiry, and seventy-two Congressmen eventually signed this letter.
In March 1997, the Sunday Business Post in Dublin ran the story of a former para admitting that unarmed civilians had been deliberately killed on Bloody Sunday. Soldier 027 alleged that his company had been told by their Lieutenant the evening before Bloody Sunday to ‘get some kills’. He also alleged that some of his colleagues had been in possession of their own additional ammunition, including illegal dum-dum bullets, and that many soldiers’ accounts had been doctored by lawyers to tally with the version of events favoured by the army.
Two days later, Channel 4 News broadcast an interview with another anonymous paratrooper who revealed an uncannily similar account to that of Soldier 027, admitting that ‘shameful and disgraceful acts’ had been committed in Derry.