With the success of the Birmingham Six case firmly in mind, families called a public meeting in early February 1992. The initial meeting took place in the Pilot’s Row Centre, built upon the killing ground of Bloody Sunday.
Forty to fifty people attended the meeting, the majority of them relatives. Thirty-three people – including four English men – signed up. They became the first members of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign.
With only seven or eight families involved, relatives realised that they needed to attract more families. After a lot of brainstorming at the initial Pilot’s Row meeting, several relatives were tasked with approaching all remaining families and explaining the premise of the new family-led campaign.
It was also agreed that the campaign would need clear, simple demands. Eventually, a three-point platform was agreed. The three demands were; the repudiation of Widgery and institution of a new inquiry; a formal acknowledgement of the innocence of all the victims; and the prosecution of those responsible for the deaths and injuries. The campaign stressed that these were its only demands. A statement went out to the press: ‘We welcome into membership anyone who supports our objectives irrespective of religion or political persuasion.’
For a while, the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign (BSJC) and the Bloody Sunday Initiative co-existed. Then the Initiative branched out to champion wider human rights issues, leaving the BSJC with its specific remit. A year later, the BSI changed its name to the Pat Finucane Centre for Human Rights and Social Change, with a remit to champion wider human rights issues. It was named after the human rights solicitor, Pat Finucane, who was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries under the direction of British intelligence services.
On 15 April 1992, the newly established BSJC was officially launched in Pilot’s Row Community Centre in the Bogside. The launch attracted a huge crowd, as well as news crews from BBC, ITV and the local press. At the launch Johnny Walker from the Birmingham Six, who often acted as spokesperson for the group, said that the people of Derry deserved justice – and that he knew from personal experience what it was like to be denied justice for sixteen and a half years.
The campaign launch was a big success. In the weeks and months afterwards, families and activists travelled to Westminster at the invitation of Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, to lobby parliamentarians, and to Leinster House in Dublin to lobby TDs. The group also announced its intention to write to all local councils throughout Ireland asking them to raise the continued injustice of Bloody Sunday with both the London and Dublin governments. The public was urged to write to the British government and declare support for the campaign.
With Widgery’s whitewash deemed the official version of events, it was not going to be easy to convince the world that what had happened was a state-sanctioned massacre.