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Robin Percival (left) and John Kelly (right) talk to UMass Boston students, faculty, and staff about Bloody Sunday.
November 18, 2015

Bloody Sunday Survivor Hopes Arrest Will Lead to Justice for Brother

  • Boston
Two Bloody Sunday Trust Members Take Part in UMass Boston Roundtable

One week after police made their first arrest in the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings, two members of the Bloody Sunday Trust came to UMass Boston on Tuesday to talk about what they hope are the next steps.

“Time is working against us,” John Kelly told students, faculty, and staff in the McCormack Graduate School's Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, pointing out that 400 witnesses to the confrontation have now died. Kelly’s 17-year-old brother Michael was among the 14 civilians killed Northern Ireland on January 30, 1972, after the British army opened fire on marchers protesting against the incarceration of hundreds of people.

“I spoke to Michael before the march,” Kelly said. “He went because his friends were going. He went with his friends and I went with my friends.”

A 1972 inquiry led by Lord John Widgery determined that the march organizers were at fault. In 1992, Kelly and others started the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign as a way to clear the victims’ names.

“They say there was a 15th victim of Bloody Sunday and that was the truth,” Kelly said.

“No one had any faith at all in law and order,” said Marie Breen-Smyth, a UMass Boston visiting professor who lived in Northern Ireland at the time. “If the police arrived, you wouldn’t get justice.”

In 1998, Lord Mark Saville headed a second inquiry, which lasted more than 12 years. The Saville Report, published in 2010, blamed the army for the deaths and exonerated those who were killed. Prime Minister David Cameron made a public apology to the victims.

In 2012, the Police Service of Northern Ireland set up a murder investigation. Because the soldiers have been given anonymity, Kelly only knows the man who killed his brother as “Soldier F.” Last week, the man known as “Soldier J” was arrested, interviewed, and then released on bail. Two days later, seven soldiers asked the court for 24 hours notice of an arrest. Arrests are on hold while the request is being reviewed.

“I think they never thought it would ever happen. I think they thought they’d get away with it,” Kelly said.

Kelly, who works for the Bloody Sunday Trust, and Robin Percival, the vice chair of the trust and founding chair, are in the U.S. to raise money for a museum on the Bloody Sunday site called the Museum of Free Derry. The museum, and more arrests, could bring Kelly the closure he thought might never come.

“I do believe no matter what these soldiers do, they will be arrested, they will be interviewed, and they will be prosecuted,” Kelly said. “To me and to all of the families, it’s really the end of the journey for us. Hopefully we’re at the point where we can close the door.”