by Marianne Flood
There were angry scenes at the Museum of Free Derry on Friday as staff and protestors verbally clashed over a controversial display listing the people who died in the Bogside from 1969 to 1972.
The protestors are calling for the names of police men and soldiers to be removed from the list, which includes the victims of Bloody Sunday who were murdered by British paratroopers.
Margaret Wray, whose older brother Jim Wray was killed on Bloody Sunday, said she will remove artefacts belonging him that are on loan to the museum if the list is not amended.
Speaking at the protest Ms Wray, who was visibly upset, said: “If it comes to it and those names aren’t taken down I will take my brother’s name out of that.
“I belong to no organisation or political group and I respect all cultures, but this is not the place for a list of soldiers and RUC men.
“Jim’s coat with the bullet hole in it and the blood still on it was on loan to the Bloody Sunday Museum, but I’ll be asking for it back if those names aren’t removed.”
Kate Nash, whose brother William Nash died on Bloody Sunday, was also at the protest and said the families had not been consulted about the list.
“The core issue here is that without reference to, consultation with or permission from the relatives of all those whose names and the circumstances of their death form a single museum exhibit, the Trust took on to itself an authority that was not theirs to take,” she said.
Ms Nash said she understands the view of June McMullan, whose husband RUC Constable John Proctor was killed by the IRA, who stated in the Belfast Telegraph that she was ‘deeply disturbed’ that the names of IRA men were being displayed beside the names of some of their victims.
“I saw the newspaper article about the RUC widow and I get where that woman is coming from and I have sympathy for her,” she said.
“This is not about hierarchies or disrespect of others bereaved in war, it is about the accountability function, and governance of a community asset and the arrogance of those who manage both The Bloody Sunday Trust and Museum of Free Derry toward families who do not share their political perspectives.”
Ms Nash added the museum was ‘ignoring local sentiment’.
“The lack of sensitivity, accountability and the arrogance of a Trust specifically set up to assist the families is what is at issue.
“Especially when the overwhelming local sentiment is that it is inappropriate.
“If this was the Imperial War Museum or The National Museum this list might have some rationale and be a lot longer, but this is the people's museum and the people's narrative.”
However, Jean Hegarty the sister of Bloody Sunday victim Kevin McElhinney, said she wants the list to stay.
“It is a fact that soldiers as well as civilians died and we cannot in telling the truth of the event ignore that fact,” she said.
“I do understand where people are coming from- it hurts but their [the soldiers’] parents suffered too.
“Perhaps they had wives and children and they suffered as well.”
A spokesperson for the Museum of Free Derry said it would ‘seek to address some of the genuine concerns shared by several members’.
“The Bloody Sunday Trust and staff of the Museum of Free Derry met with a very undignified, hostile protest today when demonstrators blocked off the entrance to the Bogside museum,” the spokesperson said.
“Some members of the Trust attempted to engage protestors in discussion and debate but, for the most part, were met with a barrage of vulgar, abusive language and personal insults.
“This breaks with a long tradition of Bloody Sunday families and survivors taking part in peaceful, dignified protests in pursuit of their aims.
“Nevertheless, the Board of the Museum of Free Derry will seek to address some of the genuine concerns shared by several family members.”
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