Army veterans march in Derry is cancelled

John Kelly Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption John Kelly's brother, Michael, was killed on Bloody Sunday

A march by military veterans planned for Londonderry next month has been cancelled.

The Parades Commission has confirmed that the organisers have withdrawn their notification for the parade.

Veterans for Justice UK had said they expected about 100 former soldiers to take part in the march through the city. They said it was to highlight "injustices against soldiers".

Relatives of Bloody Sunday victims called it "an act of pure provocation".

Earlier, John Kelly, whose brother, Michael, was killed in the 1972 atrocity, said the march was a "deliberate insult" to the people of Derry and should not be allowed to happen.

'False prosecutions'

"Clearly, this is an act of pure provocation and is totally insensitive to the nationalist population. It's a deliberate insult," he said.

"Its organisers should think carefully about the effect this could have on bereaved families here, families still reeling from the crimes of the past, not to mention the ordinary citizens of this city."

Thirteen people were shot dead on 30 January 1972, and a 14th victim died later, after troops opened fire on a civil rights march.

Speaking on behalf of the Bloody Sunday Trust, Minty Thompson said holding the march in Derry was a "deliberately provocative act".

"This city has clearly been chosen because it was the scene of one of the most horrific acts of state violence in our history, Bloody Sunday, and because soldiers who were involved in that event, who shot down innocent and unarmed people on our streets, are at long last being investigated for their actions," he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Anto Wickham said soldiers serving in Iraq were being treated unfairly

The Northern Ireland branch of the Veterans for Justice UK group was established in December 2015.

Anto Wickham, who was organising the Derry march, said its aims were to protect soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan facing "false prosecutions".

"If soldiers break the law then they face the rigours of the law and rightly so, and it's the same as it should be for any other member of the community," he said.

"But where's the investigation into my colleagues and friends who were murdered? It just seems to be forgotten about."

'Really hurt'

The former Royal Irish Regiment soldier added the marches were planned in 2016 as part of a larger campaign to put pressure on the government.

Mr Wickham said he was "upset" by suggestions the march was planned to raise tensions in the city.

The prosecution of those involved in killings is a major stumbling block in efforts to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland's Troubles.

Last month, the director of public prosecutions in Northern Ireland said critics who accused him of treating former soldiers unfairly had insulted him and his office.

Barra McGrory QC said he was mystified by claims he did not act impartially when he brought charges against a small number of ex-soldiers.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing former soldiers facing prosecution have said they are being 'unfairly treated'.

More on this story