Kate Nash explains that anger at attempts to include members of the British security forces in an exhibit commemorating those killed during the Troubles in the city is roiling the Museum of Free Derry:
You don’t really expect your own to put the knife in and when it does happen it’s one of the worst experiences that life can bring.
The most incredible feeling of hurt and betrayal descends and is so very hard to shake . Of course I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with my view of things but neither should others demand my loyalty for their narrative.
I can’t remember the exact date but certainly over two years ago there was a public meeting called by some people I know who had an objection to the museum’s new expansion plans.
The new design would have obscured the Civil Rights mural created by the Bogside Artists. The Bloody Sunday Trust were invited along to give their view because it’s they who actually run the Museum.
During the meeting it transpired that apparently there was a Memorial garden to be added to the new design and this was to remember Soldiers as well as civilians.
There was visible upset from many of those present who thought this a horrendous idea. I remember hearing that and feeling shocked. I turned around to look at the manager of the museum and he said to me “not Paras”.
He said that it was just an idea they had . It was admitted and then denied practically in the same breath.
The representatives from the Trust left soon afterwards. The people of the Bogside had made their feelings clear about this idea! However we did check building plans at that time and the Memorial Garden was definitely to be included.
Obviously though the plans did change but of course they came up with a different justification to include Security forces, complying, I believe, with criteria required for funding.
In May of this year I received many messages from people complaining about the new Digital Display the Museum had put up. Many Derry folk who had lost family members just didn’t think this Memorial was appropriate.
I contacted Raymond McCartney of Sinn Fein who told me he would take it to a meeting of the Bloody Sunday Trust; he’s on the board. He was very vague about when the next meeting was. I also left a private message on the Museum’s page on Facebook. ‘I never got a reply’.
I also contacted Brian Tierney of the SDLP who sits on their Board and talked to him. No help there either.
So I started to collect the signatures of people who objected to this use of the Peoples Museum. The Chairman and Museum staff have defended this display saying that it is simply recording history, that it is not a commemoration but a chronological list.
I do not agree with what the Museum of Free Derry is calling a list; harmless enough you would think, but when that list combines the names of British Soldiers and UDR with innocent victims killed by the State then that list is very much more.
Add to that photographs, a short biography of each person, and in the case of a photograph not being available, a cross inserted.
Clearly not a list but a Commemoration!! It goes much further when the Museum hosting this so called list is situated at a place in the Bogside where 14 innocent people, most of them very young. were slaughtered by the infamous Paras on Bloody Sunday!!
Many more died at other times including a number of children near that very same place!!
Nobody ever asked me what I might think about this display; had I been consulted I would very likely have expressed anger at the very suggestion. Where in the world would you see such an outrage? Perpetrators equivocated with their victims.
The Bloody Sunday Trust say that this display has been in the museum for 10 years without even one complaint, although it has been seen by thousands. What they are failing to mention is that what they are referring to was text in a computer as for instance in the book Lost Lives; that certainly would be a list!
But the display at the centre of controversy is a projection playing onto a white wall a series of photographs of people who lost their lives between 1969-1972 each image will last about 12 seconds. There are 53 in all.
We went to the local people with a petition and asked for their support to get this display taken down. In only 7 hours we had a 1000 signatures. We presented those to the manager of the museum but his response was sarcastic: “I can bring more here right now than your number”, was his reply
There were five of us from the Bloody Sunday families and one woman who also wanted her fifteen-year old Brother removed from the Commemoration.
At that moment I was consumed with a desire to deliver a right hook straight to the nose of this manager but somehow I managed to keep my cool. The outcome of our persistence was a concession by the Museum to consult widely, as they put it, but then ‘widely’ became just the families of the fifty-three people on the display: families to be asked if they agree or disagree with the display.
That was only a few weeks ago; to date apparently not very many families have returned these surveys. They have promised some people privately that this display would be taken down after the official opening on the 15th of June , a date that Sinn Fein have immortalised because of its significance in the Bloody Sunday story as the day that British premier David Cameron apologised for the massacre.
That was the day we, the families, were meant to accept that as justice and walk away.
However given the fact that the museum is a Sinn Fein business and given their belief that they can act with impunity, I suspect we may well have to go to the people again!!!!