Derry Journal

Derry Vigil For Iraq
Tuesday 25th May 2004

SEVERAL HUNDRED people gathered in the Guildhall Square on Friday in a show of solidarity with Iraqi victims of British military violence.

The crowd gathered around a large black cloth map of Iraq as they listened to families read accounts of how their own relatives were killed by the British military in Derry and Belfast.

The families' testimonials also included references to particular Iraqi victims of British state violence.

Among those who gave accounts of their loss at the hand of British soldiers was Peter McBride whose 18-year old son, also called Peter, was shot dead by British soldiers after they had searched him.

Two soldiers were convicted of his murder and sentenced to life in prison but later released and allowed to rejoin the British army.

Both soldiers have subsequently served in Iraq.

The crowd also heard accounts from the families of Kathleen Thompson, the Creggan mother of six shot dead by British soldiers outside her own home in 1971, the family of Manus Deery shot dead by a British soldier from Derry's Walls in May 1972 and also from another local family, the English family, which lost two children in the conflict here, one knocked down by a British army landrover and another, an IRA man, killed in an accidental explosion.

Other accounts from Derry families included an account of the death of Daniel Hearty shot dead by the British army in July 1972 during Operation Motorman, the death of Creggan man, Thomas Friel, the last person in the North to be killed by a rubber bullet who died in May 1973 and also the death of 11-yearold Stephen McConomy who was killed by a plastic bullet fired by a British soldier in April 1982.

The crowd also heard a detailed testimonial about the death of 14-year-old Annette McGavigan who was shot dead in September 1971 by a British soldier in the Little Diamond area.

The dead girl's sister told the gathering: "There was rioting going on in and around the Little Diamond, at the edge of the Bogside. British soldiers were positioned in the grounds of the old post office.

"During the rioting, two nail bombs were thrown at the soldiers. They replied by opening fire into a crowd of young people, mainly girls. Annette was in the crowd; she was hit by a bullet in the back of the head and died instantly.

"The soldiers claimed that there was a gun battle, eyewitnesses refuted this. There is no evidence of a proper investigation by the RUC into her death.

"The soldiers' version of events went unchallenged because their statements were taken by the Royal Military Police. No soldiers have ever been prosecuted with her killing. Annette was 14-years-old."

Interspersed with these accounts was details of some of the deaths at the hands of British soldiers in Iraq.

The crowd was told that between April and September last year at least 7 people died in British military custody in Iraq.

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