Sandy Boyer (SB) and John McDonagh (JM) interview via telephone from Doire (Derry) Kate Nash (KN), the sister of William Nash who was killed by the British Army on Bloody Sunday, and Vincent Coyle (VC), who organised a meeting to discuss the controversy surrounding the proposed museum in Doire. TPQ's transcriber is to be thanked for getting this out so quickly.
Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
2 August 2014
(begins time stamp 16:05)
SB: And now we're going over to Doire to speak to Kate Nash whose brother, William, was murdered by British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday. Kate, thanks very much for being with us.
KN: Thank you for having me and Good Evening! from Doire.
SB: And Kate, there's now a proposal from something called the Free Doire Museum to erect a memorial garden for everyone who died in Doire during The Troubles including the British soldiers! Now how does that make you feel as someone whose brother died on Bloody Sunday?
KN: Well, can I tell you a little about it, Sandy, how it came about? We had a meeting eight days ago in connection with an expansion of the Museum of Free Doire. (Photo top right from Bloody Sunday Trust shows an artist's impression of the expanded facility.) Vincent Coyle actually discovered that the plans from 2010 had been changed – which the whole community had bought into – and it would mean the obscuring of a very important mural, the Civil Rights Mural which is almost beside the museum, and was called a pram ramp. And Vincent Coyle actually called the meeting and invited the Trust there after several weeks actually of trying to meet with them.
And a few of us turned up at that meeting eight days ago. And during that meeting, and I have to say - the Bloody Sunday Trust people actually had a few people with them who actually heckled at the meeting and caused disturbance. However, during that meeting one of the public actually mentioned: Was it true that they were going to have a memorial garden in the Museum of Free Doire, which as you know is right in the centre of the Bogside, and that this memorial garden would include members of the British Army and the RUC.
And of course there was a bit of pandemonium but however during that the manager of the museum actually answered, he said: Well, it's an aspiration. And he said: It's an idea. And I turned to him – you know because he only sat three seats behind me - and he'd obviously seen the shock on my face and he said: Not paratroopers! And I said: British soldiers. Well, he said, It's an idea. It's at the discussion stages. Now this has since been completely denied - and I have to say not by the Bloody Sunday Trust, not in the media - but what they did do was leave a bunch of leaflets actually criticising the organiser of the meeting and saying that the public meeting - about it descending into pandemonium. (Which it didn't, actually. I mean, there was quite a few people who got very emotional at it – you know, who were very angry.)
They said if this happens and the museum was being attacked - which they felt it would be - that they wouldn't be protecting it. They didn't like the idea of this. And also of course they were angry at the idea that these plans had changed and they weren't informed of it since 2013.
But since that I contacted the museum, somebody who worked there, and he totally denied it – vehemently denied it – he said: do you think I would work here, Kate, if that was going to happen. And I said: Well, you know I did wonder and I said but I need to talk to the Bloody Sunday Trust because I am deeply concerned – although they've been denying it in this leaflet - they haven't been denying it to the media.
I would also like to hear it mentioned by the media. I have all these concerns, Sandy, and those are: The newspapers have stopped running this story – and they're under pressure - I believe - from Sinn Féin to drop this story.
And I have to say, the local radio - and this is one of the biggest stories - I'm talking locally – one of the biggest stories – and the local radio have not touched it! So that's what my concern is.
So the idea was there. What I want to do is speak to the Trust. Now they have told me conditions. And told me that they don't want to speak to a public meeting that they will meet if two or three of us come alone.
KN: Yes, I think so. I always feel if they're doing that – and if it can't be transparent and do it in a public place...See Sandy, these people think they don't have to answer to anybody – this is the trouble. And the Bloody Sunday Trust – and it was like having teeth pulled well – and I'm talking about somebody who – well, they don't represent me but they're called themselves the Bloody Sunday Trust. So you're assuming there that they'd have families in mind.
Photo left, the Bogside mural depicting the birth of the Northern Ireland civil rights movement. Some fear the proposed expansion of the adjacent Free Derry Museum may obscure onlookers' views of the mural. Photo by Kenneth Allen (2009)
And I couldn't find out. It was so hard to find out exactly who sits on this trust. Now I do know that the chairwoman actually was there that night and the vice-chair was there last night.
But the thing is: They had the opportunity at that meeting when that was being said to stand up directly and say: Well, no. That's an absolute lie. That's an absolute rumour. Don't believe that. But they didn't do that!
What they did do was not very long afterwards when they left. Now what they're doing at the moment is criticising in that leaflet - not in the press - in that leaflet they're criticising the organiser, Vincent Coyle, of not having the meeting properly chaired. And actually what Vincent Coyle did when he first came in – he invited them up to the top table. They could have had the meeting proper. But they refused to do that. They said they would take questions from the floor. And in fact, we were given two minutes and they said: If you don't start in two minutes we're leaving. So that was their attitude!
SB: And Kate, the Bloody Sunday Trust, which operates the museum, has gotten five hundred thousand pounds which is about eight hundred ...
KN: ...Apparently so. Apparently so. We asked about that and what they said was that that's being used in the museum to get it to its present – you know, the present way it is - the way it looks right now. They've been given 2.2 million I believe by Arlene Foster, a minister in the government - I'm not very up on these things, Sandy - but she is the one who gave the money, 2.2 million. And told (us) also that this money usually comes with conditions as well - usually around reconciliation. So I think this is where maybe possibly the idea of this peace garden came in.
SB: What we all know, and she by the way is a Unionist minister...
KN: ...Absolutely. Yes.
SB: ...when those people give you a grant it always comes with strings attached.
KN: Oh, I would say so. I would say so. Sandy, also I found out, I think I have anyway, I found out who the members of the Bloody Sunday Trust are. And I can tell you except for one person, one person who's in the SDLP, the rest are Sinn Féin members or people who are aligned to Sinn Féin.
SB: Well, that doesn't come as a great surprise, Kate.
KN: No. No. No. No.
SB: I believe that there's also a very famous ramp where people had to take cover from the fire of the paratroopers...?
KN: That's correct.
SB: What would happened to that?
KN: My father, and actually Liam Wray, the brother of Jim Wray, Liam Wray who was at the meeting, too, and he called it “cultural vandalism”. But he said Liam was in hiding up there trying to protect himself. My father was on that ramp and people were trying to hold him back because he'd seen my brother being shot. But he managed to break loose and he came running down – and a fusillade of bullets around him - he went out to my brother - only to be shot himself. But I'm so glad that my father survived that.
SB: What would happen to that ramp under the new proposal?
KN: They're talking about building something else that would absolutely obscure the mural. Now, they've said all along that: No, the mural wouldn't be – the mural would still be in view and that people could still walk around it and get photographs. They now admit in this leaflet that it will be partially – partially - obscured so there's a little bit of the truth they're giving – but we feel – and looking at those drawings - and if you could see them, Sandy – this mural will be halfway, at least halfway, obscured.
JM: (station and programme identification) Kate, you must be running out of real estate in Doire. I've been there a couple of times and the way they're portraying it is almost like you're in the middle of Manhattan – that this is the way it has to be built. I have seen the drawings on the internet and to put it up there and they say: Well, you have a full three metres to take a photograph of a huge wall mural from the side of the thing.
KN: Yeah. Ridiculous. Is there any other space in the Bogside that they could have extended this museum that it wouldn't obscure the wall mural?
KN: Obviously, they can change the plans and there's a green area at the back and I'm sure with planning I'm sure they could find some other way to expand that museum. (background noise) ... I actually have Vincent Coyle with me. Vincent Coyle, who actually is very, very passionate about that mural. And you know he's sort of ....
JM: ...You know what, Kate? Put him on if he wants to speak about that.
KN: Oh! Can I do that? I will do that. Absolutely – here he is -
VC: Sandy, thank you very much and all our American friends and listeners. Sandy, for me what they're talking about doing is ripping down the ramp. The ramp on which Mr. Alex Nash made a run - a dash - to save his son and took two British soldiers' rounds that would have been fired into the young men on the ramp and made his way to the rebel barricade. That ramp for me is part and parcel of the history of the Bogside. That ramp will not be touched. I'm record as saying: I will die before you drive a digger through that ramp.
Kate Nash has said she will stand with me as a huge majority of the people of the Bogside have said the same. We will protect the iconic civil rights mural which was a mural to the men of peace – the men who marched in a non-violent way that were beaten into the ground - trampled upon. And also - it also stands for the fifteenth victim of Bloody Sunday: The civil rights non-violent movement was shot to death that day. And we cannot as Irish people allow that iconic mural to be obscured in any way.
Nor can we allow the integrity of the Bogside to be bulldozed and bludgeoned into the place of “it never happened”.
SB: Vincent, in your mind who's behind this? It's a terrible thing but who's behind it?
VC: This is the thing. This is why we're asking the questions. Why would anyone want to steal the history of the people of the Bogside? Why would they want to rip down the ramp and which – and this is a fact – it is not entangled to the building of the museum.
I fully supported, for years, the original plan for the museum – I still support the museum - but when I was told the ramp would be ripped and torn down I said: But why? What is the reason for this?
The Bogside really is the museum – every street corner where blood was shed by the British forces while incarcerating our people within the Bogside tells a story. The Museum will only ever be a HQ. Why would you want to tear down a ramp where unarmed civilians took cover as bullets bounced and whizzed above their heads? Why would you take down a ramp where Alex Nash, the father of Willie Nash lying on the rebel barricade, ran through a hail of bullets, taking rounds in his own body to save his son who sadly was fatally injured on that day? Why would you want to take away those memories and put them into the dust of the past?
The integrity of the Bogside must be kept. We need to keep that. And the people of the Bogside, the people of Free Doire – because we are a people of free Doire – which brings in the Creggan, the Rosemount, the Brandywell and the Bogside - this is our heritage. We cannot rub out the past. We cannot forget the terror and the horror that was put upon the people of our city on Bloody Sunday. And there was many other Bloody Sundays within that time. There was aman shot dead – that was a Bloody Sunday. Every mother's tear weighs the same.
Young boys killed by plastic and rubber baton rounds shot into their heads – young children of ten and eleven – those children must never be forgotten! We cannot allow the past to be rubbed out. Sandy, I'm calling upon my brothers and sisters in the United States of America who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in a call for freedom and true democracy and the search for justice for the Irish people and that for us is true freedom. So listen up! Send your support. Talk to your friends. Go on Facebook. Go on Twitter.
We cannot allow the ramp to be moved. We cannot allow an iconic mural that has stood - that represents the fifteenth victim: non-violent demonstration - by the people, for the people and through the people of which the dogs of war - the British war machine, the Paratroop regiment - was set upon innocent, unarmed civilians on a civil rights march that left the Creggan Estate at ten minutes past three on that fateful Sunday. They went there for peace with justice and to end internment now. At ten past four that day the dogs of war were set loose on the innocence of Ireland. And we still remember those people. We will never forget them. Nor will we allow the integrity of the Bogside to be raped evermore by those who want to let the past go for a price. They were bought like hookers in the bazaar. We will not be bought! But we shall overcome!
JM: Vincent, there's that old saying: He who pays the piper calls the tune – you have Arlene Foster, who's giving over two million pounds towards the museum, which probably she has a lot of say on how the design goes and particularly bringing in this “garden of remembrance” and remembering everybody that was there on that day including the soldiers. Now to differentiate which unit of the British Army - that they wouldn't be paratroopers they would be other British soldiers - seems a bit ridiculous.
But this is what happens when you take money from the British government that's going to be divvied up by Arlene Foster, who's the minister, and she's going to tell them: Here are your new plans. And here's how we want to re-write history in Doire.
VC: I'm afraid you've summed it up, my dear brother. That's the way it is! But I'll tell you - the people of the Bogside, the people of Doire, the families of the murdered and the wounded throughout the entire Troubles - Bloody Sunday in itself was a terrible, terrible ferocious tragedy against the slaughter of the people but there was more people. There was many Bloody Sundays within the Bogside.
We had the families in Ballymurphy. It's a long story of the tyranny of the British against the Irish people. We are not about to bend the knee! We will not be bought! A garden of remembrance to the British Army and police means the people of the Bogside have bent their knees and paid homage to those who have kept them tiraded. We refuse to be beaten! We are a proud Irish nation!
As our brothers and sisters across the United States stood up in the Revolution - we are the same. We want democracy. We want freedom. We want justice. And most of all we deserve the truth from people that we once believed in!
SB: Kate, Vincent, thank you so much. Please, keep in touch with us. We don't want to forget this – it's too important.
VC: It's my great pleasure, brother. And I'll tell you, to all our brothers and sisters in the United States, we salute you! And thank you for your support.
(ends time stamp 34:30)
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