RELATIVES of Bloody Sunday victims have slammed a march by British military veterans in Derry “an act of pure provocation”.
John Kelly, whose brother Michael was killed in the 1972 atrocity, said the march was a “deliberate insult” to the people of the city.
Veterans for Justice UK expect about 100 former soldiers to take part in a march through Derry in March to highlight “injustices against soldiers”.
The PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch has recently sent a file to the Public Prosecution Service after interviewing British Paratroopers who murdered 13 innocent people 45 years ago.
Mr Kelly said the march by British Army veterans on 4 March “must not be allowed to happen”.
“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.
The Northern Ireland branch of the Veterans for Justice UK group was established in December 2015.
Anto Wickham, who is organising the Derry march, said their 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.”
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.
“I understand the families and the victims are still really hurt and they want prosecutions.
“If that’s the case, and there is evidence, then you have to face the rigours of the law but that should also be the same with the IRA.”
Lawyers representing former soldiers facing prosecution have said they are being “unfairly treated”
Last month, the director of public prosecutions for Northern Ireland Barra McGrory QC said critics who accused him of treating former soldiers unfairly had insulted him and his office.