Some of the campaign’s key players were neither relatives nor survivors. A succession of lawyers, authors, professors and human rights activists played fundamental roles.
Families became acquainted with Patricia Coyle, a trainee solicitor for Madden & Finucane, who delved into the case and began an exhaustive, manual search of the Public Records Office in London in search of any existing material.
On 20 January 1993, John Major responded to a letter from John Hume, saying that those killed on Bloody Sunday ‘should be regarded as innocent’. The families gave a guarded welcome to the long overdue admission - but it wasn’t enough. The admission of innocence only sharpened the case for the campaign.
Despite her having refused three times to meet with the campaign, in June 1993 the BSJC again asked President Mary Robinson to receive a delegation. Once again, the President declined the families’ invitation – this time pointing to the ‘constitutional parameters’ of her office.
Throughout this period, Patricia Coyle continued to search out relevant material in the Northern Ireland Public Records Office (PRONI), and in archives and photographic libraries. Eventually, through Coleraine Library, Patricia found a black trunk contained twenty-one volumes of transcripts, one for each of the days of the Widgery Tribunal. The transcript had lain undisturbed for twenty years. With this, Patricia had found enough new evidence to write to the British prime minister in January 1994 requesting a new public inquiry.
Campaign 6 - Families take their petition to Downing Street with John Hume & MPs in 1997 - (Bloody Sunday Trust).jpg
Families take their petition to Downing Street with John Hume & MPs in 1997 - (Bloody Sunday Trust)
Also in 1994, a group of relatives travelled to Downing Street to hand over a public petition. They also delivered Jane Winter’s thirty-six page British Irish Rights Watch report, which defined the events of 30 January 1972 as ‘summary and arbitrary execution of unarmed civilians.’
John Hume had arranged the relatives’ admission to Downing Street to present the documents. Bloody Sunday had always merited little mention in London, so the occasion generated considerable press interest. High profile supporters like Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Benn accompanied the Derry group. Hume spoke at an impromptu press conference in Downing Street calling on the government to overturn the findings of the Widgery report and establish a new independent inquiry.
In the summer of 1994, protests and chaotic scenes greeted Prince Charles, Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, when he visited the city in which his soldiers had massacred unarmed civilians two decades earlier. Madden & Finucane also submitted its application to the European Court of Human Rights. Years would pass before the European Courts response, and ultimately the application would be rejected.
On the 31 August 1994, the IRA announced a ‘complete’ ceasefire after a quarter of a century of armed conflict.
In Derry, the campaign continued unabated. Letters were still dispatched daily, relatives travelled to raise the campaign’s profile in other cities and countries and Derry people generally rallied around. However, no concrete evidence had yet emerged to challenge the official verdict of Widgery’s tribunal and the British government remained stubbornly opposed to the campaign’s appeals.