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World collapsed Bloody Sunday: One family's 50-year fight for truth and justice

'When Willie was shot my father went to his aid, as he went out there he was shot twice in the left arm and his side'

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Kate Nash holds a picture of her brother William at free Derry Corner in the Bogside this week

Kate Nash holds a picture of her brother William at free Derry Corner in the Bogside this week

Kate Nash holds a picture of her brother William at free Derry Corner in the Bogside this week

Kate Nash smiles when she remembers the brother taken from her at the point of a paratrooper's gun.

The memories are all too brief - murdered at the age of 19, Willie Nash was denied the life he deserved, his family left distraught and broken.

Half a century on, Kate said January 30, 1972 started as a normal day in the Nash household. It was a happy house - Kate's mum Bridie was recovering well having suffered a heart attack, dad Alex set off for mass while Kate arranged to meet her boyfriend.

Within hours their world had collapsed. Willie lay dead in the morgue, Alex was in hospital with two bullet wounds. Life had changed in the time it took for a squaddie to squeeze the trigger.

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Fr Edward Daly waves a handkerchief as Jackie Duddy is
carried away

Fr Edward Daly waves a handkerchief as Jackie Duddy is carried away

Fr Edward Daly waves a handkerchief as Jackie Duddy is carried away

 

"Willie was the tallest of the family, the tallest of seven," she said.

"He was working in the docks with my father who was always talking about how strong he was, it was tough work but he was making a decent wage out of it.

"He was the one you went to when you needed something - we'd go to him for the lend of a pound, he always gave it to us even though he knew he was never getting it back!"

He was simply a nice guy, she said.

"He loved his country and western music, he loved Marty Robbins and I remember lying in bed when I could hear him play the song El Paso, he loved that song."

Kate was 23 when her brother was killed, the events of that day etched in her mind. Half a century later she is still fighting for justice for Willie and the 13 others gunned down on Bloody Sunday.

Nobody has been made to answer for Willie's death, although Soldier F is facing charges in relation to five of the killings.

"That's if a trial ever takes place," she said.

The civil rights march that ended in slaughter was intended to highlight issues of discrimination and the denial of basic rights, in reality it became the touch-paper for a surge in violence.

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Willie's death had a profound effect on an ordinary Derry family - they became victims of dark propaganda, false stories and blatant lies.

They were dismissed as a violent pro-republican family, her father was derided as a man with an extensive criminal record, the family was subjected to a seven-year campaign of intimidation at the hands of the Army with the family home repeatedly raided.

"The only thing on my father's record was a fine for not putting a muzzle on one of his greyhounds, but it didn't stop the British press painting us as violent republicans which could not be further from the truth, they also said we lived in poverty."

None of those killed on Bloody Sunday had any connection or involvement with violent republicanism, no-one in the Nash family has ever been involved with proscribed organisations.

None of which can nullify the effect on a family of the loss of a loved one. Kate said it had an enormous effect on her father.

"He never forgave himself, how he couldn't help his son. When Willie was shot my father went to his aid, as he went out there he was shot twice in the left arm and his side.

"A soldier was coming towards him and he thought he was coming to finish him off, but they dragged Willie's body down the street and threw him into the back of a Saracen. That haunted my father for the rest of his life, how he couldn't help Willie or bring his body home."

The impact was profound.

"He blamed himself, my mother blamed him, the marriage was never the same from that day."

Bridie was the life and soul of the house. A keen singer, she loved to dance.

"She was always singing to us, she loved dancing and she'd dance round the kitchen and she was a great storyteller but that all stopped that day."

She recalls the moment she discovered what had happened.

"I was at my boyfriend's house, a neighbour came to the door and I thought it was about my mother but she just said 'your Willie's been shot dead and your dad has been shot too'.

"I remember going to the hospital and my father was there, he lifted his arm and I could see the wounds and I said 'dad does that hurt?' and all he could say was 'Willie's in the morgue' - he never got over it, the guilt."

Later that year her brother, celebrated boxer Charlie, went to the Olympics. He went on to win British and European titles as one of Derry's celebrated sons and that's what the Nashs are, a Derry family.

In the years following Bloody Sunday they were subjected to unrelenting persecution, repeated house raids and harassment on the streets.

"I remember being pulled out of bed by the ankles by a soldier, the house was constantly being raided," she said.

She recalls soldiers searching the house while Bridie cooked the family's evening meal with a British soldier standing in the kitchen - rifle cocked.

The torture stopped when Bridie passed away in 1979, a cruel marker of the way families were targeted. It left the Nash family with a sense of determination to get justice for Willie.

Successive inquiries, the Widgery Report in 1972 - or as it is known to the families the Widgery Whitewash - exonerated the soldiers, accepting their false testimony that they came under fire, then came the Saville Report which at least established in 2010 that the dead were innocent citizens.

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Kate Nash, sister of Willie Nash who was killed on the day

Kate Nash, sister of Willie Nash who was killed on the day

Kate Nash, sister of Willie Nash who was killed on the day

 

"They tried to blame nine rotten apples, we know this went all the way through the command structure right to the top yet they tried to throw nine rogue soldiers to the wolves," Kate said.

"(Prime Minister) Ted Heath thought coming to the inquiry was beneath him - that says it all."

As part of the Truth and Justice Movement Kate has been to London to lobby MPs and peers against government plans for a Troubles amnesty, and she's met political leaders north and south and in England.

"An amnesty is wrong, my father told us as long as you know right from wrong you're okay, and this is wrong."

Later today some of those who were on the march 50 years ago will join campaigners as they retrace the fateful steps of the civil rights march in 1972.

"I remember the 40th anniversary when we organised the march and we've been doing it ever since. That day on the platform I felt I had a voice, I felt freedom like I'd never felt before, I could tell people about my brother.

"Me and my sister Linda will be doing this til the day we die."

richard.sullivan@sundayworld.com

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