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These tiny, bloodstained plimsolls were worn by Derry schoolgirl Annette McGavigan when she was shot dead by the British Army in 1971. Photo by: Sara Duddy, PFC

Families unveil sea of shoes ‘in their footsteps’

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These tiny, bloodstained plimsolls were worn by Derry schoolgirl Annette McGavigan when she was shot dead by the British Army in 1971. Photo by: Sara Duddy, PFC

Ireland’s lost and ruined lives from the Northern Irish conflict will be remembered this weekend when a new nationwide campaign has its first Day of Action, ‘In Their Footsteps’, in Dublin’s city center.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke will meet families from 2pm this Saturday, June 14, as a sea of shoes, each pair symbolizing lost or injured loved ones, lines O’Connell Street. This powerful visual reminder will illustrate just how many lives remain torn apart by the conflict – and the urgent need for truth that still exists today.

This new initiative has been organized by a coalition of groups and campaigns across Ireland – with the initial event coinciding with the anniversary of the 2010 report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Calling on authorities to ‘Set the Truth Free,’ campaigners intend to bring pressure on the Irish and British governments to set in place an acceptable means of dealing with the past that can achieve the results these families need. This initial event will provide families and individuals with a rare opportunity to engage with the interested public and to tell their story.

Helen Whitters, mother of plastic bullet victim Paul Whitters, is traveling from Scotland to participate in the Dublin Day of Action. Her son Paul was just 15 years-old in 1981 when he was hit in the head by a plastic bullet fired by an RUC Officer in Derry. He died in the hospital ten days later.

“So many families are getting involved in this Day of Action, families who have been affected one way or another, so it just goes to show that no matter how much time goes by, we are all still hurting about what happened in the past,” Helen said.

“In our case, we will highlight the misuse of plastic bullets at the time and in the years since, and we just hope that no-one else will ever have to go through the same tragedy as we all have.”

A campaign spokesperson said: “This initial Day of Action belongs to all of us. While recognizing that the families of victims have many different needs and demands, we recognize that all seek truth, justice and acknowledgment. Our strength lies in numbers – so please spread the word!”

Every family who has lost a loved one or had someone seriously injured is welcome. Those who cannot attend are welcome to contribute a pair of shoes with an accompanying note inside, explaining who the shoes represent, how they died or were injured, and any demands or hopes that that particular family may have.

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