The Taoiseach is due to lay a wreath at the memorial to those killed on Bloody Sunday during a service in Derry to mark the 50th anniversary of the atrocity. Micheál Martin is also expected to meet privately with the families of those killed, according to The Irish Times.
Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney is also due to attend the ceremony on Sunday morning, as are other church leaders and politicians including Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald, Vice President and Deputy First Minister of the North , Michelle O’Neill, and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.
Chairman Michael D Higgins will deliver a virtual speech at an event in Guildhall Square on Sunday afternoon.
Thirteen people died when members of the British Army Parachute Regiment opened fire on an anti-internment march in the town on 30 January 1972. A fourteenth later died.
John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was among the victims, said the Taoiseach would be welcomed by Bloody Sunday families and it “shows the depth of feeling the Irish Government has for the families who have been witnesses and endured suffering”. of Bloody Sunday for five decades.
“It is a beautiful tribute from the Irish government and the people of Ireland and will certainly be welcomed by the families and people of Derry,” he said.
In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Eastwood, MP for Foyle, condemned the flying of Parachute Regiment flags which appeared on the outskirts of Derry ahead of the anniversary and called on Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis to s he felt the regiment should “apologize and condemn the actions of their soldiers on Bloody Sunday?”
In a social media post, the Parachute Regiment criticized the waving of the flags, describing it as “totally unacceptable and disrespectful behavior”.
He was condemned both by nationalist and unionist politicians and by relatives of the victims. Mr Kelly said they were ‘offensive to families and offensive to the people of Derry’ and he called on community leaders in those areas and Unionist politicians to have them removed.
DUP Assemblyman for Foyle, Deputy Minister Gary Middleton, said the flags were ‘unnecessary and designed to be offensive’ and should be removed.
Responding to Mr Eastwood in the Commons, Mr Lewis said: ‘We as government have to accept responsibility for what has happened in the past. When things go wrong, we need to be clear about it, as we have been. It is true that we apologized.
“I have added my personal apologies to those of the government,” he said.
In a statement to the Commons earlier, Mr Lewis acknowledged the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the apology of then Prime Minister David Cameron and said his ‘thoughts this weekend will be with everyone concerned “.
Referring to the UK government’s new proposals to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, he said he was engaging intensively and broadly and “reflecting carefully on what we have heard”.
In a statement to the Irish Times on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defense said it “in no way condones” the “misuse” of the flags, which should only be “used at official title”.
He said that following the publication of the Saville Report on Bloody Sunday in 2010, “The Chief of the General Staff (General Sir David Richards) fully supported the Prime Minister’s apology on behalf of the Government of the Kingdom United, the army and those involved and this remains the position of the army.