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6 November 2003 Edition

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IRA didn't fire a single shot - McGuinness

"The orders to the Volunteers were very clear, and the orders were that under no circumstances whatsoever were they to engage with the British Army during the course of the civil rights protest. No one who was a member of the IRA was under any illusion whatsoever about that fact.

"The British Army know they were not fired on by the IRA; their military commanders know they were not fired on by the IRA; their political masters know that the British Army were not fired on by the IRA."

In the first day of two days of testimony before the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Martin McGuinness left no illusions as to the actions of the IRA on that terrible January day in 1972 when 13 unarmed Irish citizens were shot dead by British paratroopers.

During his testimony, McGuinness acknowledged that he was indeed Adjutant (second-in-command) of the Derry Brigade of Óglaigh na hÉireann at the time of Bloody Sunday. He also stated that he then became Officer Commanding of the Brigade two weeks later.

Throughout his evidence, he insisted that the IRA had not fired a single shot or thrown any bombs at soldiers on Bloody Sunday. He also rejected allegations made by informer Paddy Ward that he had distributed component parts for nail bombs to the Fianna or planned to plant a bomb in a bookmakers' shop to kill soldiers.

"The orders were that under no circumstances whatsoever were they (IRA Volunteers) to engage with the British Army during the course of the civil rights protest," said McGuinness. "I spoke with the command staff and all active Volunteers. I relayed the decision taken by the OC (Officer in Command). Everyone I spoke to accepted that our approach to the march was sensible."

He went on to explain that before the march was to take place he and another IRA Volunteer had collected IRA weapons and taken them to a 'safe house' in the Bogside.

"Only two people had access to that dump," he said. "I was one of the two. Even the OC did not know where the dump was. That is why I say there was no maverick action by IRA Volunteers that day."

In spite of repeated attempts to have him do so, McGuinness refused to reveal details regarding the location of the dump. He told the inquiry he was bound by a code of honour and refused to answer on the grounds that he did not think it was relevant to the inquiry.

"I understand the need for the tribunal to have that information, but this is a deeply personal thing for me," McGuinness said. "For me to give the location of these buildings would be a gross act of betrayal and I just cannot do it."

"I understand your answer as being that you feel that your duty of honour overrides the desire of the families for the truth about the events of Bloody Sunday," snapped Lord Saville

"That is not my position," McGuinness responded simply.

When asked to respond to the outrageous allegation that it had been he who had fired the first shot on Bloody Sunday, McGuinness stated what would have been obvious to anyone in the Bogside on that day.

"That," he said, "would have been uncoverupable."

Asked about the testimony of Paddy Ward, an informer and witness who claims he was once an IRA Volunteer, McGuinness said pointedly, "I refute it in its totality; it is rubbish; it is nonsense. I have never met him in my life.

"Mr Ward is a fantasist. Mr Ward is a liar. Mr Ward is an informer. Mr Ward is totally dependent on those elements within the British establishment who have used him down the years and his evidence to the Tribunal is a tissue of lies."

McGuinness admitted that his gut reaction on finding out that British soldiers had killed civilians was to get a gun and shoot back, but added that he realised this would be a serious mistake.

"We were very angry and emotional," said the former Education Minister. "A critical and difficult decision had to be made. It was concluded that any military engagement with the British Army would see us fall into a trap.

"We felt, even though I still didn't know the full extent of what had happened, that with so many journalists and other media in Derry for the march, that we should let the world see what we know to be fact — that the British Army had shot innocent civil rights marchers."

Meanwhile, nearly pushed aside by the media scrum outside the Guildhall, relatives of those killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday staged a protest against the sudden surge of media interest surrounding McGuinness's appearance.

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said the families are frustrated and angry that the non-Irish media has virtually ignored the inquiry since it was announced almost six years ago.

"We have had extremely important evidence over the last 13 months," said Kelly, "evidence from the killers... and there was very little interest from the media.

"It is starting to look like the Martin McGuinness inquiry and not the Bloody Sunday inquiry."

He added that McGuinness had predicted to the families that this would happen.

Gerry Duddy, brother of Jackie Duddy — the first and youngest of the 13 initial fatalities — said the families were not objecting to the increased media presence but "we believe they are giving undue attention to one single witness, Martin McGuinness, rather than giving equal attention to the families' call for truth and justice.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with Bloody Sunday 30 years ago," he said sharply, "its about politics today."

For his part, Martin McGuinness empathised with the sentiments expressed by the spokespersons for the Bloody Sunday families.

"I have always made it clear that my motivation for making myself available to the inquiry was to assist the families in their quest for truth and justice," said McGuinness on Tuesday. "I hope that my contribution over the next two days helps in that task.

"The sudden interest by sections of the media that have, until this juncture, mostly ignored the proceedings - particularly during questioning of paratroopers that were directly involved in the murder of unarmed citizens of Derry — have, I believe, done a disservice to the profession of journalism."

On Wednesday, his second day of testimony, McGuinness arrived at the Guildhall accompanied by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, who was there to show his support for the bereaved Bloody Sunday families.

As questioning commenced, McGuinness responded to the proceeding day's request by Lord Saville that he should ask those who had stored weapons for the IRA on Bloody Sunday for permission to reveal their identities.

McGuinness said he had spoken to the persons involved and that they had asked him not to give that information. In accordance with their wishes, he again refused to name those concerned, saying he believed such revelations would, "leave them open to prosecution, harassment, and attacks from loyalists".

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