New side advert

9 September 1999 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

British Army planned for civilian deaths

BY NED KELLY

     
These memos confirm that plans were in place for the march... that senior officers and officials were prepared to accept the loss of human life. It shows that deaths of civilians meant nothing to them and that they were already seeking justification for their actions
The most senior British Army officers in the north at the time of Bloody Sunday discussed shooting ``selected ring leaders'' in the Bogside and Creggan to restore law and order in Derry, according to documents uncovered by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

These most controversial comments were written by General Robert Ford, commander of land forces and second in command of the British forces in the North, in a memo to the then GOC Harry Tuzo, in which he said that traders in Derry city centre, with whom he had met, wanted ``curfews and shooting on sight'' in an effort to stop what Ford described as ``daily yobbo activity'' at the edge of the Bogside.

Ford's letter, dated 7 January 1972, was written just three weeks before Bloody Sunday and was one of a number of memos he sent to Tuzo regarding the situation with the `no go' areas in Derry. He believed that the British army's inability to patrol the Bogside and Creggan made it easier for the IRA to attack the commercial heart of Derry.

Other memos from Ford, dated 14 December 1971 and Lt Col Harry Dalzell-Payne, dated 27 January 1971 to Tuzo made it clear that civilian deaths were acceptable. Ford wrote of ``reverting to the methods of IS (Internal Security) found successful on many occasions overseas''. Dalzell-Payne's memo of 27 January, three days before Bloody Sunday, gave a clear indication of what British military thinking was in the run up to a march that the Stormont government was worried about: ``Inevitably it would not be the gunmen who would be killed but `innocent members of the crowd'. This would be a harsh and final step tantamount to saying `all else had failed', and for this reason must be rejected except in extremis. It cannot, however, be ruled out.''

The day Dalzell-Payne wrote his memo, the Stormont government's Joint Security Committee - the top military/political body in the North - discussed the pending civil rights march. The meeting was chaired by the current Ulster Unionist deputy leader and acting Home Affairs minister John Taylor, and included Tuzo as well as the RUC Chief Constable, Graham Shillington.

The minutes show that the plan was to ``block all routes into William Street and stop the march there. The operation might well develop into a rioting and even a shooting war.''

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was among the 14 civilians killed, commenting on these latest disturbing revelations, said: ``These memos confirm that plans were in place for the march... that senior officers and officials were prepared to accept the loss of human life. It shows that deaths of civilians meant nothing to them and that they were already seeking justification for their actions.''

Kelly said that given Taylor's role in chairing the 27 January meeting, ``he would certainly be expected to give answers to some important questions regarding how decisions were made''.

This clearly means that John Taylor should be called before the Saville Inquiry when it resumes its public hearings.

Kelly added that when he was introduced to Taylor in the White House in Washington two years ago, Taylor told that he knew nothing about Bloody Sunday. This, said Kelly, ``brings into question Taylor's integrity, when he can deny any knowledge of the massacre yet have intimate knowledge of the thinking and planning prior to Bloody Sunday''.

Derry solicitor Greg McCartney, acting for the family of Jim Wray - another of the civilians murdered by the British paratroopers - adds that while these documents have been available for some time ``there are many that have not been made available''.

The memos also reveal that other options under discussion included ceding Derry back to the 26 Counties or letting Derry ``rot from within'' from disease and a disintegration of basic public services.
GUE-NGL-new-Jan-2106

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

Powered by Phoenix Media Group