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16 September 1999 Edition

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Bloody Sunday tapes expose Lynch and Heath

By Padraig MacDabhaid

New tape evidence acquired by the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday has served to further enhance the view that the Dublin government of the time was not prepared to stand up to the British over the 1972 massacre.

The tapes of a 15-minute telephone conversation which took place just hours after 13 people were shot dead and 14 others critically wounded were recorded by the British and disclose that the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, was more worried about the effect the massacre would have on the stability of the Free State than about the families of the dead or the wounded.

The tapes reveal that the British Prime Minister at the time, Ted Heath, displayed a condescending attitude to Lynch.

The conversation begins with Jack Lynch saying: ``I am sorry to ring you at this hour but you will probably have heard the unfortunate news about Derry this afternoon.'' This sets the tone for the rest of the conversation, with Lynch adopting an apologetic tone, while Heath comes across as irritated at being questioned and attempts to attach the blame for the murders on the organisers of the march and the failure of the 26-County government to act against republicans. He says: ``If you had dealt with them (republicans) this would have been over long ago''.

Lynch tells Heath that the British government should at least take security measures out of the hands of Stormont. Heath replies to this by saying that the problem is not Stormont but ``...the people who are challenging the law'' and ``...the IRA trying to take over the country''. Lynch replies to these accusations by saying, ``well, we have no intention of letting them do that''.

Heath also quashes any sign of Lynch's resistance by reminding him that he had called on Heath to ban such marches.

Lynch's main complaint does not lie with the fact that British soldiers supposedly charged with upholding British law shot and killed 13 civil rights protesters but with the possible problems this will cause for the 26-County state.

This is a borne out by Lynch's further comments to Heath saying ``and as I have said to you already, if this kind of thing is going to have its repercussions south of the border... I can assure you that my role is becoming more and more difficult and I am very, very fearful of what is likely to happen... I just want to tell you how gravely apprehensive I am...''

This conversation, in exposing the views of both establishments, shows the utter contempt in which the Widgery inquiry, which was given political direction by Ted Heath, held those murdered, injured and traumatised in the massacre.

The tapes have surfaced at the same time as it has come to light that British Paras returning to their base after their attack on civilian marchers on Bloody Sunday were greeted by cheering and clapping RUC officers waving their hats in the air.

This claim was made in the transcript of interviews carried out by the BBC's Peter Taylor with the Company Sergeant Major of the Paras, who carried out the massacre.

The Company Sergeant Major said: ``One thing that really surprised me when we first arrived and drove up the drive was [that] members of the RUC actually stood along the driveway and were clapping and cheering, waving their hats.'' He added: ``The RUC were actually quite pleased that we'd done what we'd done.''
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