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14 December 2000 Edition

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Bloody Sunday Inquiry in jeopardy

A cloud hangs over the future of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry as legal wrangling took place over secret British government and army evidence.

Last week, the Inquiry heard applications for Public Interest Immunity Certificates (PIICs) submitted on behalf of Home Secretary Jack Straw and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, alleging that lives of agents and informers would be placed at risk if certain material were to be fully disclosed to the Inquiry.

Christopher Clark QC, Counsel to the Inquiry, stated that it may be that the British Parliament would have to ``square the circle'' if the Tribunal demanded full disclosure of the material on the grounds that there could not be a full open investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday without it. This would effectively give parliament the opportunity to cease the Inquiry.

The information to be covered by the PIICs relates to two individuals, known as ``Observer B'' and ``Infliction'', both of whom claim that the IRA were first to open fire on Bloody Sunday. Infliction is also alleged to have claimed that Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness actually fired the first shot. On Wednesday of this week, the Tribunal refused to grant legal representation to Martin McGuinness prior to him providing a statement of his recollection of the events. In delivering the ruling, Lord Saville said that if the Tribunal were provided with such a statement, it would ``view with sympathy such an application in view of the serious allegations being made against McGuinness''.

The three judges, Lord Saville, William Hoyt and John Toohy, are to study the relevant material and give their ruling at a later date.

Meanwhile, civilian witnesses have continued to give evidence regarding the shootings of Damien Donaghy and John Johnstone and events that took place in the William Street area before the Paras moved into the Bogside.

Amongst those to testify was Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle member Dodie McGuinness, who told of running for her life across the rubble barricade in Rossville Street before hiding in a back yard. She also related how Sinn Féin Chairman Mitchel McLaughlin made several trips in his van, ferrying people to safety from the Bogside to Creggan.

Also giving evidence was Gerry Duddy, brother of 17-year-old Jackie Duddy, who was killed on Bloody Sunday. Duddy, who was 14 at the time, told how he had witnessed the shooting of Damien Donaghy in William Street and had heard him cry out ``I'm shot''. Duddy said that he had shouted across to Donaghy, ``Take your oil'', a Derry expression that means get over it, because he believed Donaghy had been hit by a rubber bullet. But when Donaghy responded that he had been hit by a live round, this was the first time Duddy realised live bullets were being fired.

Gerry Duddy also told of running to safety through waste ground and seeing people gathered around a young man on the ground who had been shot. Only later did he realise that young man was his brother, Jackie.

The Inquiry adjourned for the Christmas recess and will reconvene on Monday 15 January 2001.

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