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26 April 2001 Edition

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Adams voices concerns over Bloody Sunday Inquiry

Recently, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams wrote to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair to express his serious concerns at flaws emerging in the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

     
I believe we are watching a serious attempt being made to subvert the Saville Inquiry by those within the British military and political establishment who are intent on preventing the Inquiry from getting to the whole truth'' - Gerry Adams
Adams's letter was a follow-up to a conversation he had with the British Prime Minister in which the Sinn Féin President raised a number of issues of concern about how elements within the British system were frustrating efforts to get at the truth.

In a recent article in the Belfast Telegraph, Adams identified a number of ways in which the Inquiry is being subverted.

``As I watch events unfold in Derry around the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and especially the way in which elements of the British state are behaving, I believe we are watching a serious attempt being made to subvert the Saville Inquiry by those within the British military and political establishment who are intent on preventing the Inquiry from getting to the whole truth,'' he said.

``This is being achieved in a number of ways.

``For example, lawyers acting for the relatives have raised concerns at the extent and importance of the material that the British Ministry of Defence has not provided to the Inquiry. There are also serious concerns at the excuses being made by the British MoD for materials used at the time and which they claim have not been retained, or have been subsequently destroyed or cannot be traced.

``Relatives, and lawyers have made it clear that they do not accept these excuses, particularly as other contemporaneous material that is of benefit to the soldiers' case has become available.

``The main outstanding concern relates to British army photographs and the identity of the photographers, the contemporaneous film footage from army helicopter, destruction of the rifles fired, relevant contemporary documents such as the armoury register, and internal reports.

``The taking of photographs and the assignment of photographers was an important part of the British Army's operational orders on Bloody Sunday. Despite this, and despite their consequent historical importance, almost none of the vast number of photographs taken that day have been made available.

``Colonel Overbury, who was a member of the Army Legal Services and who prepared for the Widgery Tribunal, has confirmed that military photographs were taken on the day from ground level and he believes also from the air. He confirms also that further photographs were taken later to prepare a plan of the soldiers' shots. He states that all photographs were provided to Widgery tribunal staff, and is of the view that the number would be around 1,000 photographs.

``The explanation which continues to be provided by the British MoD for their non-disclosure is similar to that offered regarding other material, that is, that in 1972 the British MoD did not have a centralised catalogue or archive system, and therefore if the material is still in existence it is very difficult to trace where it is now. Alternatively it may have been destroyed.

The position regarding photographs and film appears even worse than military documents as the British MoD state (extraordinarily) that photographs and film were not accorded the same significance as official documents.

``At the time of the Bloody Sunday march there was a team from British MoD headquarters in the north of Ireland, responsible for taking heli-tele film, and whose task was to provide maximum photographic coverage of the march and associated incidents. The lawyers have stated their belief that the film should last several hours. The information they have is that the original film was taken to London for security processing, where two copies were printed, one of which was required urgently by the British MoD at the start of February 1972.

The Widgery Tribunal had possession of a film, although it is not thought that this was the original. The lawyers acting for the families do not know whether the Widgery Tribunal received either a full copy or the very short (just over 3 minutes) and edited version that the lawyers now have. What is clear is that whatever was provided to the Widgery Tribunal, by May 1972 the original was being stored in the Home Office in London, and a copy was held in `Headquarters NI'.

`No one knows the total numbers of copies made. Yet the British MoD state they have no further film to the very short one that they have received. No statement is yet available from the person who took the film.

`29 rifles were identified as belonging to the Parachute Regiment at the Widgery Tribunal as being responsible for all shootings, all of which were accounted for by 29 September 1999. There is an ongoing British MoD police investigation into the disposal of all rifles, namely those that have been sold and those that have been destroyed.

`Concern obviously centres around those rifles that have been destroyed or otherwise disposed of after this Inquiry was announced, and after the MoD had provided an assurance that everything of relevance had been provided to this Inquiry. Only three out of these rifles remain. The explanation provided regarding those destroyed after this inquiry began, is that the British MoD had not been provided with the full serial numbers which would have highlighted those rifles as Bloody Sunday rifles.

`The lawyers acting for the families have also sought relevant documentary material. Much attention was paid to documents for the relevant forensic evidence concerning the rifles, their examination and testing, armoury registers to ascertain which rifles were assigned to whom, ammunition registers to detail how much was in possession of whom. The lawyers also sought intelligence reports, signal instructions, training documents, standing orders records, disciplinary procedures, etc and none of this has been made available. The same explanations offered in relation to photographs and film has been given for this.

``Finally, all British Government bodies are subject to the document management procedures and rules. The Public Records Office gives guidance on this obviously as material, which is to be preserved, will eventually be deposited with them. As a result all information and material must go through processes of review to determine whether they are preserved as material of public importance or destroyed.

``It is inconceivable that most of the material which the relatives and lawyers are seeking would not have been considered of such importance as to be preserved. Particularly in light of the fact that the Widgery Tribunal was the first occasion in which the British Army's actions had been examined by a public inquiry under the 1921 Act. If the material was destroyed, there must be a motive or reason for this and in those circumstances; those persons who gave authorisation for destruction must provide an explanation.

``At a minimum, the families and all of those who seek the truth require evidence that the material has in fact been destroyed, ie. the destruction records etc. These still have not been provided.

``It is certainly my view that all of this material has not been destroyed. For example, regarding photographs, when it suited the British MoD to help obtain screening for soldiers giving evidence, contemporaneous photographs have come to light for soldiers 042, and H, with no explanation of how these came to light.

``Also regarding documents, when the families sought source documents relating to intelligence reports, they were told they would not be preserved, yet when the British government wanted to produce evidence of alleged IRA activity, they were able to produce source documents, statements by the parties involved and a tape recording purporting to be an actual debriefing of an informer.

``Clearly, there are those within the British system who are intent on frustrating the truth about Bloody Sunday.

`This is unacceptable.

``I have asked the British Prime Minister to use his authority to ensure that these obstacles to the truth are removed and that the British MoD and other relevant British agencies co-operate fully with the Saville Inquiry and with the lawyers acting for the relatives.''
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