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12 September 2002 Edition

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Former hunger striker gives evidence

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry


BY FERN LANE


Former hunger striker Raymond McCartney has given evidence to the Bloody Sunday inquiry. Last Thursday, he told the tribunal that the events of 31 January 1972, when his cousin Jim Wray was shot and killed by the British Army, were pivotal to his decision, as a 17-year-old, to join the IRA. Before that day, he said, he had had "no concept" that he would join.

When asked, he refused to provide the inquiry with the names of members of the IRA leadership at the time he joined. Gerard Elias QC, counsel for the British Army, asked: "You do not think it is relevant that the tribunal should have names of those who were senior activists in the IRA in this area on Bloody Sunday. Is that what you are saying?" McCartney replied: "What I am saying is that I joined the IRA after Bloody Sunday, so therefore any information that I have is irrelevant."

Lord Saville told McCartney, the first former member of the IRA to testify to the inquiry, that there could be "serious consequences" arising from his refusal to divulge names. McCartney replied: "I can state quite clearly that under no circumstances would I be prepared to give the names." After he finished giving evidence, he said that he would go to jail rather than provide such information.

Under questioning, McCartney told the inquiry that, because he had joined the IRA after Bloody Sunday, he had not known then, and did not know now, about the leadership or what plans it may or may not have had in relation to the civil rights march, nor had he ever discussed it with anyone since.

He did say, however, that he thought it was right that anyone with information about Bloody Sunday should give evidence to the inquiry. When asked whether he included former members of the IRA in this, he replied: "If I say everybody, I mean everybody." He added that it was a matter for each individual to consider for themselves and said that he had come under no pressure whatsoever not to testify to the inquiry and did not believe that anyone else had either.

In respect of Bloody Sunday itself, McCartney recalled how he had attended the march with two friends and noticed the unusually large army presence, leading him to fear something beyond the normal pattern of military response to rioting he had witnessed in the past. He heard shots, which he believed to be fired by the army, and hid in the stairwell of a nearby block of flats with a group of about 20 other people before being led to safety.

Also giving evidence last Thursday were two sisters, Helen and Margaret Johnston, who were both in Rossville Street when the shooting began. Helen recalled being arrested with her sister and being made to walk in single file, along with other detainees, and being violently kicked by a soldier. "Margaret pushed me in the back out of the way and the soldier then hit her with the butt of his rifle," she said. Giving evidence, Margaret Johnston said that the soldier in question appeared to be "psyched up". "I felt that he was under orders to be wicked," she said.

On Friday, a forensic expert appointed by the Saville inquiry, Dr Richard Shepherd, said he believed that the wound to Patrick McDaid had been caused by a "doctored" rubber bullet, rather than by a high velocity round, as had been previously thought. He completely ruled out any possibility that McDaid had been injured by shrapnel from a nail bomb. "I could find nothing of the appearances of explosive injuries in the injury to the back of Patrick McDaid," he said.

Dr Shepherd, a senior lecturer at the Forensic Medicine Unit of St George's Hospital Medical School in London, said objects which could have caused such a slicing wound to the back of McDaid's left shoulder included an old coin, other metal discs, or parts of a battery.

In his statement to the inquiry, Dr Shepherd had pointed out evidence from soldiers and eyewitnesses who confirmed that rubber bullets were often modified and that "non-standard" items were fired from rubber bullet guns. He said: "We understand that these items were attached to or fired in place of baton rounds in Northern Ireland in the period of time around Bloody Sunday."
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