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13 March 2003 Edition

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Soldier recalls

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry



BY FERN LANE

     
In his statement to the inquiry, INQ2003 said that Soldier H "fell apart that day. He shot a guy with his hands up and then one lying on the ground. This was not done." Soldier H was known afterwards by the nicknames "Rentakill" and "Two Mags"

A former British Army Major told the Saville inquiry on Monday that the Paras were a "dreadful and ghastly" regiment consisting of "savage, trained terrorists" who took pleasure in "legalised murder" and whose treatment of civilians on Bloody Sunday was "beyond description". The damning comments were contained in the personal, contemporaneous diary of the Coldstream Guards officer who submitted it to the inquiry where it has been made public for the first time. In it, he wrote that Bloody Sunday "was the shame of the army in Ireland. We will never live it down."

In his statement, the soldier, identified as INQ179, said that during his second tour of duty he had been based largely in the communications centre at Fort George and that the "general philosophy" of his regiment had been to try to "win over the hearts and minds of the Irish people, particularly the Roman Catholics, who were very hard done by indeed". It was, he said, preferable to "be at peace with the residents of Londonderry, not at war with them".

On Bloody Sunday itself, INQ179 said he had witnessed arrested civilians being brought back to Fort George and treated brutally by paratroopers, an account entirely consistent with the evidence of those who were arrested - and of a significant number of other British Army soldiers who were also disturbed at the violence inflicted on detainees.

"I was so appalled by what I had seen the paratroopers do to the civilians that I told my commanding officer what I had seen," said INQ179. He was told to make a written report, which he did, although he did not know what had become of it. His diary records that he "saw the snatch squad of the Parachute Regiment (1st Battalion) bring in civilian prisoners. [T]he way these savage, trained terrorists treated those civilians was beyond description."

The entry for 30 January 1972 continues: "Today has been an appalling slaughter of Irishmen in the streets. Thirteen people, mostly boys and young men, shot down by the Parachute Regiment. Words cannot describe what a dreadful and ghastly regiment that is. I was horrified by what I saw in their treatment of prisoners."

The following day, 31 January, he wrote: "Yesterday is already being called 'Bloody Sunday', and indeed it was. There is something quite horrible in seeing young men shot down by totally undisciplined troops, who take a pride and pleasure in this legalised murder."

On 1 February, as the British government and army propaganda machine began to swing fully into action, INQ179 wrote in his diary: "The horrors of Sunday will live on for many months and probably years. World opinion has been utterly shocked by what happened and I myself no longer believe in the military propaganda that is put out, and we are told to believe."

Under questioning by Alan Roxburgh for the Inquiry, INQ179 said that the comments he made in his journal were "accurate" because he had no reason to fabricate or exaggerate what had happened or what he had seen.

"This diary I never believed would ever be seen by anybody else again," he said. "At the time that I made these comments I myself was in a slightly unstable emotional condition. My father had unexpectedly died about three weeks before that, so I was feeling a bit distressed about that; I did not like serving in Londonderry. It does not alter the fact that what I wrote was probably fairly accurate, but it was never intended that anybody else should see it, so I was not trying to score Brownie points by writing this and then producing it later. It is extremely distressing for me that this diary has had to be made public."

Also on Monday, a former paratrooper, INQ2003, told the inquiry that he had fabricated claims, made in a television interview, that he had shot and killed Jackie Duddy on Bloody Sunday. He said that he had not been in Derry on the day, having been the only member of Mortar Platoon to have been left behind. When asked why he had lied to the journalist, Paul Mahon, INQ2003 said that it was "because it did not mean anything to me". He said that he had a drink problem and agreed with Counsel that on occasion this made it difficult for him to "distinguish fact from fiction".

INQ2003 did say, however, that he clearly remembered another soldier the Mortar Platoon, Soldier T, telling him shortly after Bloody Sunday that one of their colleagues, Soldier H, "had freaked out" after going into the Bogside.

In his statement to the inquiry, INQ2003 said that Soldier H "fell apart that day. He shot a guy with his hands up and then one lying on the ground.

"This was not done. Soldier T was angry about it. He was very disturbed and did not like what he had seen." INQ2003 also told the inquiry that Soldier H was known afterwards by the nicknames "Rentakill" and "Two Mags".

"There was a lot of rivalry between the platoons and this sometimes ended up with punch-ups in the bar and barracks. That was normal regiment life.

There was always a lot of banter about who started shooting first in Londonderry that day. Even two or three weeks afterwards there was high euphoria and the level of banter was high. The Mortar Platoon would say that they started it by dropping Jack Duddy. Anti-Tank would disagree and say no, they started it. However, the comments about what Soldier H did would usually stop the banter."

The inquiry also heard last week from a former paratrooper that three senior British Army officers, including Colonel Derek Wilford, commander of 1 Para, clubbed together prior to Bloody Sunday to buy a bottle of whisky as a prize for any British Army soldier who succeeded in arresting Bernadette McAliskey, then Devlin, on the day of the civil rights march.

 

Bloody Sunday meeting in Preston


BY SEAN Mac CONMARA


The Bloody Sunday Organising Committee held a public meeting in Preston on Tuesday, 25 February.

The Committee's Northern Coordinator introduced Gerry Duddy and John Kelly to the audience, comprised of local business people, students, Amnesty International and members of the local community.

Gerry Duddy spoke of the feeling of the families at the travesty of the Widgery Inquiry. He reminded the audience that the inquiry lasted 21 days, whereas Christopher Clarke's opening speech alone to the Saville Inquiry lasted 42.

He introduced a video that portrayed the events in the north of Ireland leading up to Bloody Sunday, which was followed by another video that included the horrific events of the day in slide format, which concentrated the mind and visibly moved many in the audience.

John Kelly then gave details of the 14 innocent civilians who were killed and the 14 who the Parachute Regiment attempted to kill and he explained how people are still suffering today.

John said that the families would not be deterred in their quest for truth and justice; too much depends on it, both now and in the future. He gave examples of other families whose loved ones were murdered and spoke of the 'Open Up the Files' campaign.

The meeting ended with a lengthy question and answer session to which the majority of the audience contributed.

 

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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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