29 April 1999 Edition

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Bloody Sunday - anonymity debated

Lawyers representing the families of those killed and injured by British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday have told the Saville Inquiry that it should get information from whatever sources it can.

In public hearings on Monday and Tuesday in Derry's Guildhall, the Saville Inquiry team heard applications for anonymity from the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) for `military witnesses', applications by RUC lawyers seeking anonymity for five RUC witnesses, and an application by the BBC that journalist Peter Taylor should not have to disclose his confidential notebooks from the 1992 ``Remember Bloody Sunday'' programme.

During the hearings, it emerged that the names and identities of British soldiers were already public and that photographs identifying witnesses had appeared in an in-house British paratrooper magazine, Pegasus. Speaking to An Phoblacht, Maura Young, whose brother John was murdered, said, ``this argument is stupid, the names of the [British Army] witnesses are out in the public domain''.

Linda Nash, who lost a brother and had another injured, also rejected the MoD's application, made on the grounds of endangering British soldiers. She told An Phoblacht that it was ridiculous as the faces and names of many of them were already well known.

The need to consider the anonymity issue ``afresh'' follows what observers are claiming is outside interference after the MoD challenged the initial Saville ruling in British courts. That anonymity was granted without an application by the MoD in the discredited Widgery inquiry has also been questioned.

The application by the BBC to block access to information from Taylor's notebooks was also challenged by lawyers acting for the families. The issue balances the importance of confidentiality to the flow of information for journalists against the need to ``burrow for the truth''.

The BBC lawyer, Andrew Caldecott QC, argued that if Taylor was forced to hand over his notebooks and reveal his sources it would lead to a ``chilling effect'' in the flow of new information and that it might put his client and the sources in danger. The MoD and the RUC also sought to piggy back on the BBC argument, despite the different issues at stake.

A legal source claimed the BBC application was a smokescreen and was an attempt to draw a line in the sand and hinder access to the potential evidence in BBC archives.

In a possible indication of his thinking, in what will be a reserved judgment, Saville stressed that failing to back up claims with sources undermined the value of specific evidence.

Tony Gifford QC, acting for the family of Jim Wray, in challenging Taylor's conclusions that there was no conspiracy, said disclosure was essential in the interests of justice.

Launch of Bloody Sunday family appeal fund

The families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday in Derry have launched the Bloody Sunday Family Appeal Fund to coincide with the Saville Inquiry. Launched on Wednesday morning, 28 April, in a building donated by local businessman Garvin O'Doherty for the duration of the inquiry, the fund aims to help with legal costs and to create a full resource centre.

Based 50 yards from Derry's Guildhall, where the inquiry hearings will be held, John Kelly, former chair of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, said he hoped the building ``would be a central focus''. It will house rooms for the families' legal teams, provide a base for the CĂșnamh counselling service, have a permanent exhibition and a tea room, along with all the resources needed to continue the campaign.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1