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29 July 1999 Edition

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Bloody Sunday cover up

By Pádraig MacDabhaid

The ability of the Saville Inquiry to get to the truth of the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry in 1972 has been seriously undermined by the decision of the Appeals Court in London to allow 17 members of the Parachute Regiment to remain anonymous while giving evidence to the tribunal.

The judges, in their 28 July ruling, backed the High Court's decision to overturn the Saville Inquiry's wish not to grant the Paratroopers anonymity during their evidence to the inquiry, which has been delayed until early next year because of these legal wranglings. On a minor positive note, it appears that the ruling does not apply to all the soldiers present on the day of the massacre, applying only to those who fired shots.

The families of the 14 victims, while unsurprised at the decision, expressed their disappointment that the Saville Inquiry is not going to challenge the ruling.

Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin said it ``calls into question the commitments given by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to deliver a full and impartial inquiry into the events surrounding Bloody Sunday''.

McLaughlin said the decision ``highlights the continuing efforts of the British military, political and judicial establishment - including the Attorney General, who is a member of the British Cabinet - to evade responsibility for what happened on that tragic day. It is clear that these elements are pursuing an agenda which, with the collusion of the right wing British media, hinders the efforts of the Bloody Sunday families to finally obtain truth and justice.''

Greg McCartney, solicitor for the family of victim Jim Wray, said: ``This undermines the confidence of the public and the families in this inquiry and whether it can go about its business properly. We're not surprised at the ruling but disappointed. It's making the inquiry somewhat of a charade as a lot of these soldiers' names are known anyway. Now we have to refer to them in a silly manner by alphabet letter codes.''

The decision to grant anonymity comes after claims that a British sniper situated on the City walls may have killed some of those shot on Bloody Sunday was further substantiated by expert evidence. An expert witness has told the Saville inquiry that all the evidence suggests that three of those killed were shot by a sniper from above, and not by members of the Parachute Regiment who were deployed on the ground.

The evidence given by expert Hugh Thomas, a senior British armed forces' consultant surgeon who was based in the Six Counties for five years, vindicates information given by over 40 witnesses, discounted by the 1972 Widgery Inquiry, who said they saw gunfire coming from the City Walls.

Thomas, an established ballistics expert, and believed to be one of the first expert witnesses asked to provide testimony to the Saville inquiry, had examined pathological data on John Young, Michael McDaid and William Nash and concluded, ``the bullets entered the bodies at 45 degrees and were, therefore, almost certainly fired from above''.

``I would say that the involvement of soldiers who were on the ground can be discounted''.

His evidence gives further credence to the belief that members of the Anglican Regiment were positioned on and fired from the City walls.

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