13 January 2000 Edition

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Journalist refutes Bloody Sunday gun claims

A rehash of the claim that British paratroopers were fired on in Derry's Bogside before they shot dead 14 people and wounded13 others on Bloody Sunday has caused uproar.

The controversial assertion was made in a report compiled by Liverpool researcher Paul Mahon, who was employed by Brendan Kearney, Kelly and Co., a firm of solicitors that represents two of the Bloody Sunday wounded, Michael Bradley and Michael Bridge.

In his report, Mahon analysed a tape recording made by BBC journalist David Capper. From this, he claims that the first of three shots recorded was fired at the British Army at 3.55pm and that British soldiers replied with two rounds, which hit Damien Donaghy and John Johnston (Johnston later died of his injuries).

However, speaking at the weekend, David Capper said that he could not understand how anybody could draw the conclusion that his tape indicated that shots were fired at the British Army first.

Capper said: ``If anybody says that my tape recording indicates that shots were initially fired at the soldiers, I would find that difficult to believe, because that was not what I was recording.''

On the tape recording, shortly after the shots are recorded, Capper is heard saying: ``Those in fact were live rounds now being fired by the British troops, There's a report that they may have hit two young people and they just shot into a crowd that were milling around in front of a block of flats.''

Mahon's 49-page report was submitted to the Saville Inquiry just before Christmas, without the ``knowledge or sanction'' of Bridge and Bradley, who are now repudiating the findings.

Five other solicitors' firms representing the families of the dead and wounded of Bloody Sunday said in a statement issued on Thursday, 6 January, that they were instructed to ``totally refute the conclusion in this report that the British Army were fired on first''.

Bradley and Bridge themselves say that Mahon's report claims that they both agreed that there was sufficient significant evidence to establish an incoming shot towards the army's position and that the army responded to the incoming shot by shooting Damien Donaghy and John Johnston. They have angrily refuted this claim.

The report also says: ``We believe that the army responds to the incoming shot by shooting Damian Donaghy and John Johnston 13 seconds later''. The use of the word `we' has also angered Bridge and Bradley as it suggests both men agree with the report's conclusion. They said it was ``particularly hurtful and distressing because it suggests that we accept the lie that the army was fired on first. We utterly reject such a suggestion''.

While both Bradley and Bridge have requested that Mahon be sacked by their solicitors, other families have expressed anger at Brendan Kearney, Kelly and Company for their failure to vet the document and gain the consent of their clients.

It is believed that some are saying that Bradley and Bridge now have no option but to get rid of their entire legal team after this incident. The Bloody Sunday inquiry is due to open on 27 March.

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