29 June 2000 Edition

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First phase of Bloody Sunday Inquiry ends

In the final week of opening statements in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, numerous statements from civilians describing how they had been beaten, humiliated and ill treated following arrest were entered into evidence.

Counsel to the Tribunal, Christopher Clark QC, said that there was a considerable body of civilian evidence that those who were taken to Fort George in military lorries were forced to run a gauntlet on their way into the building.

Among those arrested was Father Terence O'Keeffe, a lecturer at the University of Ulster in Coleraine. In a statement made in 1972, he described how he was forced to run through two lines of soldiers, some with dogs, while he was struck several times on the legs, arms and body.

A letter written by Fr. O'Keeffe to General Harry Tuzo, then GOC of the British Armed Forces in the North, was also read into evidence. In it, Fr. O'Keeffe made a formal complaint about the violence inflicted by soldiers on the civilians who had been arrested. He also corroborated the statement of Denis McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, then aged 16, said that he had asked a soldier for a drink, as he was thirsty due to being placed under a large gas heater: ``The soldier, who was taller than me said `Open your mouth'. Not being my full self at that moment due to everything that had happened that day, I opened my mouth and he spat into it.''

Several other civilian statements described being pulled out of lorries by the hair and being beaten violently while attempting to get inside the building. Joseph McColgan said: ``The soldiers were laughing and shouting and seemed to be enjoying themselves.''

Several soldiers in the Coldstream Guards who were at Fort George made statements in which they denied any ill treatment had taken place. They described the detainees as being ``ushered in'' to the hangar.

The Inquiry heard statements from civilians who claimed that shots had been fired into the Bogside from the city walls. Leonard Green, a former mayor of Derry, described how he had examined bullet holes and had concluded that shots had been fired from an observation post on top of the Embassy Ballroom. A former member of the Royal Navy with firearms experience, Green also stated that it had been his opinion for many years that shots had been fired from the walls, but that this had been ignored.

In statements given to the Inquiry last week, two soldiers have said that they did not find any explosive devices on the body of one of the victims.

Gerald Donaghy, the youngest of the Bloody Sunday victims at 17, was photographed after his death with what appeared to be nail bombs protruding from his pockets.

The photographs, however, contradict both civilian and military testimony. A doctor who treated Donaghy stated that he had carefully examined him, seeking entry and exit wound,s and had seen no nail bombs. Civilians who carried him to safety also stated that no nail bombs were present.

Soldier 150, a member of the Royal Anglian Regiment who was stationed at barrier 20 on Barrack Street, told the Inquiry that he drove the car with Gerald Donaghy on board to a medical post at Craigavon Bridge. His statement said he saw ``nothing remarkable'' about the body when he lifted his arm to check for a pulse. ``I'm sure if he had had nail bombs in his pockets I would have seen them,'' he continued.

Civilians who tried to transport Donaghy to hospital told of being stopped and forced out of their car. One man described how he was shot at point blank range by a rubber bullet.

Another soldier who was acting as a medical officer at Craigavon Bridge stated to the Tribunal that he found no nail bombs in Gerald Donaghy's possession, despite examining him twice in a 25-minute period.

Day 35 of the Inquiry had been spent viewing documentaries and news footage of Bloody Sunday and its aftermath. This included a Thames Television ``This Week'' documentary that was broadcast on 3 February 1972. It contained interviews with Paras who were relaxing in a social club drinking pints of beer and claiming they had come under gun and nail bomb attack. An officer claimed that a member of his platoon had been badly burned by an acid bomb. The present Inquiry has stated that there were no military personnel injured.

Also viewed was footage of an RTÉ interview with members of the Official IRA, who stated that their units and weapons had been withdrawn from the Bogside and that any of their members who attended the march had done so as unarmed private citizens.

Christopher Clark QC then outlined the evidence relating to the killings of Patrick Doherty and Bernard McGuigan. A series of photographs by French photographer Gilles Peres captures the final moments of Doherty's life as he tried to crawl to safety. The Inquiry heard how Bernard McGuigan had been shot in the head when he tried to go to the aid of the dying Patrick Doherty, who was crying out, ``I don't want to die by myself''.

Clark stated that pathology experts employed by the Tribunal had concluded that Doherty had been shot from behind while lying in a prone position.

The Inquiry will adjourn until 4 September 2000. When it resumes, it is expected to begin hearing civilian testimony, following opening statements by legal representatives for the families and the wounded.

BY PATRICIA MacBRIDE

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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