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30 November 2000 Edition

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First witnesses testify before Bloody Sunday Inquiry

The Bloody Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry this week heard its first evidence from civilian witnesses. This evidence has related to events that happened before the Parachute Regiment entered the Bogside on 30 January 1972.

One of the earliest witnesses to testify was Len Green, a former telecommunications engineer who was working in the telephone exchange on Great James Street as the events of the day unfolded and who told the Inquiry of how calls routed through the exchange captured the growing panic and shock of the community as information was forwarded on the numbers of people who had been killed and injured.

Green also told the Inquiry that he had examined a metal conduit encasing telephone cables on the outer wall of block 2 of Rosville flats and had discovered bullet holes and scratch marks along the wall. He stated that he had placed a pen through the entry and exit holes that the bullet had made and that it was his firm conviction that this bullet had been fired from the roof of the Embassy Ballroom.

This week's proceedings had commenced with opening statements by legal counsel representing the soldiers who have given evidence to the Inquiry. Edwin Glasgow QC, who represents 450 former soldiers, opened his remarks with an attack on Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, whom he declared ``has neither the courage nor the integrity nor the respect for this Tribunal to co-operate with this Inquiry''.

Glasgow stated that it was ``galling'' to hear Christopher Clark QC, counsel for the Inquiry, state that the search for evidence had taken place ``in all continents of the globe save Antartica'', whilst Martin McGuinness sat in the public gallery on the opening day of the Inquiry.

During his opening remarks, Glasgow also made the incredible claim that there were 34 casualties of Bloody Sunday who were unaccounted for. He stated that civilian statements recorded casualties who were never identified and said it was ``extremely unlikely that every one of those witnesses is wrong about every one of those 34 casualties who have not been identified''. He did not, however, advance any theory as to what had happened to those individuals, who had been, presumably, either killed or injured by gunfire.

The hearings continue to take civilian witness statements.

McGuinness will give evidence

Martin McGuinness MP, reacting later that day, said that Glasgow's comments ``are an obvious attempt to deflect the spotlight away from the weight of evidence that continues to be presented and which indicts not only the British soldiers who fired the shots on Bloody Sunday but also their military and political masters.

``I have already stated publicly that I have no problem giving evidence to the Inquiry although I have concerns about the lack of equivalence in the presentation of evidence eg: the anonymity for British military witnesses and the wilful destruction of weapons used on Bloody Sunday by the British Ministry of Defence.

McGuinness also noted the significance that the statement of Derek Wilford, the British Commander ultimately responsible for the events of that day, has still not been released to the Bloody Sunday families or their legal representatives.



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