Bloody Sunday and the Report of the Widgery Tribunal – The Irish Government’s Assessment of the New Material Presented to the British Government in June 1997


30 January, 1997 marked the 25th anniversary of the killing of thirteen

people and the wounding of a further fourteen (one of whom was to die shortly

afterwards) in Derry in 1972 by the British Army. The passage of those years has

not lessened the meaning of what happened on that day, summed up by the term

synonymous with it, “Bloody Sunday”, the trauma of which sent shock

waves of anger, grief and indignation that were felt throughout the island of

Ireland, the wider Irish community abroad and the international community.

The passage of twenty five years has not dimmed the memories of that day for

those who were present and particularly for those who lost loved ones. Memories

are vividly recalled with deeply felt emotion about lost fathers, sons and

brothers. The Government is acutely aware that time has not diminished this

sense of pain and loss. It is also aware that their grief has been deepened by

their belief, widely shared, that the events of Bloody Sunday have yet to be set

out in a truthful and credible official account. The Bloody Sunday relatives

believe that the Report of Lord Widgery was a deliberately incomplete and

wilfully misleading official version of events designed for the sole purpose of

exculpating the actions of the British Army.

The Government has long shared the widespread view that the Widgery Report

was unsatisfactory and that it did not represent the truth of what happened on

that day. Indeed, the very disregard with which the Widgery Report was viewed by

nationalists, particularly those in Derry, has meant that they have largely

ignored it, so far removed was its version of events from the reality of what

they believed happened in Derry on 30 January 1972. On the other hand, for the

British authorities, the Widgery Report remains the official version of events.

On the basis of the Widgery Report, compensation was granted to the next of kin

in 1974 and in 1992 the British confirmed the innocence of those killed by

reference to the Report’s finding that none were found guilty.

The emergence of new material and the re-evaluation of the available evidence

which coincided with the twenty fifth anniversary of Bloody Sunday has refocused

attention on the events of that day and on the Widgery Report. It has reawakened

and deepened the long standing doubts about the Widgery Report and suggested a

dramatically different version of events to that offered in the official

account. The Government believed that this new material, the very serious issues

raised by the emerging picture of what actually happened on Bloody Sunday and

the long standing concerns of the Bloody Sunday relatives, warranted, in the

first instance, a clear and thorough assessment of the material which has

emerged recently, particularly in terms of its implications for the credibility

of the Widgery Report. The Government has, accordingly, had such an assessment

prepared by its officials.

The Government has been very conscious of the power of the events of Bloody

Sunday and the Widgery Report to evoke deep emotions so evidently reflected in

the commemorations twenty five years later. It has been very aware of and, it

hopes, sensitive to the wishes and feelings of the Bloody Sunday relatives, as

it has regarding all the victims of violence in Northern Ireland. The Government

believes that the process of healing, reconciliation and ultimately of peace is

advanced by a willingness on all sides and on behalf of all victims to

acknowledge the over-riding values of truth and justice. These considerations

have formed the basis of the Government’s approach in seeking to assess the

significance of the new material regarding Bloody Sunday and particularly its

significance for the Report of the Widgery Tribunal of Inquiry.


1. The new material which formed the basis of the Government’s assessment can

be summarised as follows:

  • Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, The Truth, edited by Don Mullan (1997): thispublishes a selection of civilian eyewitness statements drawn from over 500accounts given to the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and theNational Council for Civil Liberties (hereafter NICRA/NCCL) which weresubmitted to the Widgery Tribunal but not substantively considered by it. Inaddition to these, the book contains accounts of recently released archivalmaterial, an assessment of the significance of intercepted Army and RUCradio messages, and preliminary medical and ballistic reassessments. Thematerial combines to form a profoundly different and vividly portrayedversion of events which is distinctly at odds with that presented by theWidgery Report. It strongly indicates that the Widgery Inquiry was partisanand selective in the evidence which it chose to consider and accept.

    Significantly, Don Mullan concludes on the basis of a variety of sources

    that shots were fired by the British Army from the vicinity of Derry Walls,

    that these shots hit a number of civilians and that the evidence of three of

    the fatalities indicates that they died as a result of these shots. Lord

    Widgery never considered such a possibility despite evidence to that effect

    having been available to him.

  • The Bloody Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry, a resounding defeat for truth,justice and the rule of lawby Professor Dermot Walsh (1997): thisincludes an analysis of recently released statements made by soldiersinitially to the Military Police and later to the Treasury Solicitors on andafter 30 January 1972 which were not made available at the time to Counselfor the next of kin. The study has found that these statements containedsubstantial and material inconsistencies, discrepancies and alterations.While the disparities between the statements by and between the soldierswere plainly evident to the staff of the Tribunal, they were not madeavailable to Counsel for the next of kin despite their obvious materialrelevance both individually and collectively. Prof. Walsh argues that thisfailure, an effective concealment of relevant material by the Tribunal,

    undermined the cross examination process and rendered the Widgery Report

    fatally flawed. Prof. Walsh also considers the significance of other

    archival material, recently released by the British Public Record Office,

    relating to the operation of the Tribunal and concludes that its operation

    was inherently biased against the victims and in favour of the British Army.

    He also provides an analysis of the other features of the Inquiry, most

    notably the fact that it derogated from the recommendations of the Salmon

    Report on fair legal representation, which helped undermine its fairness and

    balance toward the victims and their relatives.

  • Channel Four News has broadcast a number of interviews with individualswhom Channel Four believe to have been soldiers on duty in Derry on BloodySunday. These interviews support allegations that shots were fired from thevicinity of Derry Walls by the British Army, make claims that militarycommand and control was absent for a period in which “shameful anddisgraceful acts” were being perpetrated, and contain assertions thatofficials working for Lord Widgery changed the version of events presentedby at least one soldier.
  • A Dublin newspaper, the Sunday Business Post, published extractsfrom a very disturbing account, reputedly by a member of 1 Para, of theactions of members of his unit in Rossville Street and Glenfada Park whichincluded the deliberate killing, variously, of unarmed and fleeingcivilians, some of whom had already been wounded by British Army fire. Theaccount also claims that the staff of the Widgery Tribunal fabricatedaspects of this soldier’s statement in an apparent attempt to justify thekillings. The Government was given a copy of this document which included,inter alia, the names of individual soldiers not revealed in the publishedversion.
  • The Government undertook an extensive search of its files relating toBloody Sunday. Among those files were 101 statements by eyewitnesses whichwere collected by the Government in 1972. Many of those who gave statementsto the Government also gave statements to the Northern Ireland Civil RightsAssociation (NICRA) and the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL)which subsequently formed the basis of Don Mullan’s Eyewitness BloodySunday. Extracts from these unpublished eyewitness accounts have been usedin this assessment.

2. In describing the material which has emerged as ‘new’ care must be

exercised. Some of the material is genuinely new, such as the claims made on

Channel Four that members of the security forces now verify that shots were

fired from the vicinity of Derry Walls by the British Army. Some, such as the

civilian eyewitness statements contained in Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, is not new

in that it was available to the Tribunal at the time. However, the publication

now of the civilian eyewitness accounts reveals afresh their compelling nature

as a body of evidence dramatically at odds with the findings of the Widgery

Report. Their restatement in conjunction with other material adds forcefully to

the long-held doubts about the Report as an accurate and complete version of

events. Some of the material, such as the statements made initially by the

soldiers to the Military Police and subsequently to the Treasury Solicitors, was

available to the official side of the Tribunal but would have been new to

Counsel for the next of kin. It emerges now as new to the public. Indeed, this

body of material derives its force from the very fact that it and the

inconsistencies and alterations on the part of the implicated soldiers it

reveals, were available to Counsel for the Tribunal but effectively concealed

from Counsel for the next of kin despite their obvious relevance, particularly

in the context of an adversarially based Inquiry. In other words, it is the fact

of the material being “old” which gives it its devastating force as a

critique of the Widgery Report.

3. New ballistics and medical evidence from independent expert sources has

also emerged which supports Don Mullan’s thesis that three of the victims of

Bloody Sunday died as a result of British Army fire from the vicinity of Derry


4. In the course of this analysis, a number of comments and inferences are

made solely on the basis of the content of the Widgery Report itself. They are

based on the contradictions and failures in logic and purpose which are found

throughout the Report. These are a legitimate source of criticism and so obvious

that comment could not reasonably have been avoided. The Widgery Report has in

the past been subject to detailed critiques, most notably those by Prof. Samuel

Dash and Bryan McMahon, both of which have been used where appropriate in the

course of this assessment.

5. Having considered the new material under three headings – Summary, New

Material? and Significance – the assessment turns to the Widgery Report itself

and subjects it to a detailed deconstruction in the light of the new material.

The assessment closes with a conclusion based on this assessment and a

recommendation on how the issue of Bloody Sunday should be taken forward.

Summary and Significance of New Material

Eyewitness Statements


6. Over 500 witness statements were recorded by the Northern Ireland Civil

Rights Association and the National Council for Civil Liberties shortly after

Bloody Sunday and presented to the Widgery Tribunal in March 1972. Of these, 114

were selected for publication in Don Mullan’s Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, The

Truth which was published in January 1997. None of the statements were edited

(save for minor spelling errors etc.). These statements portray a vivid picture

of physical brutality and the deliberate use of lethal force without

justification by the British Army. According to the statements, the British Army

deployed in a very fast and aggressive manner into Rossville Street/Glenfada

Park, took no obvious precautions against return IRA fire and shot unarmed

civilians, often with lethal intent. Incidences of brutality are frequently

recounted in these statements, often involving references to the abuse of those

who attempted to render assistance – including uniformed members of the Order of

Malta. They also contain claims that a number of the wounded were deliberately

killed. Don Mullan proposes the thesis in his book, based on these eyewitness

statements and other evidence (particularly ballistics and medical) that British

Army snipers fired shots from the vicinity of Derry Walls which proved fatal in

three instances.

New Material?

7. The eyewitness statements are not new and were in fact available to the

Widgery Tribunal. According to Lord Widgery “the Northern Ireland Civil

Rights Association collected a large number of statements from people in

Londonderry said to be willing to give evidence. These statements reached me at

an advanced stage in the Inquiry. In so far as they contained new material, not

traversing ground already familiar from evidence given before me, I have made

use of them.”

8. It is also evident from a recently released memorandum written by the

Tribunal’s secretary on 10 March 1972 that the statements were considered in

some manner by either the Treasury Solicitor’s Office and/or Counsel for the

Tribunal, Mr. Stocker. Mr. Stocker in fact selected 15 statements which he

thought worthwhile bringing to Lord Widgery’s attention. Mr. Hall of the

Treasury Solicitor’s Office believed there were four statements which, according

to the memorandum, he would like to have seen given in evidence. The Tribunal’s

secretary, W.J. Smith, believed that evidence from some of these witnesses

should have been taken “since it was clear that if this was not done there

would subsequently be heavy criticism.”

9. The memorandum records that Lord Widgery believed that the statements were

submitted at a “late stage” to cause him “maximum

embarrassment” and that there was little choice but to call either none or

a substantial number which he was not prepared to do at that stage. He did not

believe that the statements brought anything new to the proceedings. It is very

difficult to see how Lord Widgery could have arrived at that judgement in an

objective and balanced way if he had read a substantial portion of the

statements. His negative response to them seems to indicate that he did indeed

view them as coming from “the other side”.

10. The eyewitness statements as published by Don Mullan are new to the

public at large and in their consistency and clarity have provided a

disturbingly vivid description of what happened on Bloody Sunday. This view of

events is diametrically opposed to that offered in the official version of

events by Lord Widgery and in that manner have resurrected the long held

concerns that the Widgery Tribunal and its Report frustrated the objective for

which it was established. Furthermore, the publication of the eyewitness

accounts by Don Mullan has provided the foundation for the emergence of other

information, including archival material and what are believed to be new

eyewitnesses from the security forces.


11. Lord Widgery’s failure to use this evidence, to adequately consider the

information contained in their statements which challenged assertions made by

the military witnesses at the Tribunal in general as well as key instances, or

to call a reasonable number of the civilian eyewitnesses was significant in the

following terms:

– A major body of evidence which directly contradicted the evidence

presented by the implicated soldiers (on which Lord Widgery based his

findings) was effectively ignored.

– The bulk of the eyewitness evidence was not available therefore for use

in cross examination of the testimony of the soldiers, testimony which was

directly at odds with these statements; the proceedings were, by all accounts,

intensely adversarial, thus enhancing the importance of the cross examination

process and the significance of any and all failures to present relevant


– British Army assertions in the course of the Inquiry that some of the

victims had been firing weapons or handling bombs were allowed credence by the

absence of the bulk of eyewitness statements to the contrary.

– The possibility of criminal prosecutions against certain soldiers, which

existed prima facie on the basis of several eyewitness statements, was

ultimately denied since Lord Widgery felt free to conclude – on the basis of

the restricted range of evidence that was considered – that the implicated

soldiers were generally telling the truth.

– The possibility, suggested by a number of civilian eyewitnesses and

supported by ballistics and medical evidence, that fire was directed into the

Bogside from the vicinity of Derry Walls and that some of it hit and killed

several victims was not given proper consideration and does not feature in the

Widgery Report.

– A version of events was presented in the Widgery Report which was seen as

so perversely at odds with that of the civilian eyewitnesses (including

journalists) that any remaining public confidence in the Widgery Tribunal’s

methods, conclusions and ultimately motives was undermined.

12. Lord Widgery’s dismissive approach to the statements, his failure to see

them as a crucial repository of valuable – not to say indispensable – evidence

and his belief that their arrival was intended to cause him embarrassment were

at odds with his own emphasis on the importance of eyewitness accounts and

seemed to run directly counter to the very remit of his Inquiry which was, if

nothing else, to establish what happened.

13. According to the terms of the 1921 Act which governed the Widgery

Tribunal, Lord Widgery in his role as chairman decided procedure, rules of

evidence and what was and was not to be considered. The 1921 Act conferred on

him the powers, rights and privileges of a High Court or a judge of the High

Court in terms of compelling witnesses to attend (and to be cross examined) and

the production of documents. However, such a role is predicated on the notion

that the chair will use its powers

to locate, consider and present all the

relevant evidence which assists in uncovering the truth i.e. that the chairman

is actually intent on discovering the truth. That a chairman would use his

powers to suppress relevant evidence or to fail to consider evidence presented

to him fairly is so patently at odds with the functions of a tribunal, indeed

its raison d’etre, that statutory safeguards do not exist to prevent this


14. The argument that full consideration of this evidence would have caused

undue delay in producing the Report carries little weight in light of the

seriousness of what the Inquiry was established to determine. Indeed, the very

speed with which the Tribunal was concluded added profoundly to the widespread

belief that it was not primarily concerned with establishing the full truth.

15. Without additional testimony by the eyewitnesses and the elucidation of

their contribution to the Inquiry by cross examination, much vital information

was not elicited such as the precise identity of the victims alluded to and the

sequence of events. The true evidentiary value, therefore, of the eyewitness

statements was never fully explored through cross examination and their

contribution to the process of determining what happened and to whom was never

properly or fully utilised. This will continue to remain the case until the true

value of these eyewitness accounts is fully explored and corroborated by other

forms of evidence in the appropriate forum. The full significance of these

statements and their potential evidentiary value at the time emerges in the

course of the deconstruction of the Widgery Report which follows.

Statements given to the Government


16. The Government collected 101 statements by eyewitnesses which it

considered reflected the events on the ground from the civilian perspective.

These confirm and in many instances add to the overall picture presented by

eyewitness statements published by Don Mullan. They add further details, often

significant, to the descriptions in Eyewitness Bloody Sunday of how many of the

victims were killed or wounded. Several of these accounts attest to fire coming

from the vicinity of Derry Walls. They also provide graphic accounts of the

brutality inflicted on civilians by British soldiers, including accounts by

members of the Order of Malta. Many of those who provided these accounts also

gave statements to the NICRA/NCCL.

New Material?

17. Since Lord Widgery decided not to give any significant consideration to

the civilian eyewitness accounts, whether the information contained in the

statements given to the Government could be considered ‘new’ is rather moot.

They would certainly be new to the public today in terms of the additional

details and perspectives they offer from the civilian side.


18. Information provided in these statements does not in general terms alter

the description of events offered in Eyewitness Bloody Sunday; they offer

further corroboration about the eyewitness descriptions already published. In

several instances, they augment these with significant additional detail about

the deaths which occurred.

Soldiers’ Statements -Report by Prof. Walsh


19. Professor Dermot Walsh of the Law Department at the University of

Limerick has studied a series of documents relating to the Tribunal and released

by the Public Record Office in 1996. These have been published as The Bloody

Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry, a resounding defeat for truth, justice and the rule

of law which is a comprehensive critique of the Widgery Tribunal, its motives,

methods and conclusions. Central to Prof. Walsh’s analysis is his study of the

recently released documents, in particular 28 statements made by soldiers to the

Military Police on the night of 30/31 January and 13 supplementaries shortly

thereafter (i.e. 41 statements in all; statements made by other soldiers and

police personnel to the Military Police were not released.)

20. These statements contain, according to Prof. Walsh’s study, “serious

and relevant discrepancies” when compared with statements subsequently made

to the Treasury Solicitors for the purpose of the Inquiry. This applies to

almost every soldier who fired one or more shots. While available to the Counsel

to the Tribunal and Counsel for the Army, the earlier statements were not

available to Counsel for the next of kin. As Walsh states, “the reality is

that the soldiers were never exposed to the sort of cross examination to which

they would have been exposed had the contents of their earlier statements been

disclosed to Counsel for the deceased.”

21. Prof. Walsh notes that it is “hardly coincidence that in many

instances the effect of the changes was to convert what had originally amounted

to an unlawful or reckless shooting to a more justifiable one.” He also

points out that changes had the effect of reducing some of the conflicts in the

versions presented by different soldiers.

22. Furthermore, and perhaps most damning of all to the credibility of the

Tribunal, Prof. Walsh points out that “even when the solicitor for the Army

asserted in his closing address that the evidence given by the soldiers to the

Tribunal did not differ from their original statements, apart from one instance,

Counsel for the Tribunal remained silent.” Prof. Walsh concludes that not

only did the Tribunal ignore evidence available to it which clearly damaged the

reliability of statements made by the soldiers in the witness box but by

remaining silent “actively concealed the existence of the evidence which

renders the basis of its own findings unreliable.”

New Material?

23. The initial statements made by the soldiers to the Military Police are

not new since they were available to the Tribunal. However, their existence is

new to the public now and would have been new to both the public at the time

and, crucially, to Counsel for the next of kin. What is new about this material

is the revelation that the Tribunal deliberately failed to reveal evidence

available to it which undermined the reliability of statements made by the

implicated soldiers in the witness box and which ultimately formed the basis for

the Tribunal’s report. In other words, it is from its very vintage that the

material derives its power to invalidate the grounds on which the Widgery Report

was based.


24. In terms of the credibility of the Tribunal as impartial and the validity

of the Report as a version of events, this material is highly significant and

profoundly damaging;

– The statements of the soldiers made to the Military Police, so soon after

the events, clearly constitute material evidence in and of themselves and as

such ought to have been available to Counsel for the next of kin. Furthermore,

the fact that they contain serious and relevant material discrepancies and

differences as against subsequent written and oral statements made by these

same soldiers to the Tribunal substantively altered and enhanced their value

for the purposes of cross examination. That they were not made available to

Counsel for the next of kin for this purpose rendered the process of cross

examination fundamentally flawed.

– That the Tribunal chose not to disclose these statements at any time to

Counsel for the next of kin raises serious questions about the impartiality of

the proceedings of the Widgery Tribunal. That the Tribunal chose to accept the

integrity of the soldiers’ subsequent statements, despite its knowledge that

earlier statements made by them were significantly altered, casts serious

doubt about the commitment of the Tribunal and its staff to oversee a fair and

impartial Inquiry.

– Lord Widgery wrote in his Report that he was impressed with the demeanour

of the soldiers: they gave their evidence “with confidence and without

hesitation or prevarication and withstood a rigorous cross-examination without

contradicting themselves or each other”. He accepted that with one or two

exceptions they were telling the truth as they remembered it. If Lord Widgery

was aware of the significance of the earlier statements by the soldiers, this

judgement must be regarded as at best inherently unsound and at worst a wilful

act of partiality and bias. On that basis, his judgement must be set aside.

Equally, if he was unaware of the significance of the statements, then he

simply was not in a position to make that judgment and it must accordingly be

set aside.

– Since the reliability of the soldiers’ statements in and of themselves

(i.e. even without reference to the facts and evidence to the contrary) cannot

be sustained, the Widgery Report must now be set aside as seriously flawed

since it based its findings largely on the accounts provided by those soldiers

and on a cross examination that was inherently seriously deficient in that it

took place without knowledge, on the side of Counsel for the next of kin, of

extremely relevant evidentiary material.

Archival Material


25. Prof. Walsh’s Report also analyses archival material released by the

British Public Record Office in 1995 and 1996. He concludes that this provides

“compelling and disturbing support” for the suspicion that the

Tribunal was, as he puts it, “in favour of clearing the Army of any serious

wrongdoing”. There are two sources for this conclusion – a record of a

meeting between the Prime Minister and Lord Chief Justice Widgery and a number

of documents which reveal the important role played by the Secretary to the


26. The memorandum of the meeting between Prime Minister Heath, Lord

Chancellor Hailsham and Lord Widgery, which occurred at 10 Downing Street on 31

January 1972, records that the Prime Minister advised that the Inquiry had no

precedent as to its subject, “nor perhaps was it the sort of subject that

those who designed the 1921 Act originally had in mind”. He stated further

that it followed that “the recommendations on procedure made by Lord Salmon

might not necessarily be relevant in this case.” The Prime Minister also

advised Lord Widgery that “it had to be remembered that we are in Northern

Ireland fighting not only a military war but a propaganda war”. Finally,

the Lord Chancellor suggested “that the Treasury Solicitor would need to

brief Counsel for the army.” As Walsh points out, “it would be

difficult to imagine a more clear-cut conflict of interest than having a

solicitor to an independent Tribunal briefing Counsel for the very party whose

actions were supposed to be investigated by that Tribunal.”

27. While it was to be expected that W.J. Smith as Secretary to the Tribunal

would provide valuable assistance to Lord Widgery throughout the Tribunal,

recently published material has provided evidence of the disproportionate and

apparently prejudicial influence exerted by him. The material suggests that his

influence was substantial, was taken on board by Lord Widgery and tended

throughout to favour a version exonerating the Army:

– The Secretary identified discrepancies in the different statements given

by Soldier F, which he stated Lord Widgery should “deal with”. The

Secretary noted that later Lord Widgery accepted this point.

– He added in comments favourable to the Army in the summing up by Counsel

for the Tribunal and offered drafts to Lord Widgery, again favourable to the

Army, with regard to the supposed weapons used by the protesters.

– He provided a draft to Lord Widgery of the final point of his conclusions

to the effect that there was no general breakdown in discipline among the Army

and further apportioning blame to those in Northern Ireland “who

systematically employ violence to try to make their views prevail”. He

also made suggestions for strengthening the conclusions.

28. Prof. Walsh’s concerns in this regard focus on two issues. Firstly, that

this influence by the Secretary was not evident to those involved in the

Tribunal (other than those working directly with Lord Widgery). Secondly, the

obvious conclusion is that the Secretary would appear to be primarily motivated

by a desire to present the Army’s case in a more favourable light. On this

basis, the Tribunal failed to deliver on its obligation to be totally impartial

in ascertaining and presenting the full truth of what happened.

29. Prof. Walsh believes that the phrase ‘LCJ will pile up the case against

the deceased’ “could be interpreted as evidence that the Lord Chief Justice

himself was intent on presenting the case against the deceased in the strongest

possible terms; i.e. that he was consciously biased in favour of the Army.”

At the least, Walsh writes, it “suggests that Lord Widgery innocently, and

presumably under the influence of the Secretary’s memo, adopted an unfair

approach to the presentation of evidence upon which he based his

conclusions.” Prof. Walsh submits that “this appearance is sufficient

in itself to impugn the credibility of the Tribunal’s Report.”

New Material?

30. As it is based on archival documents, this is new material only in the

sense that it is new to the public. However, it does shed new light on the

establishment and operation of the Inquiry. In that it was private, available

only to the Tribunal and not to Counsel for the next of kin, it could in that

sense also be considered new. It cannot be ruled out that further archival

material may emerge which would throw further light on the circumstances and

conduct of the Tribunal and, indeed, on the events of Bloody Sunday itself.


31. The archival material on the circumstances of the establishment of the

Tribunal and its operation supports suggestions of a bias in favour of

exonerating the Army. It reinforces the belief that the Tribunal accepted

evidence supporting the Army’s version of events while frustrating the

presentation of other crucial evidence contradicting that version and supporting

that offered by civilians. It would be reasonable to assume that the effort to

“pile up the case against the deceased” is a sinister phrase

indicative of a bias against them. This interpretation is clearly borne out by

the Report itself as emerges later in this assessment.

Transcript of Statements by Para AA


32. Portions of two transcripts of statements by Para AA (name supplied),

purporting to be his account of service with the anti-tank platoon of 1st

Battalion, Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland in 1971-72 [and giving his

service no. (supplied)] were forwarded by a journalist, Mr. Tom McGurk, to the

Government on 26 February 1997. The contents of the transcripts are grim and, at

points, grisly. They allege that members of Para AA’s unit engaged in the

robbery, beatings (“beastings”), torture, mutilation and murder of

civilians in Northern Ireland. On Bloody Sunday, they allege that the anti-tank

platoon of Support Company had, on the previous day, been encouraged by its

Lieutenant to get some “kills”, that they had their own supply of

ammunition, that they used dum-dum bullets on the day, that Paras deliberately

shot at unarmed civilians in Rossville Street, that named members of the

anti-tank platoon entered Glenfada Park and that Para AA witnessed some of them

unlawfully kill four demonstrably unarmed civilians there, including at least

one who was already wounded, that soldiers lied to the Tribunal and that members

of the Tribunal altered Para AA’s statement so that it “bore no relation to

fact and [I] was told with a smile that this is the statement I would use when

going on the stand.”


33. Portions of the material relating to Bloody Sunday were published on 16

March last by the Sunday Business Post. On Tuesday, 18 March, Channel Four News

broadcast an interview with a paratrooper in which he said that “shameful

and disgraceful acts” were committed, that there was no order to fire to

his knowledge, and that the Widgery Tribunal staff tended to ignore what he said

which was not in accord with the line they wished to take, took his statement

away and returned with another version. In the course of the programme, a

reporter outlined a sequence of events in Glenfada Park which bears similarities

with the account given in the Para AA document. The similarities between the

account given by Para AA and the albeit less explicit account by the paratrooper

to Channel Four are striking. It is not unlikely that the author of the

transcript and the paratrooper who appeared on the Channel Four programme are

one and the same, though this has not yet been established.


34. If Para AA does come forward and claim authorship, then the authenticity

of the document can be conclusively established. Additional information may come

to light, such as to whom the interviews, accounts or transcripts were given (if

anyone), who transcribed the document, who has been in possession of copies and

who passed a copy to Mr. McGurk. Obviously that would not establish that the

contents are factually accurate. However, given the volume of verifiable facts

within the document, this question can presumably be answered at least in part

through either research or official confirmation by the British authorities.

35. It should also be noted that incidents described in the Para AA document

reflect the contents of the civilian eyewitness statements published by Don

Mullan and those contained in Irish Government files. The account given by Para

AA of what happened in Glenfada Park is eerily similar, albeit from the

soldier’s perspective, to that offered by the NICRA/NCCL eyewitness statements.

36. One claim in the document appears to have been verified: Para AA claimed

in it that he was given the number 027 for the purpose of giving statements to

the Widgery Tribunal. In the soldiers’ statements made to the authorities and

recently released by the British Public Record Office, there is in fact a

statement by a soldier with the number 027. The account provided by 027 appears

to correspond closely to that described in the Para AA document.


37. If the transcript is authenticated, then it represents the most

significant new evidence yet to come to light regarding the actions of soldiers

on the ground during Bloody Sunday, particularly what happened in Glenfada Park,

and the nature of the Widgery Tribunal. The allegation that Counsel for the

Tribunal fabricated evidence, if verified, would represent a fatal blow to the

Tribunal’s credibility.

38. In the transcript, Para AA states that an original statement was torn up

by the staff of the Tribunal and another statement taken. In the records

released by the British Public Record Office and used as the basis for Professor

Walsh’s report, there is a statement by a soldier 027 which tallies with

information given in the Para AA document. Significantly, the

“approved” version by 027 contains the following alternative version

of what happened in Glenfada Park:

“I was a short distance behind them [soldiers E, F, G, and H] and as

they went out of my view round the corner I heard several SLR shots. I cannot

say who fired and neither can I say what target they engaged. However, as I

reached the corner of the building I saw a crowd of about 40 civilians at the

far end of the park. They appeared to be leaving through an exit in the NW

corner of the area. Then I saw a male civilian in his early twenties wearing

blue clothing and with long hair lighting something in his hand. I then heard

someone say drop it but I do not know who said that or whether it was directed

at the youth holding the petrol bomb. As he attempted to throw the bomb ‘E’

knelt and fired at the youth at an estimated range of 20 metres. I saw the youth

fall to the ground as the petrol bomb exploded near by.”

39. This is in startling contrast to the version presented in the transcript.

It removes Para AA/027 from view and introduces a threatening civilian, armed

with a petrol bomb, to justify his killing. 027 was never called to give

testimony by Lord Widgery who relied on the testimony of the four soldiers who

actually fired i.e. the implicated soldiers.

40. If the Para AA document is authentic, then it appears that another

British Army witness was available and potentially willing to state what he saw

if encouraged to do so by the Widgery Tribunal rather than be presented with a

fabricated exculpatory account as claimed in the Para AA document.

41. Para AA’s claim that each soldier had a personal supply of bullets

appears to accord with eyewitness statements on the volume of fire and, if

verified, makes something of a mockery of Lord Widgery’s apparent assiduousness

in accounting for rounds expended. The use of dum-dum bullets was and is

contrary to the Geneva Convention. The claim that dum-dums were fired appears to

accord with the nature of the wound inflicted on at least one of the victims in

Rossville Street, Bernard McGuigan.

42. There are other disturbing indications in the Para AA transcript which

suggest that the level of excessive – not to say lethal – force was sanctioned

by the British Army i.e. the briefing by the officer commanding the unit on the

previous day seeking some “kills”, the degree of aggression and

expectation that the unit was about to engage the IRA and the presence on the

ground of what appears to have been plain-clothes British operatives and a

“P.R.” man. It has long been suggested that the presence on the day in

Derry of the officer commanding land forces in Northern Ireland, General Ford,

indicated that the British Army had planned a more significant operation than

mere containment and arrest. If true, the Para AA account would clearly suggest

that elements of 1 Para were intent on more than arrest and containment.

Medical Evidence


43. In his introduction to Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, Don Mullan draws

particular attention to the trajectory of the wounds of three of the victims

(William Nash, Michael McDaid and John Young), all killed at the Rossville

Street barricade. He notes that Dr. John Press, who carried out all the post

mortem examinations on 31 January, recorded that the trajectory of the wounds of

all three victims were 45 degrees to the horizontal plane. Mullan says that as a

lay person, it seemed “highly unlikely that a cluster of ten to twelve

bullets, fired from any one of seven soldiers (as Lord Widgery would have us

believe), all of varying heights in varying firing positions and all at ground

level, could have produced such remarkably similar 45 degree downward


44. Appendix 3 to the book contains a statement from Dr. Raymond McClean of 6

November 1996 which states that “the conclusion to be drawn from the

forensic evidence, allied to the eyewitness account [i.e. that of Denis

McLaughlin], suggests the likelihood that William Nash was killed by a bullet

fired from the vicinity of the Derry Walls.”

New Material?

45. The post mortem results are not new and were available to the Tribunal.

However, McClean’s statement of 6 November 1996 is new in that it combines the

medical evidence with the eyewitness evidence that shots were fired from the

Walls. It is the combination of eyewitness evidence, recent statements by

witnesses believed to be soldiers and medical evidence such as that indicated by

Dr. McClean, that opens again the question of who shot and killed a number of

the victims and from where.


46. This material is significant in that it directly contradicts the findings

of the Widgery Report relating to a number of deaths. It highlights the failure

of the Tribunal to consider the medical evidence in and of itself. The Tribunal

determined that all the Army shots were fired by the soldiers advancing up

Rossville Street toward the barricade and at targets facing them rather than

fleeing. Evidence which suggested that the shots were fired from any other

direction was therefore discounted, irrespective of its merits. In that respect,

Lord Widgery either disregarded or failed to explore fully the medical evidence

given by Dr. John Press (Assistant State Pathologist) on the trajectory of the

wounds of the three fatalities at the Rossville Street barricade. Furthermore,

Lord Widgery failed to call Dr. McClean to testify despite the obvious and

possibly critical contribution he could have made regarding the medical

evidence. If shots were fired from the Walls, then the medical evidence from the

bodies of Nash, McDaid and Young would appear to correlate with such shots. The

Tribunal failed, therefore, to provide a full or credible account for the deaths

of a number of the victims.

47. If the Mullan thesis is correct that shots were indeed fired from the

Walls and hit and possibly killed a number of the victims of Bloody Sunday, then

on this point alone the Widgery Report must be characterised as incomplete and

inherently flawed. Furthermore, since it would conflict with the professed

intention of the British Army to mount an arrest operation, firing from the

Walls would profoundly alter perceptions about what happened on Bloody Sunday.

48. The full disclosure of all relevant medical records regarding the victims

(dead and wounded) would undoubtedly help clarify many of the outstanding

questions regarding the direction from which shots were fired.

New Ballistics Information


49. In his introduction to Eyewitness, Bloody Sunday, Don Mullan records his

discussion with Robert Breglio, an independent ballistics consultant who had

spent twenty five years as a detective in the New York Police Department’s

ballistics squad. Having reviewed photographs, statements and inquest reports,

Mr. Breglio stated that it was his opinion that “the angles of trajectory

of bullet wounds of three deceased named: William Nash, John Young and Michael

McDaid, originated from an area in the vicinity of Derry Walls and from a height

that would inflict wounds of this angle trajectory (sic).”

50. Having undertaken further field research, Mr. Breglio published his

conclusions in March 1997. He arrived at the following conclusion:

(That impact marks on the gable at the entrance to Glenfada Park and

Rossville Street) were made by being struck by high velocity projectiles that

were fired from a high powered weapon. The trajectory of these projectiles is

incoming from east to west and probably a north west direction. I will

conclude that in my professional opinion these projectiles were fired from a

position located up in the area of Derry Walls.

51. The Breglio Report also contains a medical report by Dr. Raymond McClean

which states that:

  • The conclusion to be drawn from the forensic evidence, allied to theeyewitness accounts, suggests the likelihood that William Nash was killed bya bullet fired from the vicinity of Derry Walls. There is also thepossibility that Michael McDaid and John Young may have been shot from asimilar firing position.
  • The similarity of the trajectory lines through the three bodies wouldsuggest that this was not haphazard shooting from different soldiers, atdifferent angles, at ground level. The evidence as established wouldindicate that these men were shot from a location above them, and possiblyby a marksman or marksmen, firing from the same position.

52. In a Channel Four News broadcast on 17 January 1997, Dr. Hugh Thomas, a

consultant surgeon at Prince Charles Hospital (Merthyr Tydfil, Wales), stated

the following:

53. These shots could only have come from a higher level. It would be almost

impossible for those three men in the few seconds available to them to bend to

exactly the same angle and face exactly the same way and be shot in exactly the

same fashion. It would be extraordinary and almost unheard of. So, I would say

definitely not.

New Material?

54. This clearly constitutes new evidence from three eminent and independent

expert sources. It suggests that other relevant evidence exists within official

British archives which could help resolve the questions raised about shooting

from elevated positions.


55. The significance of this material can be judged by the fact that new

ballistics evidence would be regarded as sufficient to warrant an appeal in a

criminal conviction.

56. In terms of the Widgery Report, it would mean that a significant portion

of it would have to be dismissed (e.g. in terms of its accounts of the deaths of

some of the victims and its version of events at the Rossville Street barricade)

and, further, that an area of significant activity on the part of the British

Army in the vicinity of the Walls was simply ignored in the official version of


57. In confirming the value and veracity of the civilian eyewitness accounts,

this material reinforces the concerns regarding the balance of treatment

afforded to eyewitnesses as between civilian and military. Had Lord Widgery been

so minded, he could have explored the full potential of the ballistics, medical

and forensic evidence to help him decide between the veracity of the various

contending eyewitness accounts. That he failed to do so – even to the point of

not calling medical expert witnesses, such as Dr. McClean, or of ignoring their

testimony, such as Dr. Press, both of whom were present at the post mortem

examinations – allowed him to avoid drawing what is now the obvious conclusion,

that the ballistics, medical and forensic evidence corroborated the version of

events presented by the civilian eyewitnesses rather than that offered by the

implicated soldiers and other military witnesses.

Radio Transcripts


58. James A.W. Porter recorded British Army and RUC radio messages on 30

January. Despite their obvious relevance, they were ruled inadmissible as

evidence by Lord Widgery on the grounds that they had been obtained illicitly.

Mr. Porter has made copies of these tapes and transcripts available to the

Government. As Don Mullan points out, these messages indicate that the British

Army was in fact firing from the Walls. He also points out that “nowhere in

the transcripts is there any report of nail bomb or petrol bomb


New Material?

59. This is not new material in that its existence was known to the Tribunal.


60. The significance of these intercepts is problematic. On the one hand they

recorded contemporaneous British Army and RUC messages which make clear that

shots were fired from Derry Walls. In conjunction with other new material, it

would appear to provide additional evidence not considered by Lord Widgery

though clearly available to him at the time. Yet the messages were relayed

openly and were known therefore to be liable to interception and recording. This

raises the possibility that they may have been used to convey misinformation

e.g. that shots were fired at the Walls, to which shots were returned.

Furthermore, the messages in themselves do not reflect in a convincing or

complete way the events as they unfolded. This is partially explained by the

fact that operational messages had been switched to the secure link. It is the

log of exchanges on the secure link which would provide a much clearer picture

of the British Army’s movements and actions on the ground. If the radio messages

were used to convey misinformation on fire at the security forces, then it is

difficult to invoke them as proof that fire was actually returned from the Army

on the Walls. The significance of the radio intercepts may rest therefore in

being an example of deliberate misinformation about coming under fire rather

than in what they purport to relate about actual events.

61. Nonetheless, Lord Widgery’s decision, on indeterminate legal grounds,

that these intercepts were illicitly obtained seems perverse. They clearly had

some relevance, for example in raising for further consideration the possibility

of British Army fire from the vicinity of the Walls or in demonstrating the

possible significance of other radio messages such as those on the secure link.

The failure to consider the intercepts underlines the significance of the

absence of any consideration by Lord Widgery of the actions and intent of

British Army units on duty at and around the Walls and believed responsible for

shots, some of which may have been fatal to a number of innocent civilians. They

further underline his failure to convincingly account for the intentions and

actions of British Army units not involved in the arrest operation but evidently

involved in the events of Bloody Sunday.

Channel Four News Reports


62. On 17 January 1997, Channel Four News broadcast a major investigative

report, drawing on eyewitness statements, the Porter intercepts and the opinion

of a medical expert, Dr. Thomas, in which it was asserted that the British Army

fired from the Walls and from that position a marksman hit and killed Young,

Nash and McDaid.

63. On 29 January 1997, Channel Four News reported that as a result of the

broadcast of 17 January 1997, a former soldier with the Royal Anglian Regiment

had come forward and, while he refused to be identified or filmed, confirmed

that shots were fired from the vicinity of the Walls and that hits were claimed

by at least one Army sniper in a derelict terrace adjacent to the Walls who, he

said, shouted “He’s got a gun….Bloody hell, I’ve got two with three

shots.” He also thought it possible that in the confusion the British Army

sniper fired without being fired upon.

New Material?

64. This is clearly new material. Whether it will constitute new evidence

will turn on whether those making the statements to Channel Four are prepared to

come forward.


65. This material, if and when its source were to come forward and confirm

this account, would be highly significant evidence that British Army snipers

fired from around the Walls and claimed hits. It would considerably boost the

argument that the Widgery Report failed to account for a significant aspect of

the killings and the possibility that some deaths were as a result of fire from

soldiers other than the paratroopers.

Testimony of Soldiers on Derry Walls


66. Don Mullan has examined statements recently released by the British

Public Record Office made by four soldiers who were stationed on Derry’s Walls

which appear to confirm that snipers were positioned on or near the Walls

overlooking the Bogside. He examines claims in these statements that shots were

fired at the Walls and concludes that these are not credible. For example, in

three of the soldiers’ testimonies there is no mention of coming under civilian

fire. Soldier 156 claimed that two bullets struck the Walls at 4.15 pm which he

presumed to have come from St. Columb’s Wells. Mullan dismisses this as

“fantasy” since the crowd assembling at this time in the area of the

supposed gunmen remained relaxed. Had a gunman, he argues, been operating, the

mood would have been very different. Mullan asks whether the three sniper shots

fired from the derelict houses near the Walls, as related by soldier 156, might

have hit Young, Nash and McDaid.

New Material?

67. While this material was available to the Tribunal, it was not available

to the Counsel for the next of kin or to the public.


68. Its significance lies in the fact that it may help to confirm from

British Army sources that shots were in fact fired from the vicinity of the

Walls. However, the testimonies of the soldiers were completely unreliable in

numerous instances and any faith in them as accurate source material is highly

suspect. Given their unreliability, clear corroboration is required. At least in

terms of these testimonies and what they say of fire returned from the vicinity

of the Walls by the British Army, there now exists corroboration from other

sources of evidence as already described here.

The Widgery Report and the New Material

Points 69-110

The Widgery Report and the ‘New’ Material

69. The following is a deconstruction of the Widgery Report, drawing on the

different sources of new material already outlined. Its purpose is to assess, on

the basis of a prima facie examination, the significance of the new material for

the credibility of the Widgery Report (extracts of which are reproduced in


Terms of Reference

Para 2. The terms of reference of the Inquiry were as stated in the

Parliamentary Resolutions and the Warrants of Appointment. At a preliminary

hearing on 14 February I explained that my interpretation of those terms of

reference was that the Inquiry was essentially a fact finding exercise, by which

I meant that its purpose was to reconstruct, with as much detail as was

necessary, the events which led to the shooting of a number of people in the

streets of Londonderry on the afternoon of Sunday 30 January. The Tribunal was

not concerned with making moral judgements; its task was to try to form an

objective view of the events and the sequence in which they occurred. The

Tribunal would therefore listen to witnesses who were present on the occasion

and who could assist in reconstructing the events from the evidence of what they

saw with their own eyes or heard with their own ears. I wished to hear evidence

from people who supported each of the versions of the events of 30 January which

had been given currency.

70. In light of the new material, virtually all of the main points of this

paragraph are open to contradiction. Not all of the relevant facts available to

the Tribunal were taken into account. Nor were the facts which were dealt with

by the Tribunal considered adequately or in a balanced way. The determination of

what was and was not a fact was highly questionable. A precise reconstruction

with necessary and germane detail was not attempted and in the case of Glenfada

Park avoided. The Tribunal did not visit the scene of any of the shootings.

71. Lord Widgery failed to adhere to his stricture not to make moral

judgements. Time and again throughout the Report, he pronounced at length on the

nefarious motives of elements within the civil rights march

(“hooligans” aiding and abetting the IRA) and the honourable motives

of the soldiers (“the intention of the senior Army officers to use 1 Para

as an arrest force and not for offensive purposes was sincere” and

“there is no reason to suppose that the soldiers would have opened fire if

they had not been fired upon first.”). Lord Widgery did, then, make

“moral” judgements, most significantly in his first conclusion that no

deaths would have occurred “if those who organised the illegal march had

not thereby created a highly dangerous situation in which a clash between

demonstrators and the security forces was almost inevitable.”

72. Where there were conflicts in the evidence, the Report persistently

supported the version offered by the soldiers involved in firing and whose

interests in concealment were obvious rather than those with greater claims to

objectivity (e.g. civilian eyewitnesses, journalists, ex-service men, soldiers

and officers who were not implicated). In failing to reveal the inconsistencies

and alterations in the earlier statements of the soldiers, the Tribunal

prejudicially sustained the credibility of the testimony offered by the soldiers

at the Inquiry and thereby actively aided the presentation of a misleading

version of events.

73. Despite Lord Widgery’s emphasis on the importance of eyewitnesses, the

Tribunal failed to give substantive consideration to the eyewitness statements

taken and submitted by the NICRA/NCCL. Lord Widgery did not call even a

significant minority of the hundreds of civilian eyewitnesses who made known

through their NICRA/NCCL statements the relevance of what they had witnessed and

the fact that they were prepared to testify (or even those few witnesses deemed

by his staff worthy of giving testimony). Nor did he call many witnesses who

were demonstrably relevant to his Inquiry and who could have assisted in a

reconstruction of what happened, most notably six of those wounded and prepared

to testify.

Para 3. I emphasised the narrowness of the confines of the Inquiry, the

value of which would largely depend on its being conducted and concluded

expeditiously. If considerations not directly relevant to the matters under

review were allowed to take up time, the production of the Tribunal’s Report

would be delayed. The limits of the Inquiry in space were the streets of

Londonderry in which the disturbances and the shooting took place; in time the

period beginning with the moment when the march first became involved in

violence and ending with the deaths of the deceased and the conclusion of the


Para 4. At the first substantive hearing I explained that the emphasis on the

importance of eye witnesses did not exclude evidence such as that of

pathologists. Nor did it exclude consideration of the orders given to the Army

before the march. The officers who conceived the orders and made the plans,

including those for the employment of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute

Regiment, would appear before me.

74. The salient points of these paragraphs are all open to question. The

value placed by Lord Widgery on an expeditious Inquiry is simply not explained.

If it was a genuine consideration and if it was the genuine reason for the

short-cuts taken by Lord Widgery (such as the failure to consider the NICRA/NCCL

statements), it was a profound error of judgement since it resulted in

frustrating the primary purpose of the Inquiry as defined by Lord Widgery

himself. It is impossible to accept any argument that eyewitness statements,

including by those wounded, were not directly and indeed crucially relevant to

the matters under review. As Prof. Walsh points out, the Scarman Tribunal of

Inquiry took ten times longer than the Widgery Inquiry, despite the fact that

Lord Widgery was investigating far more serious incidents.

75. In light of the new material, setting the limits in space as those

streets in which the disturbances and the shooting took place, now emerges as a

fundamental error. The new material strongly suggests that shots were fired from

the vicinity of Derry Walls which possibly resulted in deaths and/or injuries in

the area of the Rossville Street barricade. The Report, by its own unduly

restricted interpretation of the terms of reference of the Inquiry, failed to

account for a major and directly relevant aspect of the events of that day. It

should also be noted that many of the eyewitness statements at the time attested

to shots having been fired from the vicinity of Derry Walls.

76. Lord Widgery’s limit in time is extraordinary, not least in that it was

not adhered to in the Report itself. It was breached when Lord Widgery set an

extensive and partisan context to the situation in which the march occurred but

which failed to mention internment, the very reason for the march and a major

factor which had contributed to the deterioration in relations between the

nationalist community and the security forces. Yet Lord Widgery observed the

limit when he failed to thoroughly examine the role the civil and military

authorities played in planning and organising the response of the security

forces to the march. He abstained from tracing the origins of the Operation

Order which purported to define the British Army’s plan for its activities that

day (including the provision for an arrest operation by 1 Para) despite his own

acknowledgement that the final decision on it was taken by a higher authority

than General Ford and the Chief Constable. This failure is all the more

remarkable when one considers that the Report concludes that had the arrest

operation not been launched, “the day might have passed without serious


77. The limitation in time has now been further called into question by the

Para AA document which alleges that 1 Para were given a briefing by a Para

Lieutenant on the day before the march which encouraged the soldiers to

“get some kills”. The nature of this alleged briefing and whether, for

example, it formed part of a military operation to flush out and destroy members

of the IRA, goes to the heart of the British Army’s role in the events of Bloody

Sunday. The allegation, the source from which it comes, the context in which the

Operation Order and the inclusion of 1 Para arose, and the failure of 1 Para to

adhere to its role and area of activity as defined by that Order, are matters

which fundamentally undermine the efficacy of Lord Widgery’s approach in his


Choice of Location

Para 5. My original intention was to hold the Inquiry in

Londonderry…..For reasons of security and convenience I reluctantly concluded

that other possibilities would have to be considered…..I decided on Coleraine.

78. The emergence of archival material relating to the establishment of the

Widgery Inquiry has now given rise to important questions regarding the

political influence which may have been brought to bear on the nature of the

Inquiry itself and thus by implication on the Report. The release from archival

sources of a record of the meeting between Prime Minister Heath, Lord Hailsham

and Lord Widgery raises important questions about the degree of political

direction of the Inquiry from its outset.

79. According to the report of the meeting, the Prime Minister suggested that

the subject matter of the Inquiry was unprecedented and that therefore it might

not be “the sort of subject that those who had designed the 1921 Act

originally had in mind. It followed that the recommendations on procedure made

by Lord Salmon might not necessarily be relevant in this case.” Since any

matter requiring a Tribunal of Inquiry is almost by definition unprecedented, it

is unclear why the Prime Minister should stress the uniqueness of Lord Widgery’s

task. However, the Prime Minister’s suggestion that consequently the

recommendations of Lord Salmon “might not necessarily be relevant in this

case” is disturbing since the Salmon recommendations contained in the 1966

Report of the Royal Commission on Tribunals of Inquiry, as Prof. Walsh points

out, specifically addressed the problem that an Inquiry’s “inquisitorial

approach will result in serious allegations being made against an identifiable

individual during the proceedings, without that individual being afforded a

realistic opportunity to answer those allegations and generally defend his

reputation.” The failure to comply with the Salmon recommendations and

protect the reputations and character of the victims, through adequate and fair

legal representation, remains one of the enduring sources of grief and pain to

the relatives as well as being inherently unfair. This failure appears to have

originated, at least to some extent, from a suggestion by the Prime Minister. As

such, it suggests that a central feature of the Inquiry arose in a political

rather than legal context; and that the independence of the Inquiry was

compromised by political considerations from its outset.

80. The Prime Minister placed heavy and repeated emphasis on a speedy

outcome. Lord Widgery by his own account similarly emphasised the need for

expedition. Thus the speed with which the Inquiry was concluded, ultimately so

corrosive to a proper examination of all relevant evidence, again appears to

have arisen from political considerations offered at the highest levels.

81. The Prime Minister notes that “it had to be remembered that we were

in Northern Ireland fighting not only a military war but a propaganda war.”

The possible implications of this reference can hardly be benign vis a vis the

objective task of a Tribunal of Inquiry. The sentiment appears to suggest that

the possible outcome of the Inquiry, whatever it might be, had to be viewed in

the context of a propaganda war and the public debate which that entailed. It

suggests that the Inquiry’s outcome was conceived as a potential tool for either

side in that war. If one was fighting a propaganda war, as suggested by the

Prime Minister, a finding that the British Army was culpable for the deaths of

innocent civilians would clearly be unhelpful. Thus just as Lord Widgery

accepted the task allotted to him, he appears to have been explicitly warned

about the implications of a finding against the British Army. Coming from the

Prime Minister, the significance and influence of this advice on Lord Widgery’s

approach, and the officials assigned to the Inquiry, cannot be lightly


82. Lord Widgery himself says that “the Tribunal would be asked to

inquire into what happened, not into motives.” This seems extraordinarily

pre-emptory; by any standard of legal inquiry, motives would be considered

relevant. In fact, Widgery referred repeatedly to motives throughout his Report,

though without seeking to establish a rational basis for his views. His

judgements on motives invariably reflected well on the intentions of the

soldiers despite the evidence against them. He referred, for example, to the

sincerity of the motives behind using 1 Para as an arrest force. He not only

accepted the good intentions of the soldiers in opening fire but used that

assumption as a rationale to discount independent evidence to the contrary. On

the other hand, Lord Widgery assumed the most nefarious of motives on the part

of the civilians involved without establishing any basis for such assumptions.

Had Lord Widgery made an investigation of motives a clear objective as it

properly was and not taken such a pre-emptory stand, he might have approached

the Inquiry with greater consistency and balance on this critical point.

83. Lord Widgery also says that “it would help if the Inquiry could be

restricted to what actually happened in those minutes when men were shot and

killed; this would enable the Tribunal to confine evidence to

eyewitnesses.” With these words, Lord Widgery appeared to have decided from

the outset to limit the scope of the Inquiry to the events themselves, not to

investigate in any meaningful way how those events came about and not to

determine who might or might not have been responsible for decisions which

contributed to the killings other than those on the ground at the time of the

shootings. Furthermore, Lord Widgery appeared to have decided that eyewitnesses

– civilian versus military – would set the confines for the Inquiry’s

deliberations. That enabled him later to more readily dismiss crucial

corroborative evidence of a technical kind, most notably ballistics and medical

evidence. These were extraordinarily pre-emptory decisions.

84. Lord Chancellor Hailsham suggests a purpose for the Inquiry which appears

to be pre-emptive: “whether the Troops shot indiscriminately into a crowd

or deliberately at particular targets in self-defence.” Posing the purpose

of the Inquiry, which had yet to be established, in such stark and restrictive

terms clearly ruled out other possibilities, such as deliberately shooting at

targets but not in self-defence as appeared to many to have occurred or shooting

as part of a “flush out and destroy” operation referred to by Lord

Widgery himself in his Report. Since it is evident from the Report that the Lord

Chancellor’s view becomes the central and essential purpose of the Inquiry, one

can reasonably suggest that it was, self-evidently, an influential one.

85. The Prime Minister said that “it would have to be decided where the

Tribunal should sit. It probably ought to be somewhere near Londonderry; but the

Guildhall, which was the obvious place, might be thought to be on the wrong side

of the River Foyle. One possibility would be to fix a suitable meeting place a

little distance away from Londonderry.” Why there might be a “wrong

side” is not explained. However, it is clear that the Prime Minister

successfully steered Lord Widgery from siting the Tribunal in Derry itself,

despite Lord Widgery’s own comment to him that he thought it should be held

there “so that people were not inhibited from giving evidence”. In

other words, a very proper consideration by Lord Widgery was reversed and the

Tribunal’s location coincided with the views expressed from the outset by the

Prime Minister. It is now clear that Lord Widgery’s comment in his Report that

his reasons for not siting the Inquiry in Derry were “for reasons of

security and convenience” was a less than full and convincing explanation.

86. The Prime Minister suggested a departure from the previous practice in

which the Treasury Solicitors had gathered depositions and other evidence in

advance on the grounds that this made for “a long and cumbersome

procedure” and because “it was not clear whether some of the witnesses

who might otherwise give evidence would be prepared to comply with such a

procedure”. This rationale was hardly appropriate or convincing on either

count. That it might prove “long and cumbersome” was hardly a

consideration equivalent to the over-riding need to establish how thirteen

civilians had met their deaths at the hands of the British Army. If there were

doubts about the degree to which relevant eyewitnesses would cooperate, it would

seem more appropriate to attempt to allay those concerns and ensure that the

Tribunal was supplied with all the relevant evidence to properly carry out its

remit. The result of setting aside the previous practice of collating evidence

in advance was that a whole field of information was ignored – information that

would eventually challenge the statements put forward by the implicated members

of the British Army.

87. Despite the serious implications of this decision, the basis for the

Prime Minister’s views were not established or clarified in the record of the

meeting. While the record shows that the Prime Minister noted that it was a

decision for Lord Widgery, the latter replies that “it did not seem to him

to be the sort of Inquiry in which preliminary statements and depositions would

be called for.” The grounds on which Lord Widgery took such a profoundly

important view on the procedure to be followed – with such speed and in

compliance with the Prime Minister – are neither stated nor clear. One is simply

left with the fact that without recorded reasons, Lord Widgery complied with the

view of the Prime Minister on this critical point virtually immediately. It is

clearly open to the interpretation that it arose directly from the Prime

Minister’s suggestion and as such constituted political influence on a crucial

aspect of the Inquiry’s subsequent activities.

88. It is reasonable to assume that other material exists within the British

Government’s archives which would illustrate further the political context in

which the Widgery Inquiry was convened and operated. Until those archives are

released, that context can only be guessed at. However, the record of this

meeting and its self-evident influence on the nature and operation of the

Widgery Inquiry raises important and disturbing questions about untoward

political influence and the ostensible independence of that Inquiry in terms of

its remit, purpose, procedure and location.

Sessions of the Tribunal

Para 6. The witnesses…fell into six main groups: priests; other people

from Londonderry; press and television reporters, photographers, cameramen and

sound recordists; soldiers, including relevant officers; police officers;

doctors, forensic experts and pathologists.

89. Lord Widgery’s reference to “other people from Londonderry” was

a convenient rubric in that he did not claim civilian eyewitnesses, the value of

which he had emphasised at the outset of his report, as a distinct category. Nor

does he clarify that only soldiers – as opposed to NCO’s and officers – who

fired their weapons were called. The new material which has emerged clearly

demonstrates that the sessions of the Tribunal would have been immeasurably

enhanced had the list of witnesses called been as comprehensive as paragraph 6

sought to suggest.

Representation of Relatives’ Interests

Para 7. it was highly desirable that other interests should be represented

at the same level so that cross examination of the Army witnesses should not

devolve on the Counsel for the Tribunal. In the event, this need was met by my

granting legal representation to the relatives of the deceased and to those

injured in the shooting….

90. While Lord Widgery granted legal representation “at the same

level” – though not in accordance with the Salmon recommendations – he did

not accord that representation equal access to all relevant statements and

evidence. The significance of this failure is set out in Prof. Walsh’s study and

detailed throughout this Assessment.

Sources of Evidence

Para 8. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association collected a large

number of statements from people in Londonderry said to be willing to give

evidence. These statements reached me at an advanced stage in the Inquiry. In so

far as they contained new material, not traversing ground already familiar from

evidence given before me, I have made use of them.

91. The publication of the eyewitness statements in Eyewitness Bloody Sunday

and the report by Prof. Walsh bear directly on this claim and, together,

completely undermine it as both spurious and misleading. In the course of the

Report, Lord Widgery made general references to accusations about the actions of

soldiers and cited six civilian sources on who fired first in the Rossville

Street courtyard. But even here, he did not subject them to any examination or

detailed comparison with the statements which ultimately he chose to accept

(i.e. by the soldiers who fired). Nor did he make that choice on any firm basis

but on a conclusion “gradually built up over the many days of listening to

evidence and watching the demeanour of witnesses under cross-examination.”

Apart from this instance, Lord Widgery did not clarify that the statements were

from civilian eyewitnesses and not as he vaguely termed them “people in

Londonderry”. These are merely “said to be willing to give

evidence” as if there remained any doubt about either the willingness of

civilian eyewitnesses to do so or about the status of the statements as evidence

in and of themselves. Lord Widgery made no reference to the fact that hundreds

of civilian eyewitnesses, in forwarding their statements to the Tribunal,

overcame their considerable reservations, not to say profound scepticism, about

the Inquiry as a proper and fair investigation into Bloody Sunday.

92. Lord Widgery’s statement that the Inquiry was at “an advanced

stage” when the statements were submitted can, on the face of it, be

questioned as more properly a secondary consideration to the actual import of

the statements. However, recently released archival material, published and

treated by both Mullan and Walsh, reveal more disturbing questions. To take one

example, the following points can be made based on an examination of a

memorandum by the Secretary to the Tribunal, W. J. Smith, dated 10 March on the

eyewitness statements:

– The statements were received on 3-4 March and Lord Widgery saw some of

the statements on 9 March: 15 had been brought to his attention. Since the

first hearing was convened on 21 February, there was hardly a sufficient time

lapse to justify Lord Widgery’s claim that the statements reached him at an

advanced stage. Furthermore, sessions of the Inquiry continued in Coleraine

until 14 March and further sessions were held in London up to and including 20

March. In other words, the Inquiry was actively involved in public hearings

during and well after the statements had been received. Moreover, by 9 March,

the statements had been sifted and 15 deemed worthy for consideration by Lord


– Lord Widgery was strongly advised by his own staff to take evidence from

some of these potential witnesses. Lord Widgery comments that he had no choice

but to take evidence from all or none. No reasons were recorded for this

view, nor for his judgement as recorded by the memorandum that “he did not

think that the people who wrote them could bring any new element to the

proceedings of the Tribunal” – a view diametrically at odds with his

emphasis in the Report on the value of eyewitnesses and with the fact that

the civilian eyewitnesses directly challenged the versions offered by the

implicated soldiers.

– Smith notes that two of the statements are in conflict with a witness, Ms

Richmond, but are in agreement with the forensic evidence and are deemed by

him “as probably much more reliable”. He comments that it is

important the report “should not include references to the deaths of

these four men [sic: he mentions only three, Gilmore, Doherty and McKinney (G)

but presumably is referring in addition to William McKinney] which could be

criticised as being contradicted by evidence which was available to the

Tribunal but not considered by it.” It is clear here that Smith was less

concerned with taking into account what he deemed more reliable statements and

more concerned with ensuring that the presentation of the case in the Report

be protected from criticism – criticism which by Smith’s own account could be

regarded as valid.

93. The memorandum suggests that the Secretary of the Tribunal appeared more

concerned with how to deal with the problematic existence of the NICRA/NCCL

statements in the Report, and consequently on advising Lord Widgery on how best

to do so, than with their intrinsic merit, implications or possible contribution

to the search for the truth. As Jane Winter of British Irish Rights Watch

comments in her foreword to Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, “the eyewitness

statements, collected with such care and recounted with such pain and terror,

were never given their due or proper consideration by the man bearing the

highest judicial office in the land, who clearly regarded their perusal as of no

great import and a task to be undertaken in the last resort”.

94. In and of itself, the failure to give substantive consideration to these

statements and the failure to call a reasonable number of witnesses

94. In and of itself, the failure to give substantive consideration to these

statements and the failure to call a reasonable number of witnesses from those

who made them to give evidence and thus make their own critical contribution (by

any measure essential but particularly so given the clear conflict of evidence

before the Inquiry) to establishing the facts and reconstructing what happened

constitutes a sufficient basis on which to discount the Widgery Report as

incomplete and unbalanced.

95. Prof. Walsh analyses in detail the significance of this and other

memoranda released by the British Public Record Office which illustrate the

substantive and guiding role of the Secretary to the Tribunal in the drafting

and direction of the Widgery Report. In Prof. Walsh’s assessment, Lord Widgery

accepted and acted upon the Secretary’s suggestions with the implication that

“the Tribunal’s findings have been influenced by arguments that were not

made in the course of its public hearings and tested in cross examination by the

parties affected”. Even more disturbing, Prof. Walsh writes, the impact of

the Secretary’s role was such as to present the British Army’s case “in a

more favourable light than might otherwise have been the case in Lord Widgery’s


96. Both Mullan and Walsh refer to the hand written statement by the

Secretary on one of these memoranda that the Lord Chief Justice “will pile

up the case against the deceased, including the forensic evidence and the

willingness of local people to remove guns, but will conclude that he cannot

find with certainty that anyone of 13 was a gunman”. There is by any

measure a sinister overtone to the notion of piling up the case against the

deceased with the express intention of imputing guilt but avoiding the direct

accusation. It strongly suggests that the Tribunal was motivated by objectives

other than an impartial search for the truth and that a core motive was to sully

the reputation of the victims in defence of the British Army’s actions. It is

difficult to arrive at any other reasonable interpretation of these remarks.

97. Given the ostensible and essential public function of an Inquiry, Prof.

Walsh comments that “there should be no role for the Secretary of the

Tribunal to work behind the scenes, hidden from public view and from Counsel for

the parties and the Tribunal itself, to seek to influence the Tribunal’s

interpretation of the evidence, the substance and presentation of the Report and

the Report’s conclusions. Such actions are hardly compatible with the

obligations placed on the Tribunal and the manner in which they are expected to

be discharged”. He concludes that “by accepting and acting upon the

Secretary’s recommendations, the Tribunal failed to deliver fully on its

obligations to be totally impartial in ascertaining and presenting the full

truth of what happened”. This is not to contest the legitimate role of

officials to advise and assist. However, the weight of the archival material

released thus far strongly suggests that the role assumed by the Secretary was,

on the face of it, prejudicial to a fair and objective outcome.

98. The failure to give substantive consideration to the eyewitness

statements rendered the Widgery Report incomplete and unbalanced. The manner in

which they were approached and the role played by the Secretary to the Tribunal

as detailed by Prof. Walsh support the allegation that the Report lacked

impartiality and transparency. That was widely suspected at the time. The

emergence of this new material now effectively confirms that suspicion.

Sources of Evidence

Para 8. I did not think it necessary to take evidence from those of the

wounded who were still in hospital…..

99. Even on a prima facie basis, there can be little confidence in this

audacious judgement. In light of the publication of the eyewitness statements

which clearly contradict statements by the soldiers, given Lord Widgery’s own

professed confusion about the four deaths in Glenfada Park, and since at the

time it was evident that those wounded could provide invaluable testimony, this

judgement has to be seriously open to the charge that it was self-serving rather

than objective. Lord Widgery’s decision in this regard amounted, frankly, to an

astonishing disregard for what contribution these crucial and indisputably

relevant eyewitnesses might have made to the Inquiry’s knowledge of the events

and actions as they unfolded. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he

simply did not want to know what they witnessed.

Londonderry: The Physical Background

Para 9. The events with which the Tribunal was primarily concerned took

place on the west bank, and indeed wholly within an area about a quarter of a

mile square, bounded on the north by Great James Street, on the east by Strand

Road, Waterloo Place and the City Wall, on the south by Free Derry Corner and

Westland Street and on the west by Fahan Street West and the Little Diamond.

(Free Derry Corner is the name popularly given to the junction of Lecky Road,

Rossville Street and Fahan Street.) This area….in the north-east corner of the

Bogside district, is overlooked from the south-east side by the western section

of the City’s ancient Walls…

100. The area thus defined by Lord Widgery is now revealed as inadequate by

the emerging evidence that the British Army hit and killed a number of civilians

with shots fired from the vicinity of the Walls. The actions by the British Army

in the vicinity of Derry Walls are simply not dealt with by Lord Widgery despite

evidence from a number of different sources, as detailed by Mullan, available at

the time that firing by the British Army from the vicinity of the Walls into the

Bogside had in fact occurred. Furthermore, in setting such a tight geographical

constraint, Lord Widgery effectively ruled out a search for decisions and

actions on the part of the authorities which materially contributed to Bloody

Sunday, either directly or indirectly, but which were beyond his self-imposed

and restrictive horizons.

Security Background: Events in Londonderry during the previous six months

Paras 10, 11,12. At the beginning of July, however, gunmen appeared and

the IRA campaign began. Widespread violence ensued with the inevitable military

counter-action…the IRA tightened its grip on the district….So the law was

not effectively enforced in the area….At the end of October, 8 Infantry

Brigade…was given instructions progressively to regain the initiative from the

terrorists and reimpose the rule of law…..These operations hardened the

attitude of the community… that troops were operating in an entirely

hostile environment…..Many nail and petrol bombs were thrown during these

attacks. Gunmen made full use of the cover offered to them by the gangs of

youths, which made it more and more difficult to engage the youths at close

quarters and make arrests. The Creggan became almost a fortress….The

terrorists were still firmly in control.

101. These paragraphs contain Lord Widgery’s general account of the

circumstances prevailing in Creggan and the Bogside which he characterised as

one in which the IRA remained in control and acted in concert with

“hooligan gangs” to mount attacks on the security forces and were

threatening to expand their control beyond lines established by the security

forces. Army incursions, according to Lord Widgery, were likely to be met with

rioting hooligans giving cover for IRA attacks. As such, the context offered by

him was essentially that promoted by the British Army at the time. It was,

therefore, the view of only one side, that of the British Army, whose actions

the Inquiry had been established to investigate. As a description, it did not

seek to portray the situation as it was seen from the nationalist side, i.e. the

side from which all the victims came.

102. Astonishingly, as one legal commentator has pointed out, there is not a

single mention of internment, (nor for that matter of any political dimension to

the disturbances). Yet it was the imposition of internment on 9 August 1971

which precipitated the escalation of tension, which was a direct cause of the

serious deterioration in relations with the security forces and which was the

reason why there was a march on 30 January. As Prof. Dash pointed out,

“allegations against the military in Northern Ireland of physical brutality

in the treatment of internees were the subject of a highly publicised official

Home Office inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Edmond Compton.”

103. Lord Widgery, in casting a moral judgement on the organisers of the

march by claiming that they were directly culpable for the deaths, made a

consideration of their motives and intentions a relevant one. Yet that

consideration was patently absent and as such was indicative of the partiality

of the context offered by Lord Widgery. The context offered by Lord Widgery,

rather than being studiously neutral or balanced, becomes in effect an apologia

for the decisions and actions of the authorities in dealing with the march with

such fatal consequences.

104. Lord Widgery did not seek to establish the intentions of the march

organisers and whether they had made bona fide efforts to ensure that there

would be no serious (i.e. IRA) violence accompanying it. He did not investigate

whether their approach had been tempered by the actions of members of the

Parachute Regiment in the violent clashes on Magilligan beach the previous week,

nor whether their anticipation that the Parachute Regiment would be on duty at

the internment march had encouraged them to ensure that the march pass off


105. On the other hand, neither did Lord Widgery seek to establish whether

the British Army’s claim that the IRA would be present was reasonable on the day

in question. He did not seek to establish whether Provisional IRA members and

most Official IRA units were out of the Bogside on Bloody Sunday (as was

believed widely at the time) and whether the British Army might have been aware

of this. Yet these considerations were all germane factors in any assessment of

what actions by the British Army could have been deemed to have been objectively

reasonable. And they were germane by Lord Widgery’s own terms e.g. the emphasis

on who fired first, the degree of danger anticipated by the soldiers and whether

they were justified in firing.

106. As is again made now clear by Don Mullan, the march was organised and

stewarded as a peaceful event and steps had been made to ensure that

paramilitary violence would not precipitate military action and endanger

civilians. This interpretation, known at the time, has never been challenged.

Indeed the very absence of any gunmen among the casualties or those arrested was

in itself a testament to the success of the march organisers in removing the

threat posed by the IRA to the security forces. Herein may lie the tragic folly

of the British Army’s actions and the most problematic issue for it once lethal

force was used against the civilians. Without IRA gunmen posing a significant

and active threat, the actions of the British Army became subsequently difficult

to explain, much less excuse.

Para 13. Early in 1972 the security authorities were concerned that the

violence was now spreading northwards from William Street, which was the line on

the northern fringe of the Bogside on which the troops had for some considerable

time taken their stand…..The local traders feared that the whole of this

shopping area would be extinguished within the next few months…..In the last

two weeks of January the IRA was particularly active. In 80 separate incidents

in Londonderry 319 shots were fired at the security forces and 84 nail bombs

were thrown at them; two men of the security forces were killed and two wounded.

107. This paragraph is inherently partisan in that it again omits any

reference to the march in question and whether it was or was not the intention

of the marchers to attempt to breach the line established by the security forces

at William Street but it implies that that was in fact the case. And it suggests

implicitly that the march was not concerned with demonstration as a political

act but was instead an event staged to precipitate disorder and destruction. The

partiality of this paragraph is further highlighted by the publication of the

eyewitness accounts and the failure of any evidence to emerge over time

validating Lord Widgery’s assessment of the degree of threat represented by the


Para 14. At the beginning of 1972 Army foot patrols were not able to

operate south of William Street by day because of sniper fire…..The hooligan

gangs in Londonderry constituted a special threat to security. Their tactics

were to engineer daily breaches of law and order in the face of the security

forces, particularly in the William Street area, during which the lives of the

soldiers were at risk from attendant snipers and nail bombers. The hooligans

could be contained but not dispersed without serious risk to the troops.

108. The reference to sniper fire south of William Street during the day

appears to function as a rationale for a belief that IRA snipers might be

present on 30 January, that this expectation was a logical one for the Army and

a contributory factor in explaining the actions of individual soldiers on the

ground. However, Lord Widgery at no point attempted to establish whether this

was in fact the case on 30 January and did not examine whether it was a

reasonable or well-founded assumption. But more significantly, in describing an

affinity of purpose between “hooligans” and IRA snipers (i.e. to kill

British soldiers) he suggested that those causing minor disturbances (e.g. stone

throwing) were complicit in the danger, injuries and deaths suffered by British

soldiers at the hands of the IRA. In other words, Lord Widgery clearly defined

“hooligans” as a distinct entity serving as an adjunct of the IRA, and

a successful one at that.

109. Without establishing on an objective factual basis their role in IRA

tactics either generally or on 30 January 1972, Lord Widgery suggested that

anyone throwing a stone or bottle appeared reasonably to the soldiers to be de

facto a hooligan and therefore acting in support of the IRA. The apparent

licence granted post hoc by this rationale to the security forces in dealing

with even modest disturbances was, in those terms, obvious.

Para 15. It was the opinion of the Army commanders that if the march took

place, whatever the intentions of NICRA might be, the hooligans backed up by the

gunmen would take control. In the light of this view the security forces made

their plans to block the march.

110. The new material and the version of events suggested by it is

diametrically at odds with this ill-defined but portentous threat of the

hooligans and gunmen taking control as defined by the Army and presented without

challenge by Lord Widgery in his Report. The eyewitness accounts of the

circumstances in which lethal force was used against civilians completely

undermine the relevance of his description of the role of hooligans, if such a

role ever actually existed, to the events of 30 January. Moreover, it was

clearly not relevant to the events of the day since what disturbances occurred

were minor and there was no evidence to suggest that the role assigned to

hooligans by Lord Widgery existed in fact. This lack of relevance raises further

questions about the presumptions inherent in the context offered by him and why

they formed a part of the Report. It might well be asked why this context was

included in a Report whose remit in time Lord Widgery himself limited to the

moment when the march first became involved in violence. In short, the context

offered by Lord Widgery appears to function less as necessary background and

more as post hoc rationale for the acts of the British Army.

The Army Plan to Contain the March

Para 16. The proposed march placed the security forces in a dilemma. An

attempt to stop by force a crowd of 5,000 or more, perhaps as many as 20 or

25,000, might result in heavy casualties or even in the overrunning of the

troops by sheer weight of numbers. To allow such a well publicised march to take

place without opposition however would bring the law into disrepute and make

control of future marches impossible.

Points 111-150

111. The failure to provide an explanation to support his claim that allowing

the march against internment to proceed would make control of future marches

impossible was particularly cavalier not to say otiose in the circumstances of

the widespread civil unrest being experienced in Northern Ireland at the time.

From the nationalist perspective, the rule of law (i.e. a body of rules

containing individual rights as well as executive powers) was brought into

fundamental disrepute by the introduction of internment, an instrument of

arbitrary State power which effectively dispensed with the law and which was

directed overwhelmingly against nationalists. Had the repute of law been Lord

Widgery’s main concern, he might have alluded just once to the issue of

internment which prompted the march on Bloody Sunday. His facile reasoning was

all the more egregious since it was offered as justification for the ultimately

lethal approach adopted by the authorities toward the march. If, as suggested by

other contemporary sources, there was political involvement in the decision

making process prior to the events of the day which directly affected the

approach of the security forces, then Lord Widgery’s proffered explanation may

have concealed more than it revealed. If a significant degree of prior political

direction can be fully established, then Lord Widgery failed to account for the

actions and decisions of directly relevant and arguably responsible agencies.

Para 17. The final decision, which was taken by higher authority after

General Ford and the Chief Constable had been consulted, was to allow the march

to begin but to contain it within the general area of the Bogside and Creggan

Estate….On 25 January General Ford put the Commander 8 Infantry Brigade in

charge of the operation and ordered him to prepare a detailed plan. The plan is

8 Infantry Brigade Operation Order No 2/72 dated 27 January.

112. This paragraph contains one of the chief mysteries of Bloody Sunday; who

took the “final decision”? Speaking for the British Government at

Westmister on 1 February, 1972, Lord Balniel confirmed that “the arrest

operation was discussed by the Joint Security Council after decisions had been

taken by Ministers here.” While denying that the Widgery Report suggested

political pressure on the British Army, the Prime Minister, speaking in the

House of Commons on the publication of the Report, said that in relation to the

“higher authority” referred to by Lord Widgery, “the plan was

prepared by the Brigade Commander and went to the Commander Land Forces. It also

went to the General Officer Commanding, who discussed it with the Chief

Constable; and it was known to Ministers. That is what I meant by saying that it

was known to higher authority.” Lord Balniel before the Inquiry and the

Prime Minister after the publication of the Report identified, therefore, Lord

Widgery’s “higher authority” as Ministers. On this basis, there was

clearly political sanction for the operation. Despite the acknowledged

involvement by the Stormont and British Governments of the arrest operation in

advance of 30 January, Lord Widgery failed to investigate the facts surrounding

the political influence on the formulation of the British Army’s plan of action

or the political basis on which that plan was sanctioned.

Para 20. Under the heading of “Hooliganism” the Operation Order


“An arrest force is to be held centrally behind the check points and

launched in a scoop-up operation to arrest as many hooligans and rioters as


This links up with the specific task allotted to 1 Para which was in the

following terms:

“1. Maintain a Brigade Arrest Force to conduct a scoop-up operation of

as many hooligans and rioters as possible.

(a) This operation will only be launched either in whole or in part on

the orders of the Brigade Commander.

(b) …………

(c) …………

(d) It is expected that the arrest operation will be conducted on foot.

2. A secondary role of the force will be to act as the second Brigade

mobile reserve.”

113. Lord Widgery omitted the directions for dealing with

“Hooliganism” at (b) and (c). According to the Sunday Times Insight

Team report published in April 1972 and that of Prof. Dash, part (c) of the

Operation Order set out the geographical confines of the operation as follows;

“the scoop up operation is likely to be launched on two axes, one directed

towards hooligan activity in the area of William St./Little Diamond, and one

towards the area of William St./Little James St.” In other words, the order

envisaged activity along William Street and not up Rossville Street. Lord

Widgery’s failure to spell this out was a telling one for it would have

underlined the extent to which the movement of 1 Para had violated the Operation

Order. If they were not following this plan, what plan, it can be legitimately

asked, had they in mind?

Para 21. The Operation Order, which was classified “Secret”,

thus clearly allotted to 1 Para the task of an arrest operation against

hooligans. Under cross-examination, however, the senior Army officers, and

particularly General Ford, were severely attacked on the grounds that they did

not genuinely intend to use 1 Para in this way. It was suggested that 1 Para had

been specially brought to Londonderry because they were known to be the roughest

and toughest unit in Northern Ireland and it was intended to use them in one of

two ways: either to flush out any IRA gunmen in the Bogside and destroy them by

superior training and fire power; or to send a punitive force into the Bogside

to give the residents a rough handling and discourage them from making or

supporting further attacks on the troops.

Para 22. There is not a shred of evidence to support these suggestions and

they have been denied by all the officers concerned. I am satisfied that the

Brigade Operation Order accurately expressed the Brigade Commander’s intention

for the employment of 1 Para and that suggestions to the contrary are unfounded.

1 Para was chosen for the arrest role because it was the only experienced

uncommitted battalion in Northern Ireland.

114. The suspicions that either of these scenarios in one form or another

more accurately reflected the intention of those who deployed 1 Para have never

been quite dispelled and were certainly not put to rest by the Widgery Report at

the time. In fact, the emergence of the new material has reawakened in very

forceful terms suspicions about what was the actual intent of the authorities

and the British Army. The new material repeatedly begs the questions which have

yet to be answered. Why were demonstrably unarmed and innocent civilians shot

dead? Why was there fire from the Walls? Why did the soldiers act with such

brutality generally, even to uniformed members of the Order of Malta trying to

render assistance? Why was 1 Para used for an arrest operation in an area liable

to IRA attack when by Lord Widgery’s own description the Paras “show no

particular concern for the safety of others in the vicinity of the target”?

The suggestions put forward and dismissed by Lord Widgery appear to supply a

more credible answer to these questions than the findings he presented in his


115. Lord Widgery did not attempt to present a case for his assertion that

there was “not a shred of evidence to support these suggestions” and

was content to simply make this assertion. The argument that 1 Para was the only

experienced uncommitted battalion in Northern Ireland for the arrest operation

was hardly a convincing one. His judgement that the Operation Order accurately

expressed the intention of the officer ostensibly in command, Brigadier

McLellan, vis-a-vis the role of 1 Para did not properly address the concern that

McLellan may not have been party to all of the decisions made regarding 1 Para,

e.g, decisions involving General Ford, Lt. Col Wilford and very possibly

Brigadier Kitson. The actions of members of 1 Para itself, the degree of force

employed (as measured in terms of civilians dead and wounded), the absence of

any injury to security force personnel, and the description of what happened as

presented by highly credible eyewitnesses contrast so starkly with Lord

Widgery’s assertion that 1 Para was deployed as an arrest force that it now

simply lacks credibility.

116. The NICRA/NCCL eyewitness statements raise serious questions about the

commitment of the soldiers to a scoop up and arrest operation. Based on their

accounts, there appears to have been a willingness to employ lethal force on

unarmed civilians – many of whom were fleeing and some of whom were attempting

to assist those already hit by fire. Overwhelmingly, these accounts agree that

the groups amongst whom the victims were shot were not hostile and that the

arrival of 1 Para provoked a sense of panic and a desire to flee the area or

seek shelter from the live ammunition being fired at them. Given the degree of

force used by the soldiers, their area of activity (i.e. outside that defined by

the Operation Order) and the length of time in which 1 Para was deployed, it

appeared that the Operation Order was simply being ignored by the soldiers on

the ground. Possible explanations suggest themselves: members of 1 Para directly

and wilfully ignored their orders to mount an arrest operation and simply ran

amok; they believed their behaviour was in some way sanctioned or deemed

acceptable by the authorities; or their actions formed part of a planned

military operation which has yet to be revealed. It may be, in fact, that all of

these factors were at play in determining the behaviour of the soldiers and

their officers.

117. More specifically, the alleged statements of Para AA include a claim

that the anti-tank unit of 1 Para were directed by a Para Lieutenant (name

supplied) the day before Bloody Sunday to get “some kills”. It alleges

that the Para Lieutenant said “lets teach those buggers a lesson – we want

some kills tomorrow”. The Para AA statement is treated more fully later but

it is relevant to note at this stage that it does not contain any reference to

an arrest operation but tends, in its description of the actions of members of 1

Para, to support the charges laid against General Ford and others which Lord

Widgery had seen fit to dismiss.

118. The description in the Para AA document of the highly aggressive nature

and attitude of members of 1 Para, its function as a trouble shooting unit, its

briefing to “get some kills”, further references about the unit being

used elsewhere in Northern Ireland to draw IRA fire (i.e. “flush out and

destroy”) all add to the mystery of why 1 Para was chosen for what was

ostensibly an arrest operation in a situation where violence might well occur in

the midst of many civilians with the attendant risk to innocent lives.

Para 23. Another unjustified criticism of General Ford was persisted in

throughout the Tribunal hearing. It was said that when heavy firing began and it

became apparent that the operation had taken an unexpected course, the General

made no attempt to discover the cause of the shooting but instead washed his

hands of the affair and walked away. This criticism is based on a failure to

understand the structure of command in the Army. The officer commanding the

operation was the Commander 8 Brigade, who was in his Operations Room and was

the only senior officer who had any general picture of what was going on.

General Ford was present on the streets of Londonderry as an observer only.

Although he had wireless equipment in his vehicle he was not accompanied by a

wireless operator when on foot. When the serious shooting began the General was

on foot in the neighbourhood of Chamberlain Street and had no means of knowing

what was going on. Nothing would have been more likely to create chaos than for

him to assume command or even to interfere with radio traffic by asking for

information. Instead he did the only possible thing by going at once to an

observation post from which he could observe the scene for himself.

119. Whatever about the value of Lord Widgery’s self-imposed ordinance not to

consider the question of who made all decisions relevant to the British Army’s

activities in the lead up to Bloody Sunday, the emergence of new material

revives long standing questions about who contributed to the decision making

process leading up to the operation in Derry and what considerations and

calculations informed that decision. It deepens the concern about the claims of

the involvement – in advance of the date of 25 January cited by Lord Widgery on

which General Ford instructed Brigadier McLellan to prepare Operation Order 2/72

– of Brigadier Kitson, the role of the Northern Ireland Joint Security Council

and, prior to that, of the British Government’s Cabinet Committee on Northern

Ireland. In this context, Lord Widgery’s characterisation of General Ford’s

presence as purely an observer is unconvincing (as is the extraordinary claim

that a request by Ford over the radio for information would of itself have

created chaos).

120. The emergence from the archives of a record of a meeting between the

Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice which appears to

have occurred on 31 January indicates remarkable speed and, combined with the

specificity of the Prime Minister’s advice to Lord Widgery, also tends to

suggest a degree of political involvement throughout the decision making

process. Since Lord Widgery failed to address this question, it has been left

open to many suspicions and speculations. Undoubtedly, some clarification of

precisely what political involvement there may or may not have been in the

formation of the operational plans prior to Bloody Sunday may lie in the

archives of the British Government and, one can assume, the memory of those who

might have been involved.

121. Combined with the speculation about the nature of political involvement

at the highest levels, the mere fact of General Ford’s presence on the ground in

Derry has long fuelled speculation that more than an arrest operation was afoot.

These were encouraged at the time by the fact that General Ford assigned 1 Para

to the arrest operation and actively encouraged 1 Para in their task on the

ground when their deployment began (in testimony, General Ford said that as he

was standing at barricade 14 when the arrest operation began, he had said

“Go on, 1 Para, go and get them, and good luck”).

122. Another claim has recently come to the Government’s attention regarding

General Ford’s role. This asserts that a British Army officer was debriefed by a

more senior officer on the Widgery Report and implies that the latter was deeply

unhappy with the treatment of Brigadier McLellan in it. In the course of this

debriefing, it was alleged that General Ford played a very active role, contrary

to Lord Widgery’s assertion, in determining the actions of British Army units

and issued instructions without the knowledge or consent of Brigadier McLellan.

It is claimed that General Ford directed British Army fire from the vicinity of

Derry Walls. Broadly speaking, this claim alleges that General Ford was the true

commander of the key British Army units and actions on the ground which resulted

in Bloody Sunday. As with any claims about the chain of command and

responsibility, this particular claim could be checked against official records.

The March as it Happened

Para 24. The marchers assembled on the Creggan Estate on a fine sunny

afternoon and in carnival mood….When in due course they appeared at the west

end of William Street it was obvious that their direct route to the Guildhall

Square lay along William Street itself and that the march would come face to

face with the Army at barrier 14 in that street. At this stage it became

noticeable that a large number of youths, of what was described throughout the

Inquiry as the hooligan type, had placed themselves at the head of the march;

indeed some of them were in front of the lorry itself….nothing of real

consequence occurred until the marchers reached the barriers in Little James

Street and William Street. When the leaders of the march reached the junction of

William Street and Rossville Street the lorry turned to its right to go along

Rossville Street and the stewards made strenuous efforts to persuade the

marchers to follow the lorry. It is quite evident now that the leaders of the

march had decided before setting off from the Creggan Estate that they would

take this course and thus avoid a head-on confrontation with the Army at the

William Street barrier.

123. Lord Widgery’s identification of a large number of youths as hooligans

at this point implicitly recalled his earlier description of rioters as

hooligans acting in concert with IRA gunmen. Without an explicit statement that

this was not the case, there is left the presumption that their role as

“hooligans” would again be similar – i.e. likely to provide cover for

attacks on the security forces by IRA gunmen – and that consequently one could

presume that the IRA were in the vicinity, if not already in their midst. Lord

Widgery did not attempt to establish that either of these presumptions were true

on the day in question or to address the question as to whether the security

forces might have had prior information on this. Rather, the fact that the march

began in carnival mood strongly suggests that those participating in it did not

anticipate attacks of the type described earlier by Lord Widgery; had gunmen

been operating in the area ready to take advantage of rioting, this would have

been very clear to the marchers and the atmosphere could not have been as

relaxed as indeed it was.

124. Furthermore, Lord Widgery asserts as “quite evident now” that

the march organisers had veered up Rossville Street to avoid confrontation at

barrier 14 “before setting off from the Creggan” as if it could not

have been known at the time. This suggests that the decision by the march

organisers to avoid confrontation was not available to the security forces at

the time. Yet Chief Superintendent Lagan had informed the military authorities

of this intention and had confirmed it on the morning of the march; Lagan gave

his account of this in testimony to the Tribunal. Despite this, Lord Widgery

made no reference to these assurances and made no effort to address in his

Report the intentions and plans of the march organisers to avoid confrontation

and ensure that the march passed off peacefully. Nor did he refer to the impact

on the population of the Bogside of the violent behaviour of the Paras toward

anti-internment demonstrators on the beach outside Magilligan Prison a week

beforehand and which had alerted the march organisers to the danger of

disturbances when the Paras were deployed. All of these would appear to be

crucial factors in assessing the events of the day and the

“reasonableness” under law of the actions of the security forces.

Para 25. The films show at least one middle-aged man making some attempt

to move the barrier aside. Had other members of the crowd followed his example,

the results might have been disastrous….. After a time the movement of the

crowd at the rear reduced the pressure on those at the front in William Street

and the crowd in front of the barrier began to thin out somewhat. The hooligans

at once took advantage of the opportunity to start stone-throwing on a very

violent scale. Not only stones, but objects such as fire grates and metal rods

used as lances were thrown violently at the troops in a most dangerous

way….Some witnesses have sought to play down this part of the incident and to

suggest that it was nothing more than a little light stoning of the kind which

occurs on most afternoons in this district and is accepted as customary. All I

can say is that if this in any way represents normality the degree of violence

to which the troops are normally subjected is very much greater than I suspect

most people in Britain have appreciated…..At about 15.55 hours the troops

appeared to be reaching a position in which they might disperse the rioters and

relieve the pressure upon themselves….It was at this point that the decision

to go ahead with the arrest operation, for which 1 Para was earmarked, was made.

125. Again, Lord Widgery failed even to refer to the presence or likely

presence of IRA gunmen at this barricade much less invoke evidence to prove that

the paramilitary tactics so carefully described in his introduction represented

a genuine threat to the British soldiers on the day. Moreover, as McMahon so

pointedly makes clear,

… apart from the irrelevance of his appeal to the knowledge of ‘most

people in Britain’, Lord Widgery’s reluctance to pronounce on the normality or

abnormality of the stoning is remarkable…With such specific knowledge [of

the security situation 1 August 1971 to 9 February 1972 detailed in paragraphs

10 to 15 of the Report] and with the wealth of evidence on the events of the

afternoon of 30 January, it was remarkable that Lord Widgery could not decide,

even in general terms, whether the stone throwing on the afternoon in question

was of abnormal intensity or of a customary kind in this area. This was an

important point in view of the reaction the stoning is supposed to have


126. Paragraph 25 is a clear example of Lord Widgery’s tendency, particularly

on critical questions, to avoid making relevant judgements and drawing

appropriate conclusions. This was despite the fact that Chief Superintendent

Lagan fully expected that bottles and stones would be thrown and that it was

almost an everyday event, a view communicated at the time to the military

authorities and attested to in the course of the Inquiry. The evidence of the

NICRA/NCCL statements was that the incident at this barricade was a modest

disturbance representing a relatively low key threat to the security forces by

the standards of the time. This paragraph is also significant in that it clearly

states that by1555 hrs, before 1 Para began its “arrest operation”,

the crisis, such as it was, had passed and the soldiers would shortly be in

position to disperse remaining rioters.

The Launching of the Arrest Operation

Para 26. Since the tactics of the arrest operation were to be determined

by the location and strength of the rioters at the time when it was launched,

the Brigade Order left them to be decided by Lieutenant Colonel Wilford,

Commanding Officer of 1 Para. He had three Companies available for the arrest

operation: A Company, C Company and Support Company, the latter being reinforced

by a Composite Platoon from Administrative Company. (A fourth Company had been

detached and put under command of 22 Light Air Defence Regiment for duties

elsewhere in Londonderry.) In the event these three Companies moved forward at

the same time. A Company operated in the region of the Little Diamond and played

no significant part in the events with which the Inquiry was concerned. C

Company went forward on foot through barrier 14 and along Chamberlain Street,

while Support Company drove in vehicles through barrier 12 into Rossville Street

to encircle rioters on the waste ground or pursued by C Company along

Chamberlain Street. The only Company of 1 Para to open fire that afternoon-other

than with riot guns-was Support Company.

127. In light of the new material’s strong suggestion that there was firing

from the vicinity of Derry Walls, the assertion that only 1 Para opened fire

that afternoon is now open to question. It either means that soldiers other than

1 Para opened fire or that the fourth company of 1 Para on duty elsewhere in

Derry was on the Walls and opened fire. Either way, Lord Widgery failed to

account for the actions of the soldiers around the Walls who, it now seems

clear, opened fire and possibly hit and killed civilians. Since this fundamental

assertion, so critical to cause, effect and culpability, is now open to clear

contradiction, then the Widgery Report by this measure alone is fatally flawed

as an account of what actually happened.

128. This paragraph also proffers some very intriguing questions. Where in

Derry was this fourth company of Paras located? How could it have been spared

since, according to Lord Widgery, 1 Para was the only uncommitted experienced

unit available for the arrest operation? What were its duties? Did this company

contain snipers? Where was the 22 Light Air Defence Regiment and what duties had

it assigned to this fourth company? What duties were assigned to the 22 Light

Air Defence Regiment? What roles and duties were assigned to the other British

Army units which have been identified as probably operating in and around Derry

on that day? Why was Derry under what appeared to be virtual military siege as

attested to by civilians trying to reach it? What role was assigned to each of

these units in the broader plan of coordination and what bearing did this have

on the events of the day? By concentrating primarily on the arrest operation,

Lord Widgery failed to address critical questions about the British Army’s

intentions – questions the significance of which have become all the more

apparent in the light of recent revelations.

129. Furthermore, Lord Widgery writes that “in the event” the three

companies moved forward together. Was this coincidence? Or was it part of a

coordinated movement? The movement of ten vehicles and an organised complement

of soldiers into the Bogside could not have been organised spontaneously. If as

logic dictates it was a coordinated movement, who coordinated it and why? What

was its overall purpose in simultaneously moving along two axes not sanctioned

in the Operation Order? What, in other words, had Lt. Col. Wilford in mind? Lord

Widgery failed to explain this apparent manoeuvre and its purpose and failed to

come to a judgement as to what it might reveal about the British Army’s

intentions. Whatever might be known about what happened on the day, the why

remains to all intents and purposes a mystery.

Para 27. Before the wisdom of the order launching the arrest operation is

considered it is necessary to decide who gave it. According to the Commander 8

Brigade and his Brigade Major (Lieutenant Colonel Steele) the operation was

authorised by the Brigadier personally, as indeed was envisaged in the Brigade

Order. The order for 1 Para to go in and make arrests was passed by the Brigade

Major to the Commanding Officer 1 Para on a secure wireless link, ie one which

was not open to eavesdropping. This link was used because the arrest operation

depended on surprise for its success and it was known that normal military

wireless traffic was not secure. The Commanding Officer 1 Para confirmed that he

received the order and all three officers agreed that the order was in terms

which left the Commanding Officer free to employ all three Companies.

Para 28. During the Inquiry however it was contended that the Brigadier

did not authorise the arrest operation and that it was carried out by Lieutenant

Colonel Wilford in defiance of orders or without orders and on his own

initiative. The suspicion that Lieutenant Colonel Wilford acted without

authority derives from the absence of any relevant order in the verbatim record

of wireless traffic on the ordinary Brigade net. This omission was due to the

use of the secure wireless link for this one vital order, as mentioned in the

previous paragraph.

130. There remain grounds for serious doubt about Brigadier McLellan’s role

in ordering the launch of the arrest operation (logs of the secure transmissions

would clarify this point) and whether in fact he had authorised the use of all

three companies as asserted here by Lord Widgery. Since there was, in fact, no

written record in the brigade log of such an order, Lord Widgery chose to

dismiss the written official record in favour of the oral testimony offered post

hoc by participants, as McMahon points out. This points to a serious flaw in the

Widgery Report on the vital point of who was in command of the British Army

units involved in Bloody Sunday.

131. Clearly the secure link provided the vital conduit for the communication

of orders and suggested that the Army was preparing to encounter a formidable

enemy capable of monitoring its open communications and undertaking counter

measures. To whom was this link available at the time? What messages were

conveyed on it? Furthermore, why were two distinct modes of communication used,

one secure and the other open? The messages on the secure link would appear to

be far more germane to understanding the intentions and actions of the key

British Army units than the messages recorded on the open lines. The Widgery

Report was seriously flawed in not attempting to locate or examine, even in

camera, the logs recording messages given and received on the secure link.

Furthermore, tracing which officers and units were in communication on this

secure link would have allowed for greater clarity as to which officers and

units were responsible for particular actions undertaken, such as the when,

where and why of the use of lethal force.

Para 29. Other circumstances which suggest that 1 Para moved without

orders are less easily explained. The Brigade Log, which is maintained in the

Brigade Operations Room and is a minute by minute record of events and messages,

regardless of the method of communication used, contains the following entries:

“Serial 147,1555 hours from 1 Para. Would like to deploy sub-unit

through barricade 14 to pick up yobbos in William Street/Little James


“Serial 159, 1609 hours from Brigade Major. Orders given to 1 Para at

1607 hours for one sub-unit of 1 Para to do scoop-up op through barrier 14.

Not to conduct running battle down Rossville Street.”

Serial 159 is identified by the Brigade Major as recording the Brigadier’s

instruction for 1 Para to move; but its terms are inconsistent with the

employment of three Companies. (a sub-unit is a Company.) Further, the Brigade

Operation Order said that it was expected that the arrest operation would be

conducted on foot and that the two axes of advance were likely to be towards the

areas of William Street/Little Diamond and William Street/Little James Street,

ie the Order did not contemplate the use of Rossville Street as an axis of

advance; and whatever the prohibition of a “running battle down Rossville

Street” was intended to imply it at least suggests that a penetration in

depth at this point was not intended. It has been contended that the Brigade log

shows prima facie that the only action which 1 Para was authorised to carry out

was the limited one for which permission had been sought in the message recorded

in Serial 147. This view is supported by the evidence of Chief Superintendent

Lagan, who was in the Brigadier’s office at the relevant time and who formed the

impression that 1 Para had acted without authority from the Brigadier.

132. Lord Widgery acknowledged that the terms of these orders were

inconsistent with employing three companies and noted the suggestion that

Rossville Street, on the basis of this evidence, was not contemplated as an axis

of advance. However, the new material, which has resurrected suggestions that

something other than an arrest operation was afoot, also adds considerably to

the significance of Brigadier McLellan’s order not to conduct a running battle

up Rossville Street. From this perspective, Brigadier McLellan’s injunction

would have had, at a stroke, frustrated a flush out and destroy operation. Had

Lord Widgery not dismissed the allegations that the actions of the Paras were

more consistent with a flush out and destroy operation than an arrest one, he

would have had to deal more adequately with Brigadier McLellan’s orders as

recorded in the brigade log and particularly his injunction about Rossville

Street. The new material, and the terms in which it describes the actions of the

Paras, resurrects the key question as to what is the most reasonable

interpretation of the written military records and the actions of the soldiers

on the ground.

Para 30. It is understandable that these circumstances have given rise to

suspicion that the CO 1 Para exceeded his orders, but I do not accept this

conclusion in the face of the sworn evidence of the three officers concerned. I

think that the most likely explanation is that when the Brigade Major gave

instructions to the log keeper to make the entry which appears as Serial 159 the

latter mistakenly thought that the order was a response to the request in Serial

147 and he entered it accordingly.

133. Lord Widgery’s decision to accept the sworn testimony of the three

officers concerned (though not all of the relevant officers, such as the

note-keeper) conveniently but not convincingly removed the difficulties

presented by the written records. As McMahon points out, “Lord Widgery not

only accepted oral evidence in preference to written evidence, but also

preferred the evidence of implicated persons to that of independent witnesses.

He also rejected what is traditionally recognised as a reliable source of

evidence; official records.”

Should the Arrest Operation have been Launched at all ?

Para 31. By 1600 hours the pressure on barrier 14 had relaxed. There were

still 100 to 200 hooligans in the William Street area but most of the

non-violent marchers had either turned for home or were making their way down

Rossville Street to attend a meeting at Free Derry Corner where about 500 were

already assembled. (Still of Army helicopter film EP 29/16.) On the waste ground

between the Rossville Flats and William Street there was a mixed crowd of

perhaps 200 which included some rioters together with marchers, local residents,

newspapermen and sightseers who were moving aimlessly about or chatting in

groups. (Mr Tucker’s photographs EP 28/1 to 4.) This was the situation when

Commander 8 Brigade ordered 1 Para to move forward and make arrests.

134. Given that there was army helicopter film, the question can legitimately

be asked whether the events of Bloody Sunday were actually filmed in full and

whether such a record is available. This paragraph further illustrates that the

situation, despite the fact of continued stone throwing, had eased considerably

and that the crowd between Rossville Flats and William Street, into which 1 Para

drove its assault, was for the most part mixed, aimless and relaxed.

Para 32. In the light of events the wisdom of carrying out the arrest

operation is debatable. The Army had achieved its main purpose of containing the

march and although some rioters were still active in William Street they could

have been dispersed without difficulty. It may well be that if the Army had

maintained its “low key” attitude the rest of the day would have

passed off without further serious incident. On the other hand the Army had been

subjected to severe stoning for upwards of half an hour; and the future threat

to law and order posed by the hard core of hooligans in Londonderry made the

arrest of some of them a legitimate security objective. The presence of 1 Para

provided just the opportunity to carry this out.

Para 33. In view of the large numbers of people about in the area the

arrest operation presented two particular risks: first, that in a large scale

scoop-up of rioters a number of people who were not rioters would be caught in

the net and perhaps roughly handled; secondly, that if the troops were fired

upon and returned fire innocent civilians might well be injured.

135. These paragraphs clearly understated the dangers faced by the civilians

in and around Rossville Street once 1 Para was mobilised. In the light of the

Para AA document, its claims about the brutal esprit de corps prevailing in the

Parachute Regiment, and the widely acknowledged acceptance – even by Lord

Widgery – that the Paras were particularly aggressive in their approach, there

could have been little doubt in the minds of the commanding officers of the

likely risk to civilians present when 1 Para deployed. Apparently under the

sights of British Army snipers viewing the situation from elevated positions

near the Walls and an officer located overhead in a helicopter, a military unit

known to be particularly aggressive and ruthless was deployed in a rapid advance

simultaneously up Chamberlain Street and Rossville Street against a mixed,

aimless and relaxed crowd dispersing from a relatively minor disturbance toward

Free Derry corner. This advance, contrary to the orders of Brigadier McLellan,

was into an area in which the Army reportedly believed these soldiers were

liable to sniper attack by members of the IRA located in and around the

Rossville Flats complex.

Para 34. Whether the Brigade Commander was guilty of an error of judgment

in giving orders for the arrest operation to proceed is a question which others

can judge as well or better than I can. It was a decision made in good faith by

an experienced officer on the information available to him, but he

underestimated the dangers involved.

136. Since Lord Widgery, contrary to the record, ascribed to Brigadier

McLellan the responsibility of launching the arrest operation (without which, as

Lord Widgery conceded, there may have been no deaths that day), Brigadier

McLellan bore the weight of responsibility for the consequences of that action.

Yet Lord Widgery, charged with the investigation into the most serious incident

involving the British Army in its recent history, simply refused to make a

judgement on whether or not Brigadier McLellan made a fatal error of judgement

which resulted in 13 deaths that afternoon. This not only contrasts with the

certitude with which he laid the blame for the events of that day on the march

organisers, but avoids what must by any reasonable standard be seen as the

reason for holding the Inquiry in the first place.

137. That is not to claim that Brigadier McLellan was actually the

responsible agent in precipitating the operation which led to the civilian

casualties since questions remain as to his control on the day and on the nature

of the authorities’ overall intentions. One might even make the argument that

Brigadier McLellan, as demonstrated by the official record, gave an order not to

conduct a running battle down Rossville Street which, if adhered to by 1 Para,

would undoubtedly have greatly diminished – even to the point of elimination –

the risk to civilians. In considering whether Brigadier McLellan gave an

accurate account in testimony, Prof. Dash asked: “Even if General Ford had

given the order, could Brigadier McLellan be expected to repudiate his

commanding officer? Or, if 1 Para had acted without orders at all, would

Brigadier McLellan’s basic loyalty to the Army, or his concern for the

reputation of the British government, permit him to expose such shocking

conduct, especially after the tragic events of January 30?” Prof. Dash

concludes that the crucial question of orders “was not resolved by the

Tribunal Inquiry, and certainly not by Lord Widgery’s Report.”

The First High Velocity Rounds

Para 35. …The Company Commander of the Support Company found a route

over a wall by the side of the Presbyterian Church which he considered might be

useful for this purpose, but which was obstructed by wire. Accordingly he sent a

wire-cutting party to make this route usable if required. Whilst some soldiers

from the Mortar Platoon were cutting the wire a single high velocity round was

fired from somewhere near the Rossville Flats and struck a rainwater pipe on the

side of the Presbyterian Church just above their heads. A large number of

witnesses gave evidence about this incident, which clearly occurred, and which

proves that at that stage there was at least one sniper, equipped with a high

velocity weapon, established somewhere in the vicinity of the Rossville Flats

and prepared to open fire on the soldiers.

138. Lord Widgery did not make clear here that the witnesses to this event

were military. None of the NICRA/NCCL statements or the eyewitness statements

given to the Government in 1972 attest to this event as described by Lord

Widgery. In seeking to establish the threat of sniper fire from Rossville Flats

as he does in this instance, Lord Widgery logically called into question the

subsequent decision to send soldiers into the open areas in front of these


Para 36. The Company Commander of Support Company had sent a number of men

forward to cover the wire-cutting party. Some of these men established

themselves on the two lower floors of a three storey derelict building on

William Street….A hail of missiles was thrown at these soldiers. After a time

Soldier A fired two rounds and Soldier B fired three rounds. There is no doubt

that this shooting wounded Mr John Johnson and Mr Damien Donaghy. Evidence from

civilians in the neighbourhood, including Mr Johnson himself, is to the effect

that although stones were being thrown no firearms or bombs were being used

against the soldiers in the derelict building. Having seen and heard Mr Johnson

I have no doubt that he was telling the truth as he saw it. He was obviously an

innocent passer-by going about his own business in Londonderry that afternoon

and was almost certainly shot by accident. I have not thought it necessary to

take a statement from Mr Donaghy, who was injured more seriously and was still

in hospital when I finished hearing evidence. I am quite satisfied that had he

given evidence it would have been in the same sense as that given by Mr Johnson.

139. It is interesting to note here that the wire-cutting party was being

given cover by Support Company. In the light of the new material and evidence

that firing occurred from elevated positions, the question arises as to what

cover was established, and where it was situated, to protect Support Company

when it later advanced up Rossville Street – all the more so since it had been

claimed that a high velocity shot had come from Rossville Flats. Lord Widgery

did not offer any insight into what cover was organised for the soldiers moving

up Rossville Street. If such cover was not present, it would seem a dereliction

of duty by the officers commanding. If it was, did it open fire as so many

eyewitnesses attest and thereby contribute to the fatal events that followed? It

is also interesting to note that while Lord Widgery recorded the views of

eyewitnesses that only stones were thrown and while he was prepared to say that

he believed Mr. Johnson was telling the truth as he saw it, Lord Widgery did not

offer a similar judgement on the views of those other eyewitnesses about the

type of projectiles being used, nor did he seek to hear the views of Damien

Donaghy – despite his relevance as one of the wounded and despite the nature of

the allegations being levelled at him by the soldiers. Had Lord Widgery done so,

he would have had considerable difficulty in accepting the accounts offered by

the implicated soldiers.

Para 37. …The man reappeared carrying an object in his right hand and

made the actions of striking a fuse match against the wall with his left hand.

When he brought his two hands together soldier A assumed that he was about to

light a nail bomb, took aim and fired at him.

Para 38. …[soldier B] noticed one man come out from the waste ground

across William Street carrying in his right hand a black cylindrical object

which looked like a nail bomb. With his left hand he struck the wall with a

match. Thinking that the man was about to light the nail bomb, and that there

was no time to wait for orders from his Platoon Sergeant, soldier B took aim and


140. These paragraphs concern the shootings of Damian Donaghy and John

Johnson in William Street, both wounded at the time (Johnson subsequently died,

reportedly as a result of his wounds). These were the first victims of Bloody

Sunday. Lord Widgery cleared the victims of any suggestion that they were trying

to light or were lighting a bomb. He relates the accounts of soldiers A and B as

being “in similar terms” and supports their belief that they had been

attacked by nail bombs but finds “it impossible to reach any conclusions as

to whether explosive substances were thrown at these soldiers or not.”

141. It is clear, however, that the original statements made by these

soldiers to the Military Police, as detailed by Prof. Walsh, were significantly

different to their subsequent description of events. In this original statement,

Soldier A placed the target at a different spot and claimed that the target

struck the nail bomb against the wall to ignite it with his right hand and was

in the process of passing it into his left hand when he was shot and hit by

Soldier A. Two men dragged the target away. Soldier B gave a very similar

account, though B claimed that the target lit something with his left hand and

was about to ignite the object in his right hand. Both also claimed that two

nail bombs exploded near them prior to this. Yet no nail bombs were recovered

from the scene. No civilian eyewitness identified nail bombs being used. No

civilian eyewitness described the incident depicted by the soldiers. Soldier A

corrected his placement of the target in a subsequent statement to the Treasury

Solicitors and, significantly, also changed his statement to say that the target

moved his left hand down the wall which had the effect of matching it to the

account given by Soldier B.

142. It is clear that the soldiers’ testimony to the Tribunal was open to the

charge that it had been changed and was therefore unreliable. Since these

changes were not revealed to Counsel for the next of kin, the cross-examination

was denied the opportunity of addressing the discrepancies of place and

movements. Since a reasonable number of the authors of the eyewitness statements

were not called to testify, the possibility of refuting the soldiers’ testimony

as being tantamount to fiction was never properly explored.

Para 39. I find it impossible to reach any conclusion as to whether

explosive substances were thrown at these soldiers or not. Mere negative

evidence that nail bombs were not seen or heard is of relatively little

importance in a situation in which there was already a great deal of noise.

Baton rounds were being fired from the barrier in Little James Street nearby and

there were other distractions for the various witnesses. Having seen Soldiers A

and B vigorously cross-examined I accept that they thought, rightly or wrongly,

that the missiles being thrown towards them included a nail bomb or bombs; and

that they thought, rightly or wrongly, that one of the members of the crowd was

engaged in suspicious action similar to that of striking a match and lighting a

nail bomb. The soldiers fired in the belief that they were entitled to do so by

their orders. Whether or not the circumstances were really such as to warrant

firing there is no reason whatever to suppose that either Mr. Johnson or Mr.

Donaghy was in fact trying to light or throw a bomb.

143. It seems extraordinary that Lord Widgery found it impossible to reach a

conclusion as to whether nails bombs were thrown. Both soldiers, in identical

terms, describe two nail bombs landing nearby before they opened fire. Either

they were telling the truth or they were not. Since they were implicated

witnesses, since the emergence of the archival material demonstrates that they

made significant changes to their testimony and since eyewitnesses failed to

corroborate their version, there are clear grounds for disbelieving their

account. Furthermore, since both soldiers A and B claimed to have fired aimed

shots, and since Lord Widgery accepted that the wounded were innocent, then

logically he ought to have concluded that soldier A and soldier B aimed at and

hit two innocent civilians.

144. As to Lord Widgery’s claim that mere negative evidence (i.e. no

eyewitnesses identified the use of nail bombs) is of relatively little

importance, McMahon rightly poses the question “how else could the

civilians prove there was no bomb except by declaring that they had not seen

any?” He goes on, “in circumstances like those under scrutiny it would

be almost inconceivable for civilians to prove the absence of nail bombs, etc.,

other than by negative evidence…..Negative truth is better than positive lies.

It is very difficult to prove a negative statement (e.g. that there were no

bombs) other than by negative evidence.”

145. Had Lord Widgery concluded, as the weight of evidence suggests, that

there were no nail bombs thrown, then the soldiers’ belief that they were

entitled to fire would have been seriously undermined. The soldiers’ subjective

belief – even if substantiated – that they were entitled to fire is not a

sufficient justification for firing. Lord Widgery’s failure to apply an

objective standard of reasonableness to the actions of the soldiers, so evident

here, set the pattern in his overall Report regarding the actions of British

Army personnel.

146. Why Soldier A and B chose to shoot Donaghy and Johnson remains a

mystery. Don Mullan states that many believe that these early shots, fired by

Support Company of 1 Para and hitting Donaghy and Johnson, “were aimed at

drawing the IRA units down into the Bogside…..the IRA reaction did not

materialise….When the Paras moved into Rossville Street twenty minutes later,

the fusillade of bombs and bullets they later claimed they encountered simply

did not occur.” The validity of this belief can only be fully assessed in

the light of further information on or clarification of the British Army’s prior

intentions and on the role envisaged for 1 Para.

Support Company in Action

Para 40. An ammunition check on return to barracks showed that Support

Company of 1 Para had, in the course of 30 January, expended 108 rounds of 7.62

mm ammunition….Five rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition had been fired by Soldiers A

and B as already described in paragraph 36 above and one had been ejected

unfired by a soldier in clearing a stoppage in his rifle. The remaining 102

rounds were fired by soldiers of Support Company in a period of under 30 minutes

between 1610 and 1640 hours. About 20 more rounds were fired by the Army in

Londonderry that afternoon, but not by 1 Para and not in the area with which the

Tribunal was primarily concerned.

147. Lord Widgery could not account for 19 shots by soldier H who claimed

that he saw and fired on a gunman who appeared in a window 19 times in a row.

Despite the accommodating calisthenics of the gunman, soldier H failed either to

hit him, the window or even the building. While Lord Widgery at least baulked at

accepting soldier H’s fanciful explanation, he did not attempt to provide an

alternative explanation in order to account for this ammunition. He failed,

therefore, to account for some 39 bullets fired out of a total of 128 rounds

(i.e 30%) which, by his reckoning, were fired by the Army that day in Derry. Nor

did Lord Widgery seek to censure the soldier for attempting to mislead the


148. The official tally of ammunition fired has now been seriously undermined

by the Para AA document. According to Para AA, members of 1 Para colluded to

conceal how many bullets they had individually fired, had their own personal

supply of ammunition and used dum-dum bullets. According to the Para AA


“Several of the blokes had fired their own personal supply of dum-dums.

Para BB for one fired 10 dum-dums into the crowd but as he still had his

official quota he got away with saying he never fired a shot in the subsequent

investigations. This happened with several people in my vehicle. Para CC fired

22 rounds but was stupid enough to boast about it within the sergeant’s hearing

before he could spread them out i.e. add a few to each of our tallys.”

149. Para AA’s allegation that dum-dum bullets were used is particularly

startling. It bespeaks not only a culture of ill-discipline but the use of

ammunition banned under the Geneva Conventions. Furthermore, it may explain the

particular nature of the wounds suffered by Barney McGuigan, for example, which

indicated that the bullet which struck him in the head had apparently shattered

on impact. Lord Widgery’s apparent assiduousness in accounting for all

ammunition and his reckoning of the total amount did not match the civilian

eyewitness accounts which invariably described a sustained fusillade of fire

from many directions; it seems highly unlikely that this description matches the

rate of 3-4 rounds a minute over a 30 minute period indicated by Lord Widgery.

This discrepancy may well be explained in part by the Para AA statement.

150. The fact that 20 shots were also fired by the British Army outside the

area of Lord Widgery’s primary concern opens up an intriguing question. A close

reading of Lord Widgery’s syntax reveals that one could argue that it did not

rule out that shots were fired from the vicinity of the Walls (i.e. outside the

narrow confines defined by Lord Widgery) but hit people within that area. Lord

Widgery did not investigate the likely trajectory of fatal shots. The new

material reveals that such an examination at the time may well have revealed

significant information regarding the source of some of the fatal shots as

coming from the vicinity of Derry Walls.

Para 41. Support Company advanced through barrier 12 and down Rossville

Street in a convoy of 10 vehicles. A photograph taken very shortly afterwards

shows the Guildhall clock standing at 10 minutes past 4 (EP35/20). In the lead

was the Mortar Platoon commanded by Lieutenant N….The rear was brought up by

two further APCs carrying the Anti-Tank Platoon, which consisted of Lieutenant

119 in command and 17 other ranks.

Points 151-190

151. The assembly of 10 vehicles containing organised units of soldiers and

deploying in a choreographed manner suggests a considerable degree of prior

coordination and deliberation. Such a movement was clearly contrary to the

Brigade Operation Order, both in the use of vehicles and in the area in which

they and the soldiers were deployed. The new material relates that this

deployment was carried out at considerable speed and that one of the Saracens

“deliberately hit an elderly man”. One eyewitness relates that a

soldier appeared between the Saracens, without riot gear, firing from his hip,

apparently at random.

Para 42. According to Major 736 his orders were simply to go through barrier

12 and arrest as many rioters as possible. As the rioters retreated down

Rossville Street he went after them.

Para 43. The leading APC (Lieutenant N) turned left off Rossville Street

and halted on the waste ground near to where Eden Place used to be. The second

APC (Sergeant O) went somewhat further and halted in the courtyard of the

Rossville Flats near the north end of the western (or No 1) Block. The Platoon

immediately dismounted. Soldier P and one or two others from Sergeant O’s

vehicle moved towards Rossville Street but the remainder of the Platoon started

to make arrests near to their vehicles.

Para 44. Meanwhile the remainder of Support Company vehicles had halted in

Rossville Street. The Company Commander (Major 236) says that his command

vehicle came under fire so he moved it with his scout car in attendance to the

north end of No 1 Block of the Flats to obtain cover…The Anti-Tank Platoon’s

vehicles halted behind the 4-ton lorries and the men of that Platoon dismounted

and moved to Kells Walk. Some of these men were to appear later in Glenfada

Park. The Composite Platoon Commander deployed half of his men to the east in

support of the Mortar Platoon, the other half to the west in support of the

Anti-Tank Platoon.

Para 45. Thereafter Support Company operated in three areas which require

separate examination: the courtyard of the Rossville Flats; Rossville Street

from Kells Walk to the improvised barricade; and lastly the area of Glenfada

Park and Abbey Park.

152. This account is not subject to any comment by Lord Widgery and is

presented as a straight narrative. In its economy of the truth, it is a highly

misleading account. Lord Widgery’s flat statement that the soldiers

“started to make arrests” does not convey the nature of their arrival,

an important factor which explains why the crowd reacted in panic and attempted

to flee. The civilian eyewitnesses are at one on the exceptional and frightening

degree of aggression and brutality deployed. The following selection is


– A boy was running away from them and a soldier went down on one knee and

fired his rifle and the boy pitched forward. There was a large amount of blood

around him. I then saw three soldiers beating a man with batons.(Isabelle


– Two soldiers came down Rossville Street with a man in a black suit – half

walking and half dragged, receiving blows from the muzzle of the soldier’s gun

and the butt of the other soldier’s gun. When they got behind the Saracens, I

saw him struck on the body and fall. Whilst on the ground, I saw him kicked by

two other soldiers. They lifted him and threw him bodily into the

Saracen…[Another] young boy appeared to be pleading with him [a Para]….The

paratrooper [a second one] ran back behind the boy and hit him on the back of

the head with the butt of his rifle…as he marched him to the Saracen kept

hitting him with the muzzle of the gun….I saw a soldier in a kneeling

position, firing straight up Rossville Street towards the barricade. He seemed

to have fired a full magazine ….(Tony D.)

– One Saracen knocked a man on the ground and a soldier jumped out. He kept

the man on the ground by battering him with the butt of his rifle and another

soldier shot at this man from very close range. Then the soldiers seemed to go

berserk and were shooting everywhere. Women and children were running for

cover, screaming. (Agnes Hume)

153. Furthermore, Lord Widgery does not challenge Major 236’s claim that he

was fired on. By Lord Widgery’s own measure, who fired first was considered to

be “vital” and “probably the most important single issue which I

have been required to determine.” Yet he failed to deal in this narrative

with the warning shots which Lt. N, leading the mortar platoon which was the

first to debus in Rossville Street, claimed to have fired before he heard any

other shots. Indeed, Lord Widgery did not even refer to this event in paragraph

43 despite its obvious relevance. As Prof. Walsh points out, “the Tribunal

ignored the strong possibility that these shots were the first fired on

Rossville Street when making its determination on who fired first.” In

short, these paragraphs are an inaccurate and misleading account of

“Support Company in Action”.

(a) The activities of Mortar Platoon in the courtyard of the Rossville


Para 46. As soon as the vehicles appeared in William Street the crowd on

the waste ground began to run away to the south and was augmented by many other

people driven out of Chamberlain Street by C Company…..The crowd ran not

because they thought the soldiers would open fire upon them but because they

feared arrest. Though there was complete confidence that the soldiers would not

fire unless fired upon, experienced citizens like Father Daly recognised that an

arrest operation was in progress and wished to avoid the rubber bullets and

rough handling which this might involve. One of the photographs taken by Mr

Tucker from his home in the central block of the Rossville Flats shows clearly

what was happening at this stage. However, careful study of the photograph

(EP28/5)shows that many of the crowd remained under cover in the doorways of the

Flats or remained facing the vehicles to see how far they would come.

154. On the face of it, this paragraph was an astonishingly confident

assertion of what motivated the crowd (which he had described as mixed) i.e.

fear of arrest and rough handling combined with “complete confidence”

that the soldiers would not fire unless fired upon. The new material,

particularly the eyewitness statements and the Para AA document, undermines this

assertion. They demonstrate forcefully the sense of fear and panic which seized

most civilians present with the arrival of the Paras and the soldiers’

immediately aggressive behaviour, followed so rapidly by the use of live

ammunition. Lord Widgery’s characterisation of those seeking cover in order to

adjudge how far the Paras would advance is a travesty of what was actually going

on – civilians fleeing the Paras and then attempting to seek cover from the fire

directed into their midst.

Para 47. The APCs of Mortar Platoon penetrated more deeply than was

expected by the crowd, which caused some panic….As soon as the vehicles halted

the soldiers of Mortar Platoon began to make arrests….But within a minute or

two firing broke out and within about the next 10 minutes the soldiers of Mortar

Platoon had fired 42 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition and one casualty (John Duddy)

lay dead in the courtyard.

Para 48. This action in the courtyard is of special importance for two

reasons. The first shots-other than those in William Street referred to in

paragraphs 35 to 38-were fired here. Their sound must have caused other soldiers

to believe that Support Company was under attack and made them more ready than

they would otherwise have been to identify gunmen amongst the crowd. Secondly,

the shooting by the Mortar Platoon in the courtyard was one of the incidents

invoked by those who have accused the Army of firing indiscriminately on the

backs of a fleeing crowd.

Para 49. I have heard a great deal of evidence from civilians, including

pressmen, who were in the crowd in the courtyard, almost all to the effect that

the troops did not come under attack but opened fire without provocation. The

Army case is that as soon as they began to make arrests they themselves came

under fire and their own shooting consisted of aimed shots at gunmen and bomb

throwers who were attacking them. This issue, sometimes referred to as “Who

fired first?”, is probably the most important single issue which I have

been required to determine.

155. Having thus established the contending version of events in the

courtyard, Lord Widgery then presented in paragraph 50 “a representative

sample” of six civilian versions in summary form of what they witnessed. In

themselves, these stand in startling contrast to the narrative offered earlier

by Lord Widgery (paragraphs 41-45). He then offers evidence from the Army side,

eight examples in all. Before considering them in detail, it is worth recalling

Prof. Walsh’s comment that the overall account provided by the soldiers lacks

credibility. Prof. Walsh has identified a whole catalogue of discrepancies and

alterations in the statements offered by the soldiers which further undermine

the reliability of the statements offered by the soldiers to the Tribunal –

statements, it should be remembered, by those implicated in the deaths of

unarmed civilians. None of these alterations and discrepancies – which had the

effect of making their statements safe from possible prosecution and aligning

them to one another – were revealed in the course of the Inquiry or to the

Counsel for the next of kin.

156. The soldiers alleged that they came under sustained gun and bomb attack.

Yet these supposed IRA attacks did not inflict casualties on the civilians

milling about. Nor were civilians or journalists aware of the activities of

these gunmen and bombers; they neither saw nor heard them. Only soldiers were

apparently able to detect them though they, like the civilians and journalists,

were able to remain completely immune from any injury. Despite the alleged

intensity of hostile fire, the soldiers continued to operate in the open and to

advance. None of the accounts given by the soldiers were supported by

non-military witnesses. No evidence corroborating their claims of hitting gunmen

or bombers was discovered. The dead and wounded did not match the soldiers’

versions of whom they shot at and where. The only reasonable conclusion to be

drawn from all of this is that the accounts provided by the soldiers were


157. It might also be noted that by presenting two sets of statements as if

they were equally valid and representing equally valuable versions of the same

events is not only clearly unreal given the diametrically opposed descriptions

offered, but is now revealed by the new material to be inherently unbalanced

since one group was demonstrably unreliable. It is the implicated group which is

revealed as having changed and sought to match their versions. This whole

exercise, as presented by Lord Widgery, is now shown to have been based on a

fundamentally unsound premise that the soldiers were “telling the truth as

they saw it”. It appears that the Tribunal was well aware that this was the

case but concealed it from the public and the Counsel for the next of kin. That

the Tribunal never revealed this to the Counsel for the next of kin completely

undermined the validity of the cross-examination process. The revelations

provided by the archive material and Prof. Walsh’s analysis of it means that, on

this basis alone, the Widgery Report stands fundamentally flawed. Moreover, this

portion of the Report graphically illustrates the failure of Lord Widgery to

invoke ballistic, forensic or medical evidence to determine the veracity of the

contending accounts.

(i) Major 236….said that as he and his driver dismounted a burst of about

15 rounds of low velocity fire came towards them from the direction of

Rossville Flats….He saw seven or eight members of the Mortar Platoon firing

aimed shots towards the Flats but he could not see what they were firing at.

He said that these soldiers were under fire.

158. There is no convincing and clear independent, non-military corroboration

of this claim. The statements of the civilian eyewitnesses are very consistent

on the point that no civilian gunfire as described by Major 236 took place.

(ii) Lieutenant N…. moved towards Chamberlain Street where he was faced

by a hostile crowd and fired a total of three shots above their heads in order

to disperse them….He then fired one further round at a man whom he thought

was throwing a nail bomb in the direction of Sergeant O’s vehicle.

159. Prof. Walsh makes a number of points in regard to these “warning

shots”, particularly the failure by the Tribunal to consider whether Lt. N

was justified in firing shots in the first place. Lord Widgery simply did not

consider Lt.N’s claim to have wounded a nail bomber since he had decided not to

examine all of the wounded cases. Prof. Walsh has also uncovered from the

archives that Lt. N changed the sequence of his shots in the version offered to

the Tribunal to that initially given to the Military Police and made another

change to align his version with the facts or with statements by other soldiers.

These discrepancies were not revealed in the course of the Inquiry and were not

referred to by Lord Widgery, despite their obvious significance.

(iii) Sergeant O….said that he and his men began to make arrests but were

met with fire from the Rossville Flats. He thought that the fire came from

four or five sources and possibly included some high velocity weapons. He saw

the strike of bullets four or five metres from one of the members of his

Platoon. He and his men returned to his APC to secure their prisoners and then

spread out in firing positions to engage those who had fired upon them.

Sergeant O fired three rounds at a man firing a pistol from behind a car

parked in the courtyard. The man fell and was carried away. He fired a further

three rounds at a man standing at first floor level on the cat-walk connecting

Blocks 2 and 3, who was firing a fairly short weapon like an M1 carbine. The

flashes at the muzzle were visible. Sergeant O caught a glimpse of Soldier S

firing at a man with a similar weapon but his view was obscured by people

“milling about”. The Sergeant returned to his vehicle, but later

fired two more rounds at a man whom he said was firing an MI carbine from an

alleyway between Blocks 2 and 3. He later saw Soldier T splashed with acid and

told him that if further acid bombs were thrown he should return fire. He

heard Soldier T fire two rounds and saw another acid bomb which had fallen.

Sergeant O described the firing from the Flats as the most intense that he had

seen in Northern Ireland in such a short space of time.

160. Lord Widgery himself dismissed soldier O’s account of the intensity of

hostile fire. Prof. Walsh has uncovered six major discrepancies between his

evidence to the Tribunal and his original statement, including in regard to the

intensity of fire, the number of shots he fired, whether he saw the body of the

gunman being dragged away and the number of acid bombs he claimed to have seen


(iv) Private Q, after dismounting from his vehicle, was being stoned and so

took cover at the end of Block 1 of the Rossville Flats. There he heard four

or five low velocity shots, that is to say shots fired by someone other than

the Army, though he could not say from what direction. Shortly afterwards he

saw a man throwing nail bombs, two of which simply rolled away whilst another

one exploded near to the houses backing on to Chamberlain Street. He shot at

and hit the man as he was in the act of throwing another nail bomb. That bomb

did not explode and the man’s body was dragged away.

161. Prof. Walsh identifies two major discrepancies arising from soldier Q’s

original statement: he changes the direction in which the nail bombs were thrown

(Walsh speculates because the original target as claimed would have been beyond

range) and the number thrown (from one to several).

(v) Private R heard one or two explosions like small bombs from the back of

Rossville Flats. He also heard firing of high and low calibre weapons. He

noticed a man about 30 yards along the eastern side of Block 1, who made as if

to throw a smoking object, whereupon Private R fired at him. He thought he hit

him high up on the shoulder, but was not certain what happened to the man

because he was at that moment himself struck on the leg by an acid bomb thrown

from an upper window in the Flats. A few moments later R saw a hand firing a

pistol from the alleyway between Blocks 2 and 3. R fired three times, but did

not know whether he made a hit.

162. Prof. Walsh identifies five substantial discrepancies between R’s

original statement and his account to the Treasury Solicitors and the Inquiry,

including differences in his version of the actions of soldiers O and T.

(vi) Private S said that he came under fire as soon as he dismounted from

his vehicle. The fire was fairly rapid single shots, from the area of the

Rossville Flats. He dodged across to the back of one of the houses in

Chamberlain Street, from which position he saw a hail of bottles coming down

from the Flats onto one of the armoured vehicles and the soldiers around it.

He fired a total of 12 shots at a gunman or gunmen who appeared, or

reappeared, in front of the alleyway between Blocks 1 and 2 of the Flats. The

gunman was firing what he thought was an M1 carbine. He thought that he scored

two hits.

163. Prof. Walsh identifies a series of major discrepancies and alterations

in the various statements made by soldier S. While all of them are significant,

the most striking is the fact that in his original statement he made no mention

of coming under fire immediately upon debussing. Also in his original statement,

soldier S claimed that the crowd opened to reveal a gunman and closed when he

returned fire. This choreographed ballet between the crowd, the gunman and the

soldier, the original statement claimed, repeated itself four times. This

surreal and unbelievable image was not repeated in evidence.

(vii) Private T heard a burst of fire, possibly from a semi-automatic rifle

being fired very quickly, about 30 to 45 seconds after dismounting from his

vehicle. It came from somewhere inside the area of the Rossville Flats. He was

splashed on the legs by acid from an acid bomb and noticed a person throwing

acid bombs about three storeys up in the Flats. On the orders of his Sergeant

he fired two rounds at the acid bomb thrower. He thought that he did not score

a hit.

164. Prof. Walsh reveals that soldier T, contrary to his evidence to the

Inquiry, did not claim to have come under fire when he debussed in his original

statement. He also changed the moment he fired at the alleged acid bomber from

“before” to “after” the second acid bomb was thrown.

(viii) Lance Corporal V heard two explosions, not baton rounds or rifle

fire, before his vehicle stopped. As soon as he jumped out he heard rifle fire

and saw several shots spurting into the ground to his right. He thought that

this fire was coming from the alleyway between Blocks 1 and 2 of the Rossville

Flats. He saw a crowd of about 100 towards the end of Chamberlain Street who

were throwing stones and bricks. Corporal V moved further forward and shot at

and hit a man about 50 or 60 yards away from him in the act of throwing a

bottle with a fuse attached to it.

165. Prof. Walsh identifies four significant differences between his original

statement and the evidence he offered subsequently. The key difference concerns

when he fired at the alleged nail bomber. In his original statement, he claimed

to have fired after the bomb had landed and failed to explode. He changed this

to firing when the nail bomber was about to throw. As Prof. Walsh notes, on the

basis of the original version, “there are grounds for charging V with

murder or attempted murder depending on whether this target was killed or

not.” This becomes moot because, as Walsh states, “the circumstances

of the shooting and the description of the victim as given by V could not be

matched up with any of the casualties.” As Walsh concludes, “it would

be difficult to place much trust in V’s evidence.”

Para 52. A number of soldiers other than those of 1 Para gave evidence

about the opening of fire….Captain 028, a Royal Artillery officer attached to

1 Para as a Press Officer saw the leading vehicle struck by a round before it

came to a halt and saw a man open fire with a sub-machine gun from the barricade

as the soldiers jumped out of their vehicles……Lieutenant 227 of the Royal

Artillery, who was in command of an observation post on the City Walls, heard

two bursts of automatic fire from the Glenfada Park area after the arrest

operation had begun and before he had heard any other sort of ball

ammunition…..Gunner 030, who was in a slightly different position on the City

Walls, saw a youth fire five or six shots with a pistol….This was before 030

heard any fire from the Paras. Later on he heard a burst of automatic fire and

saw a man with a machine gun running in Glenfada Park.

Para 53. There was also a considerable body of civilian evidence about the

presence of gunmen in the Bogside that afternoon, including some to the effect

that they were the first to open fire. Father Daly saw a man armed with a pistol

fire two or three shots at the soldiers from the south end of Chamberlain

Street…… Mr Phillips, Mr Seymour, Mr Wilkinson and Mr Hammond, members of an

Independent Television News team, who also went through the William Street

barrier behind the Paras, all heard machine gun fire as the soldiers went across