Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

July Books 15) The Bloody Sunday Report, Volume VI

At 625 numbered pages, this is another very long volume of the Bloody Sunday report - not really because of the number of casualties (eight, compared to seven from each of the previous two volumes) let alone the number of soldiers involved (only four, compared to six in Volume V and eight in Volumes III and IV) but because the evidence of the perpetrators and survivors is unusually confusing. Of the four soldiers (Corporal E, Lance Corporal F, Private G and Private H), two are now dead, and all four appear to have attempted to coordinate their stories rather more than was the case for other parts of the chaos of Bloody Sunday. The civilian witnesses, on the other hand were almost all very busy running away, and therefore had no real incentive to look behind them to watch which soldier was shooting which of their fellow citizens.

Saville faithfully recapitulates all the evidence available, again ruthlessly dissecting the lies told by the soldiers, who moved into Glenfada Park North contrary to instructions (their commanding officer, Lieutenant 112, claimed that they were under his orders, but Savile does not believe him either) and basically started taking pot-shots at the crowd. Corporal E fired southwards and injured Patrick O'Donnell who was trying to take cover behind a fence; Lance Corporal F, Private G and Private H fired south-west, and between them killed Jim Wray and William McKinney, and also injured Joe Mahon, Joe Friel and Michael Quinn. Jim Wray was then shot again as he lay dying. Private G then fired into the neighbouring Abbey Park at Gerard McKinney and killed him, the bullet passing through him and then also killing Gerald Donaghey. Most of the casualties were shot from behind as they fled.

There is a mass of awful detail here. No less than 72 pages address the question of whether or not Jim Wray was shot for a second time after he had fallen to the ground, already having been shot once, with some particularly contested pieces of forensic evidence (I think I would have preferred not to know what 'shoring' means in this context) and a wealth of confused and confusing memories of civilians. Another 17 pages look at an incident where an 18-year-old nurse, Eibhlin Rafferty, believed that she was shot at by the soldiers as she attempted to go to the casualties to treat them. Saville respectfully disagrees with her, for various reasons emerging from the balance of the evidence of other witnesses (thus disagreeing with the journalist Nell McCafferty, who was also present). Saville is too polite to say it, perhaps, but to me the biggest strike against her story is that she is still alive; if the soldiers really had targeted her they would certainly have killed her.

For once the evidence about paramilitary activity here at the time that the soldiers were firing is pretty unambiguous: there wasn't any. The soldiers' lawyers attempted to argue that Glenfada Park North was known as a hotbed of paramilitary activity, but failed to prove that the four soldiers would have known that, or that it makes any difference if they did. The Official IRA men from Volumes II and IV, by their own account, and presumably also the unidentified gunman from Volume V, since there was no other route he could have taken, had made their getaway through Glenfada Park North and Abbey Park a few minutes or possibly even seconds before the soldiers arrived, but the soldiers did not see them, being too busy shooting at non-existent nail-bombers and petrol-bombers and mysteriously hitting civilians. One choice bit of Saville deconstruction:
[100.5] Corporal E’s evidence would require us to accept that a man, in full view of four armed soldiers, one of whom was only some 30 yards away, threw a petrol bomb towards them which exploded and then, apparently without seeking cover, lit and threw a nail bomb. It strikes us as being beyond belief that anyone would be so foolish as to act in this way.
The lawyers representing the soldiers, here as elsewhere, tried to argue that there were other unreported casualties who were the real and legitimate targets and who have been protected over the subsequent decades by a mass conspiracy of silence; or alternatively that the soldiers, firing at legitimate targets, happened to miss them and hit nearby civilians instead. The biggest problem with the former story is that it is obviously nonsense. The biggest problem with the latter story is that the soldiers themselves, here as elsewhere, have consistently claimed not only that they fired at legitimate targets but that they hit them as well. Gerald Donaghey turned out to have been a member of the Fianna, the youth branch of the IRA, and nail bombs were found on his body later on, but since Private G could not have known that at the time and in any case was aiming at Gerard McKinney when he fired the shot that killed both McKinney and Donaghey, it hardly matters.

About two dozen people were then arrested and carted off by the soldiers. They included at least one genuine member of the Provisional IRA and two priests, arrested as they tried to reach the casualties.
113.73 There is no doubt that, as Fr O’Keeffe stated in this letter to General Tuzo, he and Fr Bradley were refused permission from soldiers to go to those who were lying shot in Glenfada Park North and that that refusal was given in unnecessarily abusive terms. Leaving aside the way it was given, it is perhaps understandable that Fr O’Keeffe should not have been allowed to go to the bodies, as he was in plain clothes, but in our view the refusal to allow Fr Bradley (in clerical clothes) to do so cannot be defended. There were a number of soldiers around, so if it was thought, for example, that he might be intent on escaping (or even removing weapons from the bodies), it would have been easy to guard against such possibilities.
Patrick O'Donnell, unable to move quickly enough for the soldiers arresting him because they had already shot him in the shoulder, was bashed over the head with a baton causing a wound that needed seven or eight stitches.

Despite the confusion of the evidence, the picture of what happened in Glenfada Park North and Abbey Park is depressingly clear. This was not a case of soldiers over-reacting to having stones and other objects thrown at them; this was four Paras taking it upon themselves to pursue fleeing civilians and shoot them dead as they ran away.

Only three more volumes to go. (Volume X, as mentioned before, is a set of legal appendices to the main narrative.)

Volume I | Volume II | Volume III | Volume IV | Volume V | Volume VI | Volume VII | Volume VIII | Volume IX | Volume X and conclusions
Tags: bloody sunday, bookblog 2010, world: northern ireland

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