LONDON—A British paratrooper has described the British
Army's actions in Derry, Northern Ireland 25 years ago—when
British troops shot 27 unarmed civilians, killing 14—as
shameful and disgraceful.
The soldier, who had been in Derry on Bloody Sunday, Jan.30, 1972, described the terrible events of that day in a news program last week. His account broke with the official British government version. And he claimed that a statement he had made to the official inquiry had been tampered with by his superiors.
The soldier said there was a
shambles and that at times,
command and control were missing.
People fleeing were fired on,
he said, and
one wounded man on the floor was then shot twice in
the back. He also said that another man was
shot at close range
directly in the face.
The shootings took place at the end of a peaceful civil rights demonstration in the city of Derry. Allegations that the troops had responded to gunfire have always been strongly denied by local eyewitnesses and in fact no weapons were found on any of the victims.
According to last week's Irish Times, a senior BBC journalist,
David Capper, has also reported that the
lengthy evidence he gave
to the inquiry was inaccurately summarized in the published
report. The published version suggests that a shot was fired at
the British Army during the march. What he actually told the inquiry
was that he had heard a single shot fired some two hours before the
march or the killings.
All of this comes hot on the heels of another admission by an Anglian Regiment soldier that British Army snipers had fired on demonstrators from positions along the city walls. Separate forensic evidence backs this up by showing that some wounds showed the bullets had been fired from above ground level.
It is possible that shots from British Army snipers caused the paratroopers to think they were coming under fire. But whatever the soldiers believed, the question still has to be answered: why were snipers on the walls and why did they open fire?
Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuiness has called for the
establishment of a panel of international jurists to investigate
Bloody Sunday. He said,
Last night's interview, coupled with a
previous interview with a Royal Anglian soldier indicating the
presence of British snipers on Derry's walls, pointed conclusively
to state sanctioned murder ... What is required is not another British
investigation of its own war crimes in Ireland but an independent
international panel of inquiry consisting of jurists and under the
auspices of an international human rights organization.
The leader of Ireland's Fianna Fail Party, Bertie Ahern, said the
need to acknowledge Bloody Sunday for what it
was, an inexcusable act of state terrorism that was subsequently
covered up and spawned many other evil acts.