Northern Ireland

IRA left Derry 'before Operation Motorman'

In 1972 there were a number of "no go areas" for the British army in Derry
Image caption In 1972 there were a number of "no go areas" for the British army in Derry

A former MP and civil rights leader said the IRA left the Bogside area of Londonderry before the British army mounted Operation Motorman in July 1972.

Ivan Cooper was giving evidence at a new inquest into the killing of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty.

The teenager was shot by the British Army during the operation on 31 July 1972.

The operation was aimed at reclaiming "no go areas" in the city from the IRA.

Daniel, who was a labourer, was shot twice in the head by a soldier close to his home in Creggan.

This is the second inquest into his death.

The initial inquest was held in 1973 and recorded an open verdict. A second inquest was ordered by the Attorney General in 2009 following an examination by the Historical Enquiries Team.

The report found that the RUC investigation at the time was "hopelessly inadequate and dreadful".

It also said Daniel "posed no threat whatsoever" when the soldiers opened fire.

"Avoid bloodshed"

On Tuesday, Mr Cooper, who was MP for Mid Derry at the time, said he had met with the commander of the RUC in the city the day before Operation Motorman and was told about the military plan.

He then told Coroner John Leckey that he went to visit the Bogside home of fellow MP John Hume to tell him what he knew.

Image caption Daniel was shot dead during Operation Motorman

After leaving Mr Hume's home he said he saw a car which he knew to be an IRA staff car and signalled to the car to stop.

Mr Cooper said he had met the driver previously in his attempts to get the IRA to stop its campaign of violence.

He told the driver the army would be coming into the Bogside the following day and that the IRA should get out to "avoid bloodshed".

He said it was common knowledge on the day of Operation Motorman that the IRA had left the no-go areas "en masse" and gone to County Donegal.

The inquest opened on Monday and heard from Daniel's sister Margaret Brady. She described how her mother continued to set a place for him at the table and call him for dinner for months after his death.

In 2007, the British government apologised to the Hegarty family after describing Daniel as a terrorist.

A Ministry of Defence document, assessing the Army's role in Northern Ireland, also incorrectly claimed the 15-year-old was armed.

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