The Saville Inquiry 2002


In 2002 the Bloody Sunday Inquiry heard from a number of high-profile witnesses.

These included General Sir Robert Ford, the British Army's most senior officer present on Bloody Sunday, who said he did not order the Parachute Regiment into the Bogside.

Martin McGuinness, now Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, told the Inquiry he was the Provisional IRA's second-in-command in Derry on Bloody Sunday.

In September the inquiry entered a new phase when it moved to London to hear evidence from 36 soldiers who refused to come to Derry because of fears for their safety.


"The worst day in the history of this city in my lifetime".

That was part of testimony to the inquiry from then Foyle MP John Hume. In 1972 he was a teacher and leading member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, which organised the march on Bloody Sunday.

He said the central issue had to be who ordered the troops into the city against the marchers.

"Who sent them, which government, and what orders were they given, because a soldier does not decide to come onto the streets on his own and he doesn't decide what he does on his own."

Image caption,
The march was organised by the NI Civil Rights Association

The inquiry also heard from a retired forensic scientist, who said he did not know some of the victims were handled by soldiers and taken to the mortuary in the back of an army vehicle.

Dr John Martin's evidence in 1972 helped Lord Widgery conclude that some of the victims were gunmen.

But he said he believed all the bodies had been moved in clean conditions, which led him to discount the possibility of contamination.

A former BBC producer, David Mills, said army officials agreed nail bombs were planted on 17-year-old Gerard Donaghey, who died on Bloody Sunday.

He also said the soldiers were ready to lie about the use of live gunfire to protect themselves.

Role of the Army

In September, the inquiry moved to London temporarily to hear evidence from 36 soldiers on active service in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday.

The men, thought to include those who fired the fatal shots, claimed their lives could be under threat if they travelled to Derry.

One of those who gave evidence was the British Army's most senior officer present on Bloody Sunday, the former Commander of Land Forces, General Sir Robert Ford.

He said he was "extremely sad" about the deaths, and there was nothing to be proud of about Bloody Sunday.

But he said he was not responsible for what happened on that day, and he did not accept any blame for what happened.

The soldier in charge of army operations on the day, Major General Pat MacLellan, said it appeared the Parachute Regiment disobeyed his orders and went further into the Bogside than they should have done.

Image caption,
Marchers and soldiers confront each other at a barricade on Bloody Sunday

Major Michael Steele, who passed on the orders on the day, said the soldiers did not report that they had shot two people before moving into the Bogside, and did not tell them they had fired a large number of shots until the main shooting was over.

A former soldier, Soldier 027, told the Inquiry some of his colleagues opened fire on civilians in Derry "without justification".

He said two soldiers were probably responsible for eight or 10 of the deaths.

He recalled one colleague was "exuberant" as a display of firepower was unleashed against civilians.

Role of the IRA

Martin McGuinness, who in 2002 was Northern Ireland's Education Minister and is now the Deputy First Minister, told the inquiry he was the Provisional IRA's second-in-command in Derry on Bloody Sunday.

In his signed statement, he said he told all volunteers they were not to engage with the army that day to make sure the civil rights march passed off peacefully.

He said his orders were accepted, and no IRA member fired while the Parachute Regiment was shooting.

Mr McGuinness rejected a claim by a security service informer that he fired the first shot on the day, describing is as "a blatant lie".

He was backed up by a Sunday Times journalist, who said the IRA had ordered its members not to open fire on the British Army.

But the journalist said he concluded the IRA had fired several shots at soldiers after the main burst of firing from the army.

Another journalist, Kieran Gill from the Irish Press, said an Official IRA man told him he fired several shots from the doorway of Rossville Flats to keep the army away.