Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Northern Ireland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Denis Murray reports for BBC News
"Truth was the theme of the day"
 real 28k

The BBC's David Eades
"The task ahead is daunting"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Army 'suggested' Bogside operation

Fourteen people died on Bloody Sunday
Secret documents raising the prospect of an army operation in "no-go" parts of Londonderry were revealed during the first day of the Bloody Sunday inquiry on Monday.

The public inquiry, one of the largest in British legal history, is examining the events of 30 January 1972 when paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights march in Derry, killing 14 people.

It heard that a top secret communication from the head of the army, General Michael Carver, to the then UK Prime Minister Edward Heath, suggested it might have been "imperative" to go into the Bogside and "root out the terrorists and hooligans".

Bloody Sunday
Fourteen dead, all male
Seventeen injured
Six victims aged 17
The document was drawn up in October 1971, three months before Bloody Sunday.

It came to light as inquiry counsel Christopher Clarke QC started his opening submission to the tribunal in Londonderry's Guildhall.

Representatives of those bereaved by the shootings said the communique came as a surprise and was not among any of the documents they had been given.

Solicitor for some of the families of the dead, Peter Madden said: "I think we will find that this inquiry will throw up a lot of surprises on a daily basis."

The inquiry has cost 15m during its first two years of preliminary work and some estimates put the final bill for the inquiry, in another two years, at up to 100m.

Mr Clarke told tribunal chairman, Lord Saville of Newdigate and the two Commonwealth judges accompanying him, that events in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday had been "a tragedy, the pain of which, for many, has endured down the passage of the years".

He added: "The tribunal's task is to try to discover, so far as is humanly possible in the circumstances, and with the means now available, the truth.

"Not the truth as people see it. Not the truth as people would like it to be, but the truth, pure and simple, however complex, painful or unacceptable to whomsoever that truth may be."

He disclosed that following a world-wide search for military witnesses, the inquiry had traced 97% of the 2,110 people it had been seeking.

Jack Duddy
Jack Duddy: The first to die on Bloody Sunday
Mr Clarke outlined the historical background to the hearing.

He included the outbreak of the Troubles, the arrival of troops on the streets of Northern Ireland, and the creation of military no-go areas in Londonderry's Catholic Bogside and Creggan districts following the introduction of internment without trial in 1971.

He pointed to a series of then-classified documents drawn up by military and government figures illustrated the security situation at the time. Northern Ireland was then ruled under a devolved regime in Stormont.

A document from General Carver to Mr Heath, was drawn up ahead of a meeting between Mr Heath and Northern Ireland Prime Minister Brian Faulkner in October 1971 and outlined the military possibilities open to deal with Derry at the time.

Tribunal chairman Lord Saville
Tribunal chairman Lord Saville
It noted: "It may become imperative to go into the Bogside and take out the terrorists and the hooligans.

"The timing, political implications and local reaction to such an operation would have to carefully judged."

Later it drew up three options for Derry.

These included maintaining the status quo, in the hope that political progress would be made and help a return to normality.

The second was to show the ability to go into the area at will, establishing regular patrol patterns. It was said that this would achieve "little" except to please the Protestant population.

The third option was to occupy and dominate the area, taking down barricades and persuading the RUC to play their part. This was an option which would stir up Catholic opposition as much as it would placate Protestants, it was said.

Mr Clarke's assessment also saw the government having three options to deal with the deteriorating security situation across Northern Ireland.

One of the options suggested increasing the intensity of existing measures such as blocking border roads and also raised the prospect of "an operation in Londonderry".

The hearing has been adjourned until Tuesday.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

26 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday truth pledge
24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Q & A: The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Challenges facing the Saville inquiry
24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
The reporter's story
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Northern Ireland stories