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BBC NI's Audrey Carville:
The inquiry heard rioting was most predictable after Sunday evening football
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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Violence 'forecast' on Bloody Sunday
The inquiry is being held in Londonderry's Guildhall
The inquiry is being held in Londonderry's Guildhall
An RUC chief predicted widespread violence if security forces confronted a civil rights demonstration on what became Bloody Sunday, the Saville Inquiry has heard.

Evidence from the senior officer, who wanted the march to proceed unhampered, emerged during the second day of the public hearings in Londonderry's Guildhall.

The inquiry is examining the events of 30 January 1972 when paratroopers opened fire on marchers in Derry, killing 14 people.

The tribunal was also presented with evidence that three weeks before the tragedy the army's second in command in Northern Ireland, believed it had become necessary to shoot rioters in Derry.

The same memo, written by the Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland, General Robert Ford, also confirmed that battle lines were being drawn up to halt the anti-internment march on that day.

Claims by the RUC commander in the city that he wanted the march to follow its intended route to a Guildhall rally, were supported by a communication by Brigadier Patrick MacLellan, commander of the 8th Infantry Brigade in Derry.

RUC Chief Superintendent Frank Lagan warned the brigadier that the violent consequences of stopping the parade would "shatter such peace as is left in the city, create intense violence and remove the last vestige of moderate goodwill.

"It would also lead to increased violence and smaller marches which would continue until a ban was clearly seen to be impossible to impose effectively," his message said.

Instead he urged identification and photographing the march followed by normal court procedures.

Tribunal chairman Lord Saville
Tribunal chairman Lord Saville
Brigadier MacLellan agreed that the consequences of blocking the procession would be "very serious" and that he would have inadequate forces if the scenario presented by Mr Lagan was to materialise, he said in a signal to General Ford.

However, counsel for the inquiry, Christopher Clarke QC, said it appeared "the dye may already have been cast".

Continuing his opening submission, Mr Clarke said the warning from the police chief was relayed on 25 January, but plans to move 1 Para from Belfast to Derry had been set in motion the day before.

Earlier, the tribunal heard that General Ford feared that the "ring of anarchy" in the city was being extended beyond the "no-go" Bogside and Creggan estates, and felt he had to look at new options to contain the situation.

Consideration for stepping up the army's response to rioters, from using CS gas and baton rounds, to firing live rounds in the city, emerged in a memo from the General to the GOC in Northern Ireland, General Harry Tuzo on 7 January.

The assessment predicted that who the army dubbed, Derry young hooligans, would bring the commercial district to extinction within months.

General Ford also said soldiers were being drawn by the rioters into the "killing zones" of the sniper.

The suggestion to shoot a few leaders was not a suggestion to kill them

General Ford
He added: "I am coming to the conclusion that the minimum force necessary to achieve a restoration of law and order is to shoot selected ring leaders amongst the Derry young hooligans after clear warnings have been issued."

The general considered .22 inch ammunition "less lethal" than 7.62mm and had sent 30 weapons adapted to fire it to the 8th Infantry Brigade based in Derry for "zeroing and familiarisation training".

The memo also signalled a drawing up of the battle lines for the march, with General Ford telling the commander of 8 Brigade to "prepare a plan over this weekend" assuming that the march would be stopped as close to its starting point as possible.

Statement to inquiry

The brigadier should also take into account "the likelihood of some sort of battle. Therefore he must choose a place of tactical advantage", the memo added.

Minimum damage was to be caused to the city centre.

"It is the opinion of the senior commanders in Londonderry, that if the march takes place, however good the intentions of NICRA (Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association) may be, the DYH, backed up by the gunmen, will undoubtedly take over control at an early stage," it said.

In his more recent statement to the tribunal, General Ford - now Lord Ford - said the situation with the Derry young hooligans had reached such an impasse he felt he had to try something new.

"The suggestion to shoot a few leaders was not a suggestion to kill them," he said.

In his statement to the inquiry, Lord Carver, who was head of the British Army in 1972, said he would have been opposed to any such measure.

Sir Graham Shillington, Chief Constable of the RUC in 1972, said in his statement: "I don't remember hearing or reading anything along those lines. I would have been horrified if it had been suggested at any meetings I attended."

Lord Carrington, the Defence Secretary at the time of Bloody Sunday, told the tribunal: "To suggest there was a deliberate policy to shoot civilians is ludicrous and something no politician would ever agree to."

The then Captain Mike Jackson, adjutant of 1 Para said: "People should be careful not to make a ridiculous jump from a memorandum like that to an allegation that there was a deliberate policy to shoot people."

The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.

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See also:

28 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry hears of PM's 'tough tactics'
27 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Army 'suggested' Bogside operation
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
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