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banner Friday, 24 March, 2000, 13:20 GMT
Uncovering eyewitness reports
Michael Kelly is shot
Michael Kelly lies shot: Don Mullen is on the far right
As a 15-year-old in Londonerry, Don Mullan was caught up in events that were to shape his life.

On the crisp clear January afternoon in 1972 he marched with thousands of others into the city centre. Less than two hours later 13 people lay dead.

Mr Mullan's book, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, published 25 years later, was crucial in bringing about a fresh Bloody Sunday inquiry.

It formed part of the dossier of evidence the Irish Government submitted to the British Government in 1997 to back demands for a new inquiry.

There was a lot of panic and a lot of fear. I can recall a bullet hitting the wall above my head, quite high above my head. At that stage I came to my senses and began to run.

The book contains statements from some of the many civilians who were on the march, as well as a re-examination of army and ballistic evidence.

From his research, Mr Mullan concluded that in addition to the soldiers on the ground, there were also soldiers positioned on Derry's city walls, firing at the marchers. This possibility was not considered during the original inquiry by Lord Widgery and is being assessed by the new investigation.

Carnival atmosphere changes

The young Don Mullan was only allowed to go on the march, he says, because it was known the IRA had agreed not to cause any trouble. Spirits were high at the outset as the marchers planned to rally in the city centre.

The mood changed when the marchers were stopped at barrier 14 on William Street. Some of the young men stayed behind to confront the military.

"The riot that ensued by Bogside standards, particularly when you compare it to the Battle of the Bogside in 1969, was quite minor. One feels if it had been allowed to peter out as the evening came on then the atrocity that followed would never have been," he says.

Mr Mullan remembers heading towards Free Derry Corner, after being urged to do so by a marcher with a megaphone.

'I heard one man cry out'
Confrontations between soldiers and Catholics were common at the time
He looked back and saw armoured tanks rushing up Rossville Street. Thinking they belonged to a routine "snatch squad" he lingered to throw stones at the soldiers, the ritual response of Derry youth at the time. But then he says he realised that this was not a routine manoeuvre.

"I reached the barricade and I remember one paratrooper, probably only about 20 or 30 yards away from me standing in the middle of Rossville Street. He had a rubber bullet gun and he fired that towards barricade.

And then I remember another paratrooper diagonally across the road from me, in a kneeling position, his rifle aimed.

"At that stage I had a sense this was more than a snatch squad. And then the unmistakable crack of high velocity SLR rifles began to pierce the air.

"Literally two and a half feet from me I heard one young man cry out and he was Michael Kelly [one of the 13 killed] and he fell to the ground. At that point things become quite confused in my mind.

"There was a lot of panic and a lot of fear. I can recall a bullet hitting the wall above my head, quite high above my head. At that stage I came to my senses and began to run."

Statements in a carrier-bag

Nearly 25 years after Bloody Sunday, Mr Mullan was visiting his mother in Derry when a chance meeting took place.

He bumped into Tony Doherty, whose father Paddy was killed on Bloody Sunday. Mr Doherty mentioned he had recently read Mr Mullan's "Bloody Sunday statement".
Don Mullen
Mullan came across the statements by chance
These accounts had been collected shortly after the killings by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

"I had completely forgotten about it and I was curious as to what I had written as a 15-year-old boy.

"Next time I was in Derry they brought from an old battered filing cabinet a well-worn supermarket bag full of statements.

"It turned out that I was the first person in 25 years to sit down with this evidence and read through it as whole.

Restoring faith in British justice

"One of the things that struck me was that one in 10 of the eyewitnesses were very clearly stating that, in addition to the paratroopers at ground level, there were soldiers also positioned on or near the Derry walls - an elevated rampart near to the Bogside."

Mr Mullan, who will give evidence at the new inquiry, hopes that the tribunal will establish once and for all the truth of what took place on Bloody Sunday.

"I think it is very important that the tribunal is seen to, in some respects, restore faith in the British judicial system.

"The reality is that all sides have blood on their hands," he says.

"I think it is so important that we all acknowledge the hurt we have caused as part of finding the confidence to build a new future for all the people of Ireland."

Don Mullan
"I heard one young man cry out and fall to the ground"
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