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banner Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 11:49 GMT
Saville inquiry timeline
BBC News Online guides you through the key moments in the Saville inquiry to date. First, choose a year and then click on the links within the text to read individual stories. You can go through all the hearings that we have reported from the year sections on the right hand side of this page.

The first two years of the inquiry were taken up with massing witness statements and other material. They are referred to on occasion throughout this timeline but are largely omitted for ease of use. BBC News Online's coverage of those first two years can be found in the section on the right entitled Background.


  • CLICK HERE FOR 2001
    There were more than 100 hearings during 2001 including testimony from the former Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, and the former MP Bernadette McAliskey.
    Martin McGuinness publicly confirmed his IRA position on Bloody Sunday but there was pressure on other republicans to come forward. Soldiers won their legal battle to give their evidence without returning to Londonderry.

  • CLICK HERE FOR 2000
    The inquiry opened amid controversy over the anonymity of soldiers and allegations of what orders they were given on the day. The first eyewitnesses to take the stand spoke of how they believed innocent people had been shot dead. Allegations relating to the IRA's role on the day were also aired.


    The Bloody Sunday Inquiry held public hearings on 116 days during 2000, clocking up more than 600 hours of evidence. The vast majority of the evidence was from eyewitnesses.

    In August, the inquiry ordered the soldiers who had opened fire to return to Derry to give their evidence.

    But in December, the Court of Appeal overruled the inquiry and accepted that the former soldiers would be in danger from dissident republicans should they return to Northern Ireland.

    Lord Saville later said that he would not move the hearings from Derry and that the soldiers' evidence would be relayed by video link.


    One of the first eyewitnesses to take the stand in January 2001, Damien Donaghy, said that he finally felt exonerated because lawyers for soldiers had accepted he had not been throwing a nail bomb when he was shot.

    A former friend of Jackie Duddy, the first youth shot dead on the day, told the inquiry of how he was just feet away from the victim as he was hit.

    A BBC journalist who witnessed Bloody Sunday told the inquiry that he saw no reason for live firing.

    One of the most important witnesses was the retired Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly. He told the inquiry that protesters posed no threat when soldiers opened fire.

    A man who said that he was shot in the back told the inquiry that he had only survived because he stooped at the right moment.

    Much of the evidence of the year was similar in nature, adding up to a picture of a grave and chaotic situation on the day. One witness in April said that the soldiers' bullets had come like hailstones.

    The former MP Bernadette McAliskey told of her "sheer terror". A former BBC journalist said that his initial report of soldiers facing a "fusillade of terrorists' fire" had been wrong.

    Denis Bradley, the former Derry priest and intermediary between the IRA and British government, said that members of the organisation had talked to him about Bloody Sunday, but he could not break their confidence by naming them.


    Yet again, the role of republicans came to the fore when the inquiry heard that there may be a "wall of silence" in Derry over what exactly members of the IRA were doing on the day.

    The allegations persisted when a witness in February 2001 refused to name a man he said had fired at soldiers.

    After months of speculation, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness announced that he would give evidence to the inquiry.

    His party colleague Mitchell McLaughlin told the inquiry he did not know if Mr McGuinness had ever been an IRA member.

    In March, the journalist Eamon McCann appealed to the Provisional IRA to give evidence, saying that they would damage the families' chances of establishing the truth if they did not take the stand.

    The following day, Martin McGuinness urged anyone with information about Bloody Sunday to appear at the inquiry.

    One former civil rights activist confidentially named an IRA man who he said had provided assurances that gun men would stay away from the march.

    On 2 May 2001, Martin McGuinness became the most important member of the modern republican movement to confirm that he had been an IRA commander on Bloody Sunday.

    This move did little to dampen speculation about his role and in November a biography claimed that Mr McGuinness had taken part in IRA activity on the day.

    In June 2001, a retired taxi driver said that he had seen the IRA move guns out of the Bogside before the march.

    One Derry woman, Monica Barr, said that she saw a second civilian gunman firing from a flat close to where Father Edward Daly was trying to save Duddy.


    The inquiry re-opened on 15 January 2001 with the Ministry of Defence denying that it was trying to frustrate the inquiry.

    In March the inquiry heard how one soldier had described the events as "a bad day's work".

    Another witness told how he had goaded soldiers to shoot him in his fury following the first firing.

    Michael Bradley told the inquiry he wanted to meet the soldier who had shot him him to ask how he had slept with his conscience.

    A former Times newspaper journalist said that he believed that the troops had not planned to open fire. But, equally, the security strategy may have been to practise a future tough operation to take control of "Free Derry".

    In contrast, another witness said he saw a soldier shoot a fleeing man.

    In May, the inquiry became mired in controversy when solicitors acting for the soldiers asked to be supplied with intelligence reports on witnesses.

    Lawyers for some civilian witnesses said that their clients feared they would be branded as members of the IRA, without due foundation.

    While the issue continued in the background through the year, Lord Saville said that he was only prepared to request intelligence files on witnesses who it was thought would be able to explain IRA thinking and activities on the day.

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    The Bloody Sunday Inquiry opened proper in 2000 when formal public hearings began at the Guildhall in Derry.

    In his opening statement on 27 March, Counsel to the Inquiry Christopher Clarke QC declares that the tribunal's task was to establish "so far as is humanly possible" the truth.

    The most important issue for the families was whether or not soldiers would be obliged to give evidence in Derry without the right to remain anonymous.

    The families and the inquiry lost this battle ,and the subsequent legal battle to make the soldiers come to the city at all.

    The Belfast-based Irish News attempted to get around the ban and published the names of members of the Parachute Regiment.

    Later in 1999, a forensic report commissioned by the inquiry demolished a key finding of the 1972 Widgery report which found that many of those shot dead had handled weapons.

    Shortly before the hearings began, the Ministry of Defence admitted that 14 of the 29 rifles believed to have been fired on the day had been destroyed and another 10 had been sold. The MoD blamed computer error.

    On 1 August 2000 one of the three inquiry judges resigned, increasing concerns about the length of the inqury.


    The inquiry heard how marchers attempting to rescue a wounded teenager dropped him in panic, fearing they too would be shot.

    The inquiry also heard that Father Joseph Carolan, a priest present on the march, had been delayed from aiding the wounded by a soldier who had held a gun to his head.

    Other witness accounts suggested that the army had no justification whatsoever for shooting dead 17-year-old Jack Duddy, the first victim of the day.

    In June 2000 the inquiry heard that one victim had his hands in the air before he was shot

    One of the men injured on the day recorded his testimony of what happened, an audio tape played decades later to the inquiry.

    The first of an expected 1,500 live witnesses took the stand on 28 November 2000.

    One of the first witnesses admitted he had thrown stones at soldiers but believed that the first two people killed were not involved in the disturbances.

    In one of the last statements of the year, a former Derry priest said that he would not have urged people to attend the march, had there been any signs that the IRA was going to attack the security forces.


    One of the principle goals for the inquiry is to establish exactly what orders had been given to soldiers.

    The Guardian newspaper reported at the time of the inquiry's opening that senior officers had endorsed a policy of shooting rioters.

    The inquiry also heard that there were disagreements between the Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary over how to deal with the march.

    Early evidence also suggested that one of the soldiers may have broken live firing rules.

    One soldier claimed that an officer had encouraged him and colleagues to get "a few kills" . Two soldiers who checked the body of 17-year-old Gerard Donaghy found no explosive devices

    These early allegations were revisited when a lawyer for the families claimed that the then second highest-ranking British Army officer in Northern Ireland supported a shooting policy.

    The inquiry also heard that the police concluded that the first killing had been Murder - but no soldier had been held to account.

    Allegations emerged that the security plan had backing at the highest levels in London and Belfast.

    On 27 November 2000, a lawyer for most of the soldiers acknowledged that innocent people had been killed.


    Since 1972, the army has insisted that its soldiers came under fire first and that the IRA, Official, Provisional or both, was active on Bloody Sunday.

    In April 2000, the inquiry heard that the Official IRA had fired six shots - but not until the army had started shooting.

    This was followed by further allegations that Martin McGuinness, then a young Provisional IRA commander in the city, had also shot at the army - possibly sparking the violence. Mr McGuinness described the allegation as a "pathetic fabrication" but only later agreed to give evidence to the inquiry.

    In September 2000 the IRA released a tape to the inquiry saying that it was a recording of a bugged conversation between army personnel on Bloody Sunday.

    Army allegations that the IRA may have spirited away bodies of the dead were rejected in November 2000.

    Later, a self-confessed IRA man told the inquiry that he would have turned to guns, if they had been available.

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