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Wednesday, 22 November, 2000, 23:49 GMT
Bloody Sunday 'planned' claim
British soldiers opened fire on Bloody Sunday
British soldiers opened fire on Bloody Sunday
An inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday has been told that the security plan for the day was approved at the highest level, up to and including the British and Northern Ireland prime ministers.

The statement was made by Lord Gifford QC who is representing the family of one of 13 people shot dead by British soldiers on 30 January 1972.

A fourteenth man died later.

Lord Giffor said the facts suggested there was a plan to shoot unarmed civilians after the march on Bloody Sunday.

He suggested this was known by Sir Edward Heath and by the late Brian Faulkner who was then prime minister of Northern Ireland.

He also said that senior military advisers also knew the army intended to open fire on young people who were not gunmen and who were, at worst, rioters.

The inquiry, which is headed by Lord Saville, also heard a challenge to the Ministry of Defence to "come out from its hiding place" over Bloody Sunday.

Miss Eilish MacDermott QC is appearing for relatives of Patrick Doherty, one of those shot dead.

Miss MacDermott asked the tribunal what hope there was of a "full disclosure" from the department after its decision in January to order the destruction of 13 of the rifles troops had used that day.

She said: "The Ministry of Defence will have to come out from its hiding place.

"We say that the truth about Bloody Sunday was, and undoubtedly still is, known to senior army officers and senior politicians of the day.

"It could be written on a sheet of paper if the political will to do so existed."

Lord Saville: Heading inquiry
Lord Saville: Heading inquiry

Miss MacDermott also said it was "incredible" that the ministry was not represented at the inquiry's hearings.

"On the one hand, the government has said that this is a tribunal set up to establish the truth," she said.

"On the other hand the government department which knows the truth and which is responsible for the operation is not even here, is still refusing almost 30 years later to come out into the light of day and tell the truth.

"In our submission that is nothing short of a public disgrace and it gives little hope to the Doherty family that there will be no more lies."

Miss MacDermott showed the tribunal a Sunday Telegraph story from earlier this year.

It reported that a memo detailing government plans to "clobber" Catholics in Northern Ireland during the 1969 riots, was withdrawn by the Ministry of Defence after being released in June under the 30-year rule.

She said: "That, in our submission, speaks for itself and very much fuels the fear which the Doherty family presently have that the Ministry of Defence is simply not cooperating with the tribunal and, indeed, is attempting actively to obstruct it."

The Doherty family's legal team would be pursuing the question of missing documents and witnesses from the material amassed to date, she said.

The Bloody Sunday inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate, was established in 1998 and has been sitting in public in the Guildhall, Derry, since March of this year.

BBC Northern Ireland's Keiron Tuorish
Lord Gifford suggested the shooting of unarmed civilians was planned
See also:

20 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry hears murder claim
05 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
New Bloody Sunday judge named
01 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday inquiry member quits
14 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry hears of 'killing policy' claim
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