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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 13:57 GMT
'Innocents' died on Bloody Sunday
British soldiers opened fire on Bloody Sunday
British soldiers opened fire on Bloody Sunday
A lawyer representing most of the soldiers who were active in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday has acknowledged that innocent people were killed.

Edwin Glasgow QC told the Saville Tribunal he would not argue that any of the known victims were armed with lethal weapons, including guns, nail bombs, acid bombs or petrol bombs.

Mr Glasgow is representing more than 400 soldiers who were in Derry on 30 January 1972 when British paratroopers shot dead 13 people at a civil rights march and fatally injured another.

The new inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate, was established in 1998 to re-investigate the shootings and has been sitting since March this year.

Claims of further casualties

Presenting the first evidence from soldiers to the inquiry Mr Glasgow maintained that the soldiers he represented who opened fire "aimed a shot at only those who they believed to be using firearms or those threatening lethal violence against themselves or others".

Lord Saville: Heading inquiry
Lord Saville: Chairing the inquiry
He alleged there were up to 34 more people shot dead or seriously injured when paratroopers opened fire, who were never publicly acknowledged.

They probably included gunmen and bombers active on the ground during the demonstration in the nationalist Bogside district of the city, he said.

Mr Glasgow said: "We are not instructed to contend and will not contend, unless some new evidence that you produce alters the position, that those individuals who have been identified were armed with lethal weapons.

"It follows, as has rightly been accepted for a long time, that innocent people were killed on Bloody Sunday."

This admission differs from the conclusions of the previous tribunal in which the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Widgery, concluded there was "strong evidence" that some victims had been firing weapons or handling bombs.

Mr Glasgow added that he accepted that for an innocent person to lose their live was "one of the greatest tragedies that can occur".

But he said: "For an innocent person, even one, to be accused of murder or of conspiracy to murder, where what he was doing or attempting to do was nothing more or less than his duty in those same horrific circumstances is almost equally abhorrent."

He said that his clients reacted reasonably to what they regarded as mob violence and lethal force being used against them.

The government has admitted that all those killed were innocent and had not been handling guns or bombs.

Attack on McGuinness

Earlier on Monday Mr Glasgow accused Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness of not having the "courage, integrity and respect" to co-operate with the new inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

He said it had been "galling" to see Mr McGuinness, the Mid Ulster MP and Northern Ireland education minister, sitting in the public gallery on the opening day of the Saville Tribunal's public hearings in Londonderry.

Education minister Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness has not given evidence to the inquiry
The process of handing over information to the inquiry had so far been "wholly and exceptionally" one-sided, with no statements from the leading republicans of the day, including Mr McGuinness, he said.

Mr Glasgow said Mr McGuinness had publicly asserted that leading republicans - whose identities remained undisclosed - gave assurances before the march that there would be no republican presence there.

He said the inquiry had written to 40 people believed to be members of, or connected with the IRA in this city in 1972, but that the "vast majority" had not replied.

The tribunal should attempt to find out the "truth" about "what both wings of the IRA were doing on Bloody Sunday", he said.

It is understood Martin McGuinness has been contacted by the inquiry but has not yet made a statement.

Mr Glasgow's criticism of Mr McGuinness followed criticism last week from a solicitor for the family of one of the people killed, of the Ministry of Defence, for not being legally represented at the hearings.

The Bloody Sunday tribunal is expected to sit for at least another two years.

In the course of the inquiry so far, tribunal counsel, Christopher Clarke QC has presented thousands of pages of witness statements, classified military and cabinet documents from the time, expert evidence and newspaper and documentary material.

The BBC's Denis Murray
"In a statement Mr McGuiness said he had no problem with giving evidence"
See also:

22 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday 'planned' claim
20 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry hears murder claim
05 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
New Bloody Sunday judge named
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