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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 13:27 GMT
Claim over Bloody Sunday's 'first shot'
Bloody Sunday
Thirteen civilians were killed on Bloody Sunday
The Saville inquiry had heard more details about the claim that Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness fired the first shot on Bloody Sunday.

According to a security service document shown to the inquiry on Tuesday, Martin McGuinness "seemed to have it on his conscience that he fired the first shot" on 30 January 1972.

The inquiry was ordered by Prime Minister Tony Blair to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting dead of 13 civilians taking part in a civil rights march in Londonderry in 1972.

A fourteenth person died later from his wounds.

The claim was contained in a service officer's written account of a conversation with an agent known as Infliction - a document shown at the public hearings in the Guildhall in Derry.

Education minister Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness: Denied the claim
It said: "He (Mr McGuinness) fired the first shot and nobody knows this.

"This seems to be on McGuinness's conscience. He has spoken to Infliction about it several times."

The material was shown as the Saville Tribunal began considering government bids to censor security service and Ministry of Defence material - including the Infliction notes and a tape recording of the debriefing.

A Public Interest Immunity Certificate has been received from the Home Office alleging that full disclosure of the contents of security service documents could cause real harm to the work of the service.

Infliction is described in the certificate as an agent resettled outside the UK.

The application covers another informant, Observer B, said by the Home Office to be a former agent.

Material

The tribunal has already been shown material about the agents' claims - but with large portions of the documents blanked out.

Material shown in April this year contained a communication about Infliction's alleged claims dated April 1984.

It states: "Martin McGuinness had admitted to Infliction that he had personally fired the shot (from a Thompson machine gun on single shot) from the Rossville flats in Bogside that had precipitated the Bloody Sunday episode."

The other 19 lines on the page have been blacked out.

The Northern Ireland education minister subsequently denied the claims outside the tribunal.

Observer B is alleged to have witnessed IRA auxiliaries drilling at the Rossville Flats in the days leading up to Bloody Sunday and to have been told afterwards that the IRA opened fire first.

He has already been granted anonymity and screening by the Tribunal and when called to give evidence will be allowed to do so by live video link-up, seen only by the three tribunal judges and lawyers.

Lawyers for those killed are expected to mount stiff opposition to the application, which also seeks anonymity and screening for serving and former security service officers.

The Ministry of Defence has also issued a PIIC covering secret documents. The inquiry, established in 1998, has been sitting in public in the Guildhall since March this year and began hearing live witness testimonies a week ago.

To date it has cost in the region of 30m and it is expected to run for at least two more years.

See also:

27 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
'Innocents' died on Bloody Sunday
22 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday 'planned' claim
20 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry hears murder claim
29 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
IRA man wanted gun on Bloody Sunday
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