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Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 13:38 GMT
Inquiry told of arrest operation
General Ford (L) pictured in July 1972 in Northern Ireland
General Ford (L) said memo was misconstrued
A former army commander in Northern Ireland has said soldiers sent into Londonderry on Bloody Sunday were the right men to deal with hooligans.

Under questioning at the Saville Inquiry on Wednesday, General Sir Robert Ford, 78, said the 1st Parachute Regiment were simply the right men for a "quick in-and-out arrest operation" to stop an illegal march where violence was expected.

The Saville Inquiry is investigating the circumstances of the shooting of civilians at a civil rights march by British soldiers on 30 January 1972. Thirteen men and boys were killed and a 14th man died later.

As Commander of Land Forces, General Ford was responsible for the day-to-day conduct of army operations throughout Northern Ireland.

Anyone who is sensible keeps well away from it and it would only be the stupid who would go and be in the area of a violent crowd

General Sir Robert Ford

When asked whey 1 Para were sent into the Bogside, Sir Robert said it was because they "had plenty of experience of rounding up hooligans".

"They had done a great deal of it," he said.

"I had seen one or two instances where they had done it very well indeed".

General Ford is expected to give evidence over a two week period.

As he is now aged 78 he will only testify in the mornings.

General Ford said he was not aware that the commander of another regiment protested about the use of the soldiers because they had not been to Londonderry before and would not know the Bogside area.

Inquiry chairman Lord Saville
Lord Saville is heading up inquiry

On Tuesday, Sir Robert told the inquiry that he wrote a memo shortly before Bloody Sunday in Londonderry which said some rioters might have to be shot to restore law and order in the city.

However, he said it was just an initial idea which would have needed government clearance to be carried out.

He also told the inquiry that he was in Derry on Bloody Sunday only as an observer.

The inquiry has been sitting in Derry for the last two years, but was moved to London to hear evidence from military witnesses following court action in which they argued they could be targeted by dissident republicans if they had to travel to Northern Ireland.

The Army has always maintained that it was fired on by IRA gunmen before it opened fire and this view was upheld by the Widgery Inquiry, held shortly after the shootings.

The relatives of those killed and injured have always denied that the Army were fired on before they opened fire.

The Saville Inquiry was set up by Prime Minister Tony Blair to reinvestigate the evidence because the relatives felt the first inquiry was a whitewash.

Lord Saville and the Commonwealth judges who comprise the inquiry, are not expected to report back until 2004.

Find out more about the Bloody Sunday Inquiry

30th Anniversary


See also:

29 Oct 02 | N Ireland
21 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
16 Oct 02 | N Ireland
24 Sep 02 | N Ireland
30 Sep 02 | N Ireland
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