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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 17:45 GMT
Commander 'sad' over Bloody Sunday
General Ford (L) pictured in July 1972 in Northern Ireland
General Ford (L) said he was not responsible
The British Army's most senior officer present on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry has said there was nothing to be proud of on that day.

General Sir Robert Ford, then commander of land forces in Northern Ireland, told the Saville Inquiry on Monday that he was "extremely sad" about the deaths of the 13 people shot dead by the Army.

But he said he was not responsible for what happened on that day and did not accept any blame for what happened.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry is investigating the events of 30 January 1972 when paratroops opened fire on civilians at a civil rights march in the Bogside in Derry.


I accept full responsibility for using 1 Para. As regards down the line, whether there was detailed orders given out or not... then that was really a matter for commanders below my level

General Ford

General Ford told the inquiry: "It certainly looks as if some aspects of the detailed planning, which presumably went on, were not covered."

He said: "I accept full responsibility, of course, for using 1 Para, full responsibility.

"As regards down the line, whether there was detailed orders given out or not... then that was really a matter for commanders below my level."

General Ford made the comments under cross-examination by a lawyer representing some of the soldiers then on duty in Derry on the day of Bloody Sunday.

'Loss of discipline'

The soldiers have alleged that planning mistakes, loss of military discipline and misconduct may have contributed to the bloodshed.

The lawyer said it was General Ford's decision to deploy paratroops into the Bogside for a mass arrest operation at the march, but the detail of the plan was the responsibility of lower ranking commanders.

There were "substantial and significant flaws" in the military plan, the lawyer said.

A statement from Company Sergeant Lewis, an experienced Northern Ireland para, showed there was a lack of planning, the lawyer said.

Company Sergeant Major Lewis, said in a statement: "I do not feel now there was a proper controllable plan to contain the march or a clear indication before we were deployed of what was expected or how the arrest operation was to take place.

'Confusion'

"We were shown maps of the area where we were to deploy but did not know the city and did not know precisely where other soldiers were deployed or how they intended to seal off the areas in which arrest would be carried out.

"In the event, there was no sealing off of the area and this lack of containment meant that the rioters were not prevented from running away so soldiers ended up chasing them.

"The result on the day was that people were all over the place and there was a situation of confusion."

Lord Widgery: Headed original inquiry
Lord Widgery: Headed original inquiry

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

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See also:

30 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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
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