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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 21:00 GMT
Major gives Bloody Sunday evidence
Bloody Sunday
Thirteen civilians were killed on Bloody Sunday
A former Army major has told the Saville Inquiry he was satisfied there was a clear gap between rioters and civil rights marchers when the Parachute Regiment was sent into the Bogside area on Bloody Sunday.

However, Major Michael Steele said he did not know how many people were still between the marchers and the rioters.

On 30 January 1972 paratroops opened fire on civilians at a civil rights march in the Bogside in Londonderry killing 13 people. Another man died later.

Major Steele, who passed the orders on the day, was giving evidence to the inquiry on Wednesday.

Inquiry chairman Lord Saville
Lord Saville is investigating what happened on Bloody Sunday
In 1972 he was working as deputy to the overall Army commander, Brigadier Pat McLellan, and he passed on the brigadier's order for paratroops to go after rioters in the Bogside.

He said the situation was never going to be perfect and that he never believed the area would be completely empty.

Major Steele, who was being fed information from the Army helicopter over the scene, said there was "wide" separation" by the time he passed on the order to move in from Major General MacLellan.

"There was, in my estimation, a situation where the brigadier's separation between marchers and hooligans had been achieved."

Major General MacLellan had been seeking a clear split between rioters and marchers at Free Derry Corner, a distance of about 400 metres.

There were also some rioters at Barrier 14 at this point, the inquiry was told.

Major Steele said he had no information on how many people were in Rossville Street, which links the two points and was where the soldiers advanced.

'Running battle'

Lord Saville, the inquiry chairman, said it could be viewed that separation had been achieved because rioters and marchers were in different areas.

He said it would then be necessary to mount an arrest operation which did not destroy that separation.

Major Steele said that is why his commanding officer "very sensibly" added the demand that there be no running battle to the order - something which had not been previously discussed.

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.

The inquiry is currently hearing the evidence from military witnesses in London.

Find out more about the Bloody Sunday Inquiry


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See also:

21 Nov 02 | N Ireland
19 Nov 02 | N Ireland
04 Nov 02 | N Ireland
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