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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 17:15 GMT
Heath's barrister rejects allegations
Methodist Central Hall
Methodist Central Hall is inquiry's new home
Allegations put to former Conservative prime minister Sir Edward Heath about his knowledge of events on Bloody Sunday are "specious nonsense," his barrister has told the Saville Inquiry.

David Mackie QC was addressing the Bloody Sunday tribunal on the final day of Sir Edward's evidence.

Thirteen Catholic men were killed on 30 January 1972 during a civil rights march in Londonderry when British paratroops opened fire. Another man died later from his wounds.

The soldiers claimed they fired in self-defence at gunmen and nail bombers.

Sir Edward Heath: Last day in the witness box
Sir Edward Heath: Last day in the witness box
Sir Edward has faced repeated challenges while giving evidence about how much prior knowledge he had about the shootings.

It had been claimed he tried to "browbeat" the chairman of the original inquiry, the then-Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, into reaching a certain conclusion about events that day.

British paratroops who opened fire on the unarmed civil rights marchers were largely exonerated by Lord Widgery's 1972 report.

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.

Speaking on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the Derry killings, David Mackie QC said claims against the 86-year-old were "invariably false and should not have been made".

After re-examining Sir Edward on Thursday, Mr Mackie told inquiry chairman Lord Saville that he had not got a chance to question witnesses who could support the various allegations made against his client.

He suggested other lawyers at the hearing had made submissions and speeches about what they contended the effect of the evidence would show.

Hardened

During Sir Edward's eight days in the witness box, he has insisted there was not a scrap of truth in the suggestion that he knew unarmed civilians could be caught up in shooting between IRA gunmen and British soldiers.

He has also rejected suggestions that government policy was to send troops into the Bogside, that troops were authorised to shoot troublemakers to control crowds and that any blame for casualties was intended to be placed on to the organisers and the gunmen.

He admitted on Wednesday to taking a closer interest in the Northern Ireland situation between October 1971 and January 1972 because it affected other government policies, especially Common Market entry.

Sir Edward also accepted that the government's attitude to illegal civil rights marches and escalating violence hardened during that period.

A minute's silence is expected to be held at the Bloody Sunday memorial in the Bogside on Friday and at a commemorative march at the scene of the shootings on Sunday.

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

The inquiry, which usually sits at the Guildhall in Derry, is currently hearing the evidence from military witnesses and others in London because of concerns for their safety.

Find out more about the Bloody Sunday Inquiry


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28 Jan 03 | N Ireland
27 Jan 03 | N Ireland
22 Jan 03 | N Ireland
21 Jan 03 | N Ireland
20 Jan 03 | N Ireland
16 Jan 03 | N Ireland
15 Jan 03 | N Ireland
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