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BBC NI's Audrey Carville:
The inquiry heard rioting was most predictable after Sunday evening football
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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Inquiry hears of PM's 'tough tactics'
The inquiry is being held in Londonderry's Guildhall
The inquiry is being held in Londonderry's Guildhall
A former UK prime minister was prepared to face the consequences of defeating gunmen with military means, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry has heard.

Edward Heath spoke of accepting the inevitable "political consequences" of using such force in Londonderry in 1972, Christopher Clarke QC said on the second day of the hearing.

Bloody Sunday
Fourteen dead, all male
Seventeen injured
Six victims aged 17
Mr Clarke said the comments were made during a crisis meeting between Mr Heath, then Prime Minister, and Northern Ireland Prime Minister Brian Faulkner.

It was prompted by the worsening security situation in Belfast, on the border and in Londonderry. The mainly nationalist Bogside and Creggan estates had become virtual no-go areas for security forces, Mr Heath was told.

Without an immediate breakthrough in dealing with terrorists the administration of government would become impossible, Mr Heath was alleged to have said.

The inquiry was presented with a series of then secret documents, which included evidence that Mr Heath believed the first priority should be the "defeat of the gunmen using military means, and in achieving this we should have to accept whatever political penalty inevitable".

Edward Heath: Prepared to accept political consequences
Minutes of a meeting between the two leaders on 7 October 1971 quoted Mr Heath saying Westminster could no longer risk giving the impression of "being borne along by events".

The notes said: "The situation was now grave, socially, economically, and politically and the British public was losing patience.

"The government at Westminster could not continue to support Stormont unless public opinion was behind it."

Mr Clarke referred to a document detailing how, in early December 1971, security operations were carried out the Bogside and Creggan in Derry.

The tribunal heard an outline of the security situation, headed by Mr Heath, was presented on 14 December 1971 to a Westminster Cabinet committee on Northern Ireland.

Mr Clarke said General Sir Robert Ford, Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland at the time, told the committee that efforts of moderates in Derry had not been effective. Security forces were facing an "entirely hostile Catholic community" numbering 33,000.

Surprise 'impossible'

In the Creggan and Bogside areas alone, security forces had suffered 22 casualties from the gunmen of which seven had died.

Activists totalled some 1,000, half of whom were hooligans - which had a hardcore of 250, the inquiry heard.

IRA strength was estimated at 100, 40 of whom were "active gunmen". Sentinels and searchlights were at all obstacles and an effective alarm system of car horns and sirens was in place in the district.

"Surprise is now almost impossible to achieve," the General's brief noted.

It was then decided to review the security situation in the city, it revealed.

Mr Faulker told Mr Heath he "could not contemplate serving in a government in Northern Ireland which included republicans, whether or not they eschewed the use of violence in bringing about a united Ireland".

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry is examining the events of 30 January 1972 when paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights march in Londonderry A total of 14 people were killed in the incident.

It has been gathering evidence in private for the past two years and the public hearings are expected to take another two years.

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See also:

27 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Army 'suggested' Bogside operation
26 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday truth pledge
24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Q & A: The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Challenges facing the Saville inquiry
24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
The reporter's story
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