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Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
McGuinness 'shot led to Bloody Sunday'

Fourteen people died on Bloody Sunday
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness may have fired a gun on the day of the army killings 28 years ago, the Bloody Sunday tribunal heard on Thursday.

Mr McGuinness was reputed to be commander of the Provisional IRA in Londonderry at the time.

The claim was made on the eighth day of public hearings of the Saville Inquiry.

The inquiry was set up to look again at the deaths of 14 men shot by paratroopers during a civil rights march in Derry's Bogside on January 30 1972.

Mr McGuinness 'was present'

Christopher Clarke QC, counsel to the inquiry, told the hearing at Londonderry's Guildhall that the Mid Ulster MP had so far failed to co-operate with the probe.

But he said there were indications from media reports that he may be set to change his position.

This is an attempt by the British military to divert attention away from the fact that the paras killed 14 innocent civilians on that day

Martin McGuinness

Mr Clarke said he was focusing on the Sinn Fein chief negotiator because he had been there at the time.

"Martin McGuinness is widely reputed to have been the OC (Officer Commanding) of the Provisional IRA in Londonderry.

"He was present in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday.

"He has himself written about the events of that day in terms that suggest he was in a position to give evidence from his own knowledge of what happened.

"There are before the inquiry, certain documents in which it is claimed that Mr McGuinness was, in his capacity as a member of the Provisional IRA, actively involved in events of Bloody Sunday and that he was armed with, and may have fired, a Thompson sub-machine gun."

Invitation to give evidence

Mr Clarke said it was the practice of the inquiry to invite witnesses, civilian and military, to come forward to give a statement.

"Mr McGuinness is no exception in his being invited on more than one occasion to give a statement to the inquiry's solicitors," he said.

"So far, for whatever reason, he has not responded positively to that invitation or at all."
Courtroom artist's impression of  Christopher Clarke QC
Christopher Clarke QC is presenting the evidence gathered so far

"I have reason to believe that that position will soon change because of a number of articles in the press indicating that he is considering the inquiry's request with his legal advisers and that he may be willing to co-operate with the inquiry by giving evidence voluntarily."

He added: "Whatever his role may have been in 1972, 28 years ago, he is today a prominent member of Sinn Fein, a Member of Parliament at Westminster and a member of the legislative Assembly.

"Both he and his party have consistently supported the campaign for a new inquiry into events of Bloody Sunday and unequivocally supported the families in their search for the truth."

He would be able to bring forward that aim or "severely retard it in equal measure by failing to do so".

McGuinness shot 'was first'

Later the inquiry was told Mr McGuinness had fired a shot which precipated the army shootings.

Mr Clarke presented a Security Service message from the Hague, dated April 1984, described as a debriefing of an informer, code-named "Infliction", which stated:
Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness: the allegations were "pathetic fabrication"

"McGuinness had admitted to Infliction that he had personally fired the shot from Rossville Flats in the Bogside that had precipitated the Bloody Sunday episodes."

Another classified document, produced a month later referred to a conversation "in confidence" with another senior member of the Provisional IRA who commented that Mr McGuinness personally fired the shot.

A note attached to the second document noted that "although we have no collateral for the above reports there is intelligence that McGuinness was actively involved in PIRA attacks in the city shortly after Bloody Sunday".

Mr Clarke said: "No-one need fear that by giving evidence to this tribunal they will incriminate themselves.

"Now is the time to speak, not least because if people remain silent, it may be said by some, that they were silent because they had something to hide."

'Fabrication'

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has refuted the allegations made at the inquiry.

Mr McGuinness said: "This is pathetic fabrication.

"If this is the best that the British military can do they are going to have a miserable time in Derry Guildhall for the next two years.

"This is an attempt by the British military to divert attention away from the fact that the paras killed 14 innocent civilians on that day."

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate, has been gathering evidence for the past two years.

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Army fired 'before' IRA, inquiry told
04 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Republican gunman 'fired shots'
03 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Concern over Bloody Sunday guns
31 Jan 00 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday gun claims anger lawyer
30 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Army Bloody Sunday photos 'gone'
30 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry hears of army shooting
29 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry hears of police-army dispute
28 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Violence 'forecast' on Bloody Sunday
26 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday truth pledge
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