News Irish News

Monday 11 December 2017

Role of key figures on the long road to truth and reconciliation

Compiled by Grainne Cunningham


THE Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland gave evidence to Saville, confirming he was second-in-command of the Derry City brigade of the Provisional IRA and was present at the march. Other IRA activists gave evidence anonymously.

Mr McGuinness insisted the IRA did not engage with the British army and that there were no IRA units in the area of the march. He was urged by the tribunal to name other IRA members but he said he would "rather die" than "betray" them.

Saville concluded that Mr McGuinness probably was carrying a Thomson sub-machine gun on the day and probably fired it, but did not engage in any activity that justified the soldiers opening fire.


THE image of a distraught Fr Edward Daly (now Bishop Daly) holding a hanky aloft as a white flag, as he and others carry a wounded youth, Jackie Duddy, to safety has become the iconic image of Bloody Sunday.

The 17-year-old was the first person to be killed on the day and had been running away from the march alongside Fr Daly when he was shot in the back. Bishop Daly, now retired, administered the last rites to many of the dead and has no qualms about saying the protesters were murdered.

The handkerchief, which was donated by the Duddy family to the Museum of Free Derry, still bears the 'Fr Daly" stitched there by Bishop Daly's mother.


THE then Prime Minister Edward (Ted) Heath hastily set up an inquiry in the weeks after the deaths, chaired by the Chief Justice Lord (John) Widgery.

Completed within just 10 weeks of the event, Lord Widgery described the soldiers' shooting as "bordering on the reckless" but exonerated them, claiming they were fired on first and suggesting some of those killed were carrying nail bombs when shot. The inquiry, branded the 'Widgery Whitewash', was a crucial turning point in the Troubles, driving many more volunteers into the IRA.

In March 1976, Lord Widgery dismissed the first appeal by the Birmingham Six. He died in 1981, two days after his 70th birthday.


THE former British prime minister gave evidence to Saville three years before his death in 2005.

Then aged 86, Mr Heath told the inquiry that it was ridiculous to suggest that there was an army plot to shoot civilians as the result would be outrage among the Catholic community, increased support for the IRA and the ending of hopes for a political initiative.

Mr Heath also said he never sanctioned unlawful lethal force in Northern Ireland.

However, in establishing the first, now discredited, inquiry, he told Widgery: "It had to be remembered that we were in Northern Ireland fighting not only a military war but a propaganda war."

He gave evidence for 11 days to the Saville Inquiry in 2003, claiming that in the face of then-Taoiseach Jack Lynch's protests about the massacre the fault lay with the people who "deliberately organised this march, in circumstances which we all know, in which the IRA were bound to intervene..."

He died in 2005.


THE then-Taoiseach immediately responded to the public outrage which followed the killings, condemning them as an "unwarranted attack on unarmed civilians".

He also ordered a national day of mourning. But in the course of the Saville Inquiry, a tape of a telephone conversation he had with the British prime minister on the night of the march casts a different light on his stance at the time.

Mr Lynch is deferential, apologising for calling Mr Heath so late. He also failed to challenge the prime minister when he attempted to attach the blame for the murders on the organisers of the march and the failure of Mr Lynch's government to act against republicans.

"If you had dealt with them (republicans) this would have been over long ago," he said. Mr Lynch died in 1999.


COMMANDER of the Parachute Regiment which fired on the crowd that day, Colonel Wilford has never wavered from his conviction that his soldiers were fired on first and were merely doing their duty.

The then-38-year-old lieutenant colonel was exonerated by the Widgery tribunal and six months after the event he was awarded the Order of the British Empire by the queen.

But he left the army 10 years later and has since said he feels he was made a scapegoat for the events that took place on Bloody Sunday.

During a recent media interview, Colonel Wilford asked: "What about Bloody Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and every day of the week? What about Bloody Omagh? . . . bloody everything the IRA have ever touched?"


McALISKEY was on the march and witnessed the events firsthand but was angry later when she was repeatedly denied the chance to speak in parliament about it.

She later slapped Reginald Maudling, the secretary of state for the Home Department in the Conservative government, in the face and called him a "murdering hypocrite" when he said the British army had fired only in self-defence.

She was temporarily suspended from parliament as a result of the incident.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News