Irish Republican News · April 26, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Final Bloody Sunday witness recounts gun battle plan

A witness has told the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that Derry’s police chief told him the morning after the Bogside killings that the British army’s plan for the day was to “take out two or three soft targets” in a bid to provoke a gun battle with the IRA.

The inquiry into the 1972 massacre of civil rights demonstrators heard from its last witness on Wednesday.

Leading Derry businessman Brendan Duddy said that 10 days before Bloody Sunday, the local RUC police commander Frank Lagan asked him to seek assurances from republican armed groups that there would be no guns near the march.

He said that during a meeting with the late Malachy McGurran of the Official Republican Movement, he was told that there would be no arms, but individual members would participate in the march.

He said he drove to County Roscommon to speak to former Sinn Féin president Ruairi O Bradaigh regarding the Provisional IRA.

Mr Duddy said he was contacted three days before Bloody Sunday by either Mr O Bradaigh or a representative and told that there would be no weapons near the march.

“I got exactly the same reaction from Ruairi O Bradaigh that I did from Malachy McGurran. Ruairi did not see the point of seeking assurances about weapons because it was well known that the Provisionals’ policy was not to engage the armed forces during marches,” he told the inquiry’s three judges.

Mr Duddy said he gave details of these conversations to Mr Lagan who he said was “non-committal” and said “that’s fine”, however he added that Mr Lagan was “constantly worried about the march in the period leading up to it”.

The witness said that after the shooting of 27 people by paratroopers, Mr Lagan arrived at his home. “I was very angry at the loss of life and I knew that the city was heading for a very difficult period.

“When Frank Lagan came to see me, I was in something of a dilemma. I did not know at that stage that he had not been in any position to influence to control events. Basically I was saying to him: ‘how did you let it happen?’

“He told me that the army had decided to take out two or three soft targets in the area of the High Flats with the intention of provoking a firefight with the IRA.

“These were virtually his exact words. I remember the phrase ‘taking out’ in particular. It sticks in my mind. I was appalled. I could not accept that a human being would kill another human being indiscriminately,” he added.

said the local police commander Frank Lagan, who subsequently told him that the Army’s intention was to take out a few “soft targets” in an attempt to draw the IRA into a gun battle.

“I was appalled. I could not accept that a human being would kill another human being indiscriminately,” he said.

Mr Duddy was the 921st and last witness to the inquiry.

The inquiry has now adjourned until October, when Mr Clarke will deliver his closing statement. This is expected to last two weeks.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News