Two journalists believed Paras had arrest plan


THE BLOODY SUNDAY INQUIRY/DAY217: Two former Sunday Times journalists yesterday stood over the conclusions of their investigative work following the Bloody Sunday shootings, although the article they produced was not published by the newspaper at the time.

Mr Murray Sayle and Mr Derek Humphry, who were members of the paper's Insight team, had concluded that the Parachute Regiment had developed a plan to eliminate the IRA leadership in Derry by launching an arrest operation during rioting at the end of the civil rights march on January 30th, 1972. The plan assumed that IRA militants would be conspicuous in that rioting.

Mr Sayle, now a freelance journalist living in Japan, said in evidence that the expected IRA involvement was seen as an opportunity to arrest the leadership while they were outside the Bogside proper and temporarily without weapons. Part of the plan would have been the provision of a protective element to cover the arresting troops if a firefight developed.

"Sparing civilian lives, in this case those of British citizens in a British city, would normally take absolute priority, but the chance of eliminating the Derry IRA leadership, either by arrest, wounds, or death in combat if one developed, seemed to have outweighed this risk in the planners' minds," he said.

He said that he and his colleague also wrote that the operation was rehearsed repeatedly by the Parachute Regiment in the weeks before the march.

This contention was based on his knowledge "that it would be inconceivable for the unit to have been deployed in such a potentially dangerous situation without thorough preparation and drilling beforehand."

Mr Sayle said he met an army press officer at a barracks outside Derry a fortnight after Bloody Sunday. When he asked this officer about advance planning, he showed him a room containing a large, highly detailed scale model of the Bogside area.

Mr Humphrydescribed interviewing local eyewitnesses, some of the wounded and a number of IRA members in the days after Bloody Sunday. He said he was able to establish through interviewing members of both wings of the IRA in Derry at the time that they were not present when the shooting started.

However, one Official IRA man had told him that he fired a pistol shot at soldiers stationed in a derelict building, a short time before the paratroopers entered the Bogside.

This shot was fired, he was told, in response to the army shooting a youth, Damien Donaghy, who was the first person wounded by a gunshot on the day.

Both journalists said they had been unhappy at the decision of the Sunday Times editor, Harold Evans, not to publish the article which they had prepared for the Sunday following Bloody Sunday.

Mr Humphry declined to give the tribunal the names of two people he interviewed in 1972 who he believed to have been members of the IRA.