Cooper denies exaggerating about Bloody Sunday killings

 

Bloody Sunday Inquiry: The former Mid-Derry MP and civil rights campaigner, Mr Ivan Cooper, denied yesterday being a "fantastic liar" who exaggerated the events of Bloody Sunday.

Mr Cooper, who was played by actor James Nesbitt in an award-winning film about the January 1972 killings, insisted he had never given an interview to a member of the Sunday Times Insight team.

The eight-page transcript, supplied to the inquiry from the newspaper's archives, includes claims that Mr Martin McGuinness planned an attack on the British army but was forced to leave a house when soldiers moved in.

A former friend of Mr Cooper, Mr George McEvoy, who according to the transcript was with Mr McGuinness at the time, has submitted a statement to the inquiry accusing Mr Cooper of being a fantasist.

Mr Cooper, in his second day in the witness box, was asked by counsel representing some of the soldiers, Mr Edmund Lawson QC, if he had a reputation for being prone to exaggeration.

Mr Cooper said he did not believe this was the case.

Mr Lawson suggested it was not unknown for politicians to exaggerate. "Is that something do you think you fell into from time to time?" The former MP replied: "In relation to Bloody Sunday, I did not."

The barrister then alluded to a statement from a former SDLP colleague, Mr Hugh Logue, who had referred to the allegations in the Sunday Times archives.

In his statement to the inquiry, Mr Logue said: "The allegations rang a bell with me. I believe that I was told a similar story shortly after Bloody Sunday, either by Ivan Cooper, or somebody within his immediate circle."

Mr Cooper asserted: "I am not going to criticise Hugh Logue's integrity at this tribunal or any other forum." On Monday, Mr Cooper, questioned by counsel to the inquiry Mr Christopher Clarke QC, described the claims in the transcript as "total and utter fabrication".

He said: "As far as I am concerned I have no knowledge of any incident of this nature." He denied ever being interviewed by John Barry or any other member of the paper's Insight team and said he rejected the document in its entirety.

Mr Lawson asked Mr Cooper about his support for the film Bloody Sunday starring James Nesbitt.

He said the former MP had told the BBC two years ago it was made with great integrity.

Mr Cooper said: "I believe that to be the case, yes." He accepted that certain parts of the script, including a scene in which he talks to a member of the Provisional IRA on the morning of the march, were "pure fiction".

He said: "I had no part in the script. I did not even get reading it before the film was made."

Mr Lawson put to him: "And that did not inhibit you from endorsing it as you did?"

Mr Cooper replied: "I believe that the film, in particular the shooting incidents, was made with considerable integrity."

Mr Lawson, questioning his account of the Bloody Sunday shootings, described it as "hopefully confused". Mr Cooper replied: "I do not know if it is hopefully confused or not. It was a traumatic day for me."

Mr Clarke referred to Mr Cooper's assertion that he had been given assurances from the Provisional IRA its members would stay away from the march.

Mr Cooper said: "I can assure you unequivocally I did receive the assurances. I can assure you I also communicated that fact to a wide range of people."