IRA youth wing 'not involved in military action'

Bloody Sunday Inquiry Day 403 A Sinn Féin member of Derry City Council, who was leader of the youth wing of the Provisional …

Bloody Sunday Inquiry Day 403A Sinn Féin member of Derry City Council, who was leader of the youth wing of the Provisional IRA on Bloody Sunday, said yesterday his role as the officer commanding the Fianna was that of a liaison officer who communicated with the Provisional IRA's liaison officer.

Mr Gearoid Ó hEára also said that members of the Fianna received neither firearms nor explosives training from the Provisional IRA. However, members of the Fianna carried out intelligence-gathering, which involved taking notes of the number plates of security forces' vehicles.

"The role was to watch for strange cars and movements of the British army, and to report on developments in riots. The Fianna acted as eyes and ears of the no-go areas, but members were not involved in military action. I know this from personal experience because all activities were channelled back to me, and I passed it on to the liaison officer.

"It is nonsense to suggest that the Fianna would have been told about any military operation planned by the Provisional IRA. We were literally a scout organisation which was linked to a military organisation. However people on the military side respected the integrity of the Fianna."


Mr Ó hEára also told the inquiry that the Fianna did not get involved in scouting for Provisional IRA military operations.

"Those in charge of the IRA weapons and dumps would have been foolish to involve a group of young people in all of that. We were not allowed to know where the dumps were. Very few people were trusted with that sort of information."

The witness, who is Sinn Féin's former Northern chairman, said that at the time of Bloody Sunday, the Fianna consisted of about 20 members, and the group "was merely a junior scout movement with a connection to the IRA". It was nonsense to suggest the Fianna was broken into cells.

"My experience was that we used to wear uniforms and march up and down occasionally, and attend public parades or funerals.

"People drawn to republicanism at a young age found that the only avenue open to them was to be part of the Fianna. It was the place where people learned the basic skills, but it was strictly non-military apart from the drilling."

Mr Ó hEára said one of the 13 civilians shot dead on Bloody Sunday, 17-year-old Gerry Donaghy, was a member of the Fianna.

Four nail bombs were found on the youth's body shortly after he was killed, and the inquiry has heard conflicting evidence that either the nail bombs were planted after he was shot or that the youth was armed with them when he was shot.

"I was a close friend of Gerry Donaghy. I remember he wore a denim jacket that day and not a parka. He was also wearing denim jeans. If he had had nail bombs on him I would have known and he did not. I was with him on and off during the day. We stood and watched the riot and I am 100 per cent sure that he was not carrying nail bombs.

"I refute totally that Gerry Donaghy was on the march on Bloody Sunday as part of any military plan or to conduct any military activity. The view of the population of Derry is that the nail bombs found on his body were placed there by someone after he was killed." He said after the post mortem was carried out on Mr Donaghy's body, he took possession of the teenager's clothes. "I remember the denim jacket because it still had blood on it."

The inquiry was adjourned until January 12th.