Witness says he got warning call about paratroops


BLOODY SUNDAY INQUIRY: A witness told the inquiry yesterday that he recalled getting a phone call about four days before Bloody Sunday which informed him that paratroopers would go in to the Bogside on the day and that people were likely to be killed.

Mr Patrick Clarke said, however, that he did not recall telling two relatives of Bloody Sunday victims three years ago that the information had come from a senior civil servant phoning from London but that he did not want to name him in case of trouble for his family.

Mr Clarke, who was secretary of the Bogside Defence Committee before Bloody Sunday, also revealed he had a meeting with an Irish Army officer at a hotel in Lifford, Co Donegal, the night before Bloody Sunday because of apprehension over what would happen next day and because he thought the Irish government should be kept informed.

He named the officer as a Comdt McGonagle, now deceased, and said he was "the intelligence officer for the Irish government for the North at the time" and that "he would come to Derry quite often". The witness added that, before Comdt McGonagle "it was a Captain Kelly who came into the Bogside. Comdt McGonagle just took over after Captain Kelly's period". Mr Clarke said the Defence Committee was a representative group set up after the Battle of the Bogside in 1969.

It looked after the needs of the people of the area and had meetings with the security forces and discussions with the police on various matters.

While working for the committee he came to know Comdt McGonagle. It was perceived that there were always four elements to the situation in the North - the British government, the Irish government and the two Northern communities. "It was for that reason that we kept contact with the Irish government and indeed with representatives of the Northern Ireland Office in Belfast," he said.

He had contacted Comdt McGonagle before Bloody Sunday to see if the government could be of any assistance if anything was to happen on the day. When the shootings happened he rang Rockhill Barracks, Letterkenny, and told Comdt McGonagle that "there were now six people in the morgue". He also told him that word had come back that ambulances carrying casualties to the hospital were being stopped by the British army were not being let through to Altnagelvin Hospital. The inquiry continues today.