Witness was `warned' of shooting

 

A key witness claimed yesterday an RUC telephonist at RUC headquarters in Derry sent him advance warning that the paratroopers intended to "go in shooting" during the Civil Rights march.

Mr Charles McDaid, a former Derry councillor, told how, on Bloody Sunday morning, his wife took a telephone message which said: "Tell Junior not to go on the march because the paras are coming in and coming in shooting, and others have been informed."

Mr McDaid said he was called "Junior" by Derry people who knew him and his family well. In cross-examination yesterday he named the caller who had left the message as Mrs Jean Manning, who was employed as a telephonist at the RUC barracks on Strand Road, but who is now dead. In his statement supplied to the inquiry's solicitors and dated December 1998, Mr McDaid said: "To date, neither I nor my wife know the identity of this caller." However, in reply to Mr Edmund Lawson QC, for a number of British soldiers, he admitted that this was not true.

He said he had not been under oath when he gave the statement, and he was concerned to protect the woman in her job, so he had told "a white lie". Mrs Manning had been friendly with his wife and she had died around the middle of this year, he said.

Mr McDaid also said in his statement that he did not know of any other persons who received the same information, "although there were certain persons I expected to see on the march who were conspicuous by their absence. One such person was John Hume . . ."

Cross-examined yesterday by Mr Christopher Clarke QC, counsel to the tribunal, Mr McDaid said that Mrs Manning had sent the warning "because she felt that I could have been shot that day". But he said she had not told him anything else about the circumstances in which she had sent the message.

Mr Clarke put it to the witness that Mr Hume had publicly spoken against the march. Counsel revealed that part of a statement which has now been supplied to the inquiry by Mr Hume states:

"I have seen a newspaper advertisement in the Irish News and the Belfast Morning News, dated 29th January 1972, when I was advertised as a speaker at the NICRA march. Having publicly spoken against the march and having decided neither to support it nor attend it, I had nothing to do with the march whatsoever. I never agreed to speak at it, and the advertisement therefore included my name in error."

The witness said he had heard nothing about what had caused Mr Hume not to attend.

Mr McDaid went on to give a detailed account of his experiences on Bloody Sunday, when he had seen Mr John Johnston shot in the leg while in the William Street area.

The witness then went into Rossville Street and was running towards the rubble barricade as soldiers came running down the street and started shooting live rounds.

He described hearing a dying youth crying out as he passed the barricade: "Mister, I am shot. Help me." He was shocked by the youth's appearance and hesitated, "my instinct of self-preservation conflicting with the anguish of the young man as he lay there crying for help". The witness turned back to help him, with some other men.

At this point Mr McDaid broke down in the witness-box and the inquiry adjourned briefly to allow him to recover his composure.

Later in his statement, Mr McDaid said that when he got home, in deep shock and great distress, he telephoned Leinster House and asked to speak to the Taoiseach, Mr Jack Lynch, but was told he was not available.

"I left a message to the effect that as he stood idly by the Catholics of Northern Ireland were being killed," he said.

Mr McDaid was 32 at the time of Bloody Sunday. He had been a Nationalist Party councillor in Derry between the ages of 21 and 27.