Socialist Worker

Para says it was slaughter

by Hazel Croft reports on the new revelations
Issue No. 1823

TONY BLAIR last week gave a speech blaming the IRA for violence in Northern Ireland. Yet just the day before, a former soldier gave shocking evidence at the Bloody Sunday inquiry which graphically illustrated the responsibility of the British state.

On Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, British paratroopers murdered 14 unarmed civilians on a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland. It was Bloody Sunday which more than any other event pushed hundreds of young Catholics to resist British rule and join the IRA. The establishment has always tried to cover up the truth about what the parachute regiment did on that day.

With no evidence, army chiefs still claim soldiers were shot at first. The army even won the right for the former paras to be anonymous at the inquiry. But Soldier 027, a 19 year old radio operator with 1 Para on Bloody Sunday, blew apart the lies. He said there was 'no justification' for shooting civilians, and described the 'shocking and unspeakable incidents' on Bloody Sunday.

He added, 'The only threat was a large assembly of people and we were all experienced soldiers who had been through riot situations before.' At the inquiry he described how the night before Bloody Sunday paras talked about 'getting kills'. In his statement, written in 1975 and read out at the inquiry, the soldier wrote:

'We were all in high spirits and when our lieutenant said, 'Let us teach these buggers a lesson - we want some kills tomorrow,' to the mentality of the blokes to whom he was speaking, that was tantamount to an order.' He described how his platoon moved against a crowd of people at the Rossville Flats.

One soldier 'went down into a kneeling position, raised his rifle to his shoulder and, without pause or hesitation, commenced firing towards the centre of the crowd. One chap from Guinness Force, I think a full corporal, ran up beside me pushing his way between two other soldiers who were firing, so that he could commence firing himself. He was exuberant.'

Yet the soldier said, 'I did not see anyone with a weapon or see or hear an explosive device. I was looking across the crowd with some concentration, aware of the firing immediately around me. I lowered my weapon and looked at the guys firing and tried to locate what they were firing at. I still failed to see what I could identify as a target and it caused me some confusion.'

At last week's inquiry soldier 027 said, 'I was standing up, I think I could see the whole frontage of the crowd, and no, I did not see anything that appeared to justify firing.' In his written statement he described how people were trying to escape the shooting at Glenfada Park:

'As I came on the scene, there was at least one body down. I saw a crowd of about 40 shocked and terrified people along the south side of the car park, trying to get away. They were in the process of exiting the south west corner of the car park when, in the presence of the shattering noise of the SLR's (self loading rifles) they became submissive and acquiescent. Some froze in a static huddle. I saw no civilians with weapons, no threatening gesture, neither could I see or hear any explosive devices during the entire situation.'

He described how paras shot at the crowd as they tried to get away: 'He fired from the hip at a range of 20 yards. The bullet passed through one man and into another and they both fell, one dead and one wounded. He then moved forward and fired again, killing the wounded man.'

He described how the paras lined people up against the wall and struck them with rifle butts. 'A lot of the prisoners, 57 in all, had been beaten and a lot were bleeding from head wounds. I remember seeing one marched to the rear of Major Loden's APC and then, to my astonishment, the Major leaning out of the back of the vehicle and smacking the character on the top of the head with a baton.'

In both his oral and written statements, Soldier 027 paints a damning picture of the violence and brutality of the paras, who he called 'rottweilers'. He described how there was 'an element of enjoying the violence of the situation' among the paras and how 'we were all to various degrees brutalised by it.'

Soldier 027 says his statements to the military police and to the original Widgery inquiry into Bloody Sunday were fabricated to justify the killings.

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Sat 26 Oct 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1823
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