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McGuinness testifies on 'bloody sunday'
( 2003-11-05 11:20) (Agencies)

Sinn Fein's chief negotiator testified Tuesday about his role as an Irish Republican Army commander on "Bloody Sunday" in 1972, but refused to answer key questions from judges probing the mass killing by British troops.

Martin McGuinness took the stand at the Guildhall in Londonderry, where three judges in 1998 began gathering evidence on why British troops fatally shot 13 Catholic demonstrators on Jan. 30, 1972. The three-judge tribunal expects to publish findings next year.

McGuinness, the longtime deputy leader of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party, reiterated his claim that he had ordered IRA units to go unarmed to the protest march, which ended with British troops charging into the area and opening fire. McGuinness was deputy commander of the IRA in Londonderry on the day of the march.

British troops have maintained they shot after being fired upon, a claim the IRA denies.

"I spoke with the command staff and all active service volunteers. I relayed the decision taken by the OC," McGuinness testified, referring to his immediate superior, the "officer commanding" IRA members in the predominantly Catholic city. "Without exception, everyone I spoke to accepted that our approach to the march was sensible."

But McGuinness refused to provide details on his claim including where and to whom he gave the orders. That brought criticism from Lord Saville, who chairs the tribunal.

"Firstly you are depriving us of the opportunity of discovering the full facts and matters relating to Bloody Sunday," Saville said. "And secondly it will be suggested in due course that if you are not answering these questions, you have something to hide."

McGuinness said he wouldn't answer questions about IRA personnel or operations. He vowed to maintain that stand when questioned Wednesday by lawyers representing the British Ministry of Defense and soldiers who opened fire on Bloody Sunday.

"I have never, ever on any occasion given the name of a single person who was associated with me or the IRA. ... I have a duty in my view, stretching back 30 years to these people, and I am not prepared to break my word," McGuinness said.

He admitted for the first time in public that he became the IRA's commander in Londonderry "within two (after) weeks of Bloody Sunday."

Most of the British soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday have already testified and insisted they opened fire in response to IRA gunfire. No soldiers were wounded, and forensic evidence originally used to suggest that some victims had been handling weapons has since been discredited.

McGuinness insisted that had the IRA decided to shoot at British soldiers, they would have hit some. The fact none were hit, he said, should dispel "the nonsense that has been peddled down the decades that the British army were fired on."

McGuinness also rebuffed a string of allegations from previous witnesses.

One, code named Infliction, a former British agent within the IRA, claimed McGuinness had told him he fired the first shots on Bloody Sunday that triggered the British soldiers' deadly response.

Another, former IRA man Paddy Ward, testified that McGuinness had discussed with him plans to throw nail bombs at British troops in immediate response to the Bloody Sunday deaths. A third, British agent Willy Carlin, described McGuinness' discussion of weaponry and tactics in a range of IRA meetings in 1972.

McGuinness said Infliction was a fantasist, accused Ward of telling "a bucketful of lies," and called Carlin "a liar of the first degree."

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