Bloody Sunday inquiry told of plan to 'clear' Bogside

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The Independent Online

The first of 1,500 witnesses in the Bloody Sunday inquiry today claimed he heard soldiers say they were going to Northern Ireland to "clear the Bog".

The first of 1,500 witnesses in the Bloody Sunday inquiry today claimed he heard soldiers say they were going to Northern Ireland to "clear the Bog".

Daniel Porter said off-duty soldiers told him of their plans just days before 13 men were shot dead by the British Army in Derry's Bogside on January 30, 1972, in one of the Province's bloodiest incidents.

Giving evidence on day 52 of public hearings, he said soldiers openly talked of their mission during a game of darts in the Tudor Rose pub, in Old Coulsdon, Surrey, close to a military barracks.

He told the inquiry, being held at Derry's Guildhall: "I remember one night they started talking, saying that they would be going to Derry to 'clear the Bog', by which I understood that they would be clearing away the barricades.

"They said they would be landing with tanks. I got the impression they would be going to Northern Ireland pretty shortly."

Under cross-examination Mr Porter said he did not believe the soldiers were going to use tanks in the exercise and would instead be more likely to use standard bulldozers.

He denied confusing the plan with Operation Motorman, carried out by the Army in July 1972 to regain "no-go" areas of Northern Ireland which at the time were controlled by the IRA.

Caterham barracks was the home base of the Grenadier Guards at the time but Mr Porter was unable to say if the soldiers he was with belonged to that regiment.

He told the inquiry that following the conversation, he telephoned his wife who was staying with her sister in Derry - and was warned by the English telephone operator not to discuss security with her before being connected.

His statement said: "When I got through to my wife we talked about things generally. I then told her to take the two children out of Derry. I said that the Army would be clearing the Bog. The line was then cut off."

Mr Porter, who moved to County Donegal in the Irish Republic in February 1972, said he only linked the soldiers' conversation with Bloody Sunday some time after the event.

Some years later he recounted the story at a bar in Buncrana, County Donegal, and was punched in the face after telling how he had been talking to the soldiers, he said.

The inquiry, which was established two years ago to look again at the circumstances of the Bloody Sunday shootings, started public hearings in March this year and is expected to run for at least another two years.

To date it has been taken up almost entirely with opening statements, and the running costs are already in the region of £30 million.

The Tribunal of Inquiry is chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate, who is accompanied by two Commonwealth judges, Mr William Hoyt, and Mr John Toohey.

They were joined today by a reserve member, Mr William Esson, who will shadow all evidence and deliberations until the inquiry finishes, only becoming actively involved if the tribunal loses one of the three judges - as happened this summer with the resignation of Sir Edward Somers.

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