Blair handed new Bloody Sunday file

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Indy Politics
The Irish government yesterday handed the British government its file of new evidence on the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry.

A letter passed to the Prime Minister yesterday from John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, called the original inquiry report into the shootings by Lord Chief Justice Widgery "deep-ly unsatisfactory and did not represent the truth of what happened".

The move underlined Dublin's latest effort to obtain a British declaration that 14 people shot by British troops were innocent of claims that they were killed while handling guns or explosives.

The move will be one of Mr Bruton's last as Irish premier, a post expected to pass to the Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern when the Dail meets tomorrow for the first time since the Irish general election earlier this month.

In March, Dublin decided to withhold the file from the outgoing Conservative government, fearing it would bury the report and ignore its potentially explosive implications about the conduct of the Widgery inquiry.

The Irish evidence is believed to include claims made by a British Army paratrooper that his testimony for Widgery was replaced by a prepared version not written by him, apparently to avert the risk of the Army facing the legal and political repercussions that would arise if an admission were made of shooting unarmed civilians.

If this claim is upheld it would undermine the position maintained by previous British governments which have ruled out official apologies, pro-secutions and compensation payments. Mr Blair and Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam are said to be sympathetic to a re-examination of the events of Bloody Sunday.

The soldier's evidence says on the night before Bloody Sunday, paratroopers were briefed by a senior officer who told them "Let's teach these buggers some lessons. We want some kills." He also said some soldiers used illicit stocks of dum-dum bullets, and were therefore able to show they still had their official quota of standard-issue bullets after the killings.

Dum-dum bullets, which are outlawed under the Geneva convention, spread on impact, causing massive injuries. A coroner confirmed one of the dead had shrapnel fragments in his head. Standard bullets would not normally leave such complex wounds.

The Widgery report, published in April 1972, controversially held that soldiers had been responding to shots fired at them. Bloody Sunday provoked outrage in Ireland and internationally, with the then Irish government under Jack Lynch declaring a day of mourning. In Dublin, gardai stood back as an angry crowd burned down the British embassy.