Bloody Sunday order 'from very highest level'

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The Independent Online

The longest-serving military commanding officer in Londonderry at the time of the Bloody Sunday killings claimed yesterday that The Parachute Regiment's role was directed at a government level.

The longest-serving military commanding officer in Londonderry at the time of the Bloody Sunday killings claimed yesterday that The Parachute Regiment's role was directed at a government level.

The officer, identified at the Saville inquiry into the affair as Colonel 1347, claimed that he protested to the most senior army officer in the city about the plan for 1 Para in the days running up to the tragedy 28 years ago. He said he was then told by Brigadier Patrick MacLellan that the decision to use the battalion had been made "at the very highest level" - which the colonel interpreted as meaning government. Fourteen men died after being shot by members of 1 Para during an anti-internment march on 30 January 1972.

Colonel 1347, who served with the Royal Anglians, said he was "surprised" when he heard that 1 Para had been nominated for their role in the week before the parade. However, the colonel said in his statement that his troopshad not been to Londonderry before. He added: "Everyone was aware that the Paras had a reputation for tough action and the citizens and hooligans of Londonderry would be greatly surprised if Belfast arrest procedures were to be carried out on them."

Outlining more evidence in Londonderry's Guildhall, on the third day of the inquiry's public hearings, the counsel to the inquiry, Christopher Clarke, said no evidence had yet emerged to support suggestions of a secret plan to use the march to provoke the IRA. He said: "No indication has been found ... of the existence of any such plan."

Mr Clarke claimed there was a general feeling that the time had come to deal with the "hooligans" and "to teach them the lesson that they were not immune from capture or, in more robust terms, to 'sort them out'." He outlined a discussion paper, drawn up by an army officer four days before the march, raising the prospect of opening fire during unruly illegal parades. The document was never submitted to army headquarters, and "expressly" recommended awaiting the outcome of events the following weekend - when Bloody Sunday happened - before taking further measures.

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