McGuinness refuses to reveal site of arms dump

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The Independent Online

Martin McGuinness refused again yesterday to disclose the locations of the IRA's command centre and arms dump in the Bogside area of Londonderry on Bloody Sunday, 31 years ago.

The former IRA commander - who is an MP and was Northern Ireland's Education minister - said he had been approached on Tuesday night by people who provided assistance to the republican terror group in January 1972 and they had asked him not to reveal the addresses.

"In my view, their attitude is totally understandable," he told the Saville inquiry. He believed those who had provided the IRA with logistical support were open to prosecution by the authorities. He said: "Family members would be put at grave risk of attack by loyalist paramilitaries who have killed republicans and continue to target republicans."

On his first day of evidence to the inquiry, Mr McGuinness, 53, had been asked by the inquiry chairman, Lord Saville of Newdigate, to reflect on his refusal to disclose the locations, warning he could face accusations that he had something to hide on Bloody Sunday.

A lawyer for former IRA man Patrick Ward, who alleged that Mr McGuinness distributed detonators on Bloody Sunday, clashed with the Mid-Ulster MP for not answering questions. Anthony Jennings QC asked him if he believed Mr Ward was in cahoots with the British security services to peddle their version of Bloody Sunday.

Mr McGuinness is standing in the forthcoming Stormont election, and the lawyer said: "I want a simple answer Mr McGuinness, or else we will be here for ever; the elections will have come and gone."

The Sinn Fein chief replied: "I will answer the question in my way and I will not be dictated by you in the context of answering yes or no. We are dealing with an out-and-out fantasist here; we are dealing with someone who is hostile to me; someone who is hostile to Irish republicanism. His accusations about me giving him nail bombs in relation to Bloody Sunday I refute absolutely; they are totally without foundation."

Willie Carlin, a British agent who claimed he worked as a Sinn Fein information officer in the 1980s, alleged that Mr McGuinness told him he believed the Government would never hold an inquiry into Bloody Sunday. But the Sinn Fein leader insisted the conversation never took place.

He said: "I should remind the tribunal that Mr Carlin is a self-confessed British soldier, British agent, informer; whatever people choose to call him.

"He is hostile to me; he is hostile to Sinn Fein. I am not really sure what his position is on the peace process but he certainly has contrived to manufacture conversations with me that never took place."

Thirteen Catholic civilians, were killed when soldiers opened fire during a civil rights demonstration on 31 January 1972. A fourteenth victim died from wounds. The inquiry recently returned to Londonderry after hearing evidence in London from British ministers and troops. The soldiers said they had only fired at people with guns or bombs.

On Tuesday, Mr McGuinness told the inquiry that IRA "volunteers" had been ordered not to attack troops so the march would pass peacefully. He said if the IRA had wanted to kill British soldiers, snipers could have done so easily.

The inquiry has cost £120m so far, rising to about £150m by its conclusion. It will finish hearing evidence in December and Lord Saville's report is expected at the end of 2004.