Bloody Sunday: Martin McGuinness linked to RUC murder ‘to militarise civil rights march’

Martin McGuinness. Photo: Pacemaker
Martin McGuinness. Photo: Pacemaker

The Saville Inquiry found that Martin McGuinness was probably armed with a sub machine gun on Bloody Sunday.

Saville found that McGuinness, at that time the Adjutant of the IRA in Londonderry, had engaged in paramilitary activity during Bloody Sunday.

“In the end we were left in some doubt as to his movements on the day,” Saville found. “Before the soldiers of Support Company went into the Bogside he was probably armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun, and though it is possible that he fired this weapon, there is insufficient evidence to make any finding on this, save that we are sure that he did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire.”

Londonderry man and former IRA bomber Shane Paul O’Doherty said McGuinness was “almost certainly” involved in the murder of two RUC officers in the city 72 hours before Bloody Sunday, Sgt Peter Gilgunn and Const David Montgomery.

They were ambushed by a number of IRA men, one of whom used a Thompson sub-machine gun, the same type that Saville said Mr McGuinness was probably carrying 72 hours later.

“It is almost certain that Martin McGuinness was one of the shooters,” Mr O’Doherty previously told the News Letter. “If this was not a blatant IRA attempt to militarise the imminent civil rights’ march, nothing was.”

Saville pressed McGuinness to name other IRA men to help get a broader picture of what happened on Bloody Sunday, but he flatly refused.

Lord Saville also found that there was “some firing by republican paramilitaries” on Bloody Sunday and that Official IRA men probably fired on soldiers.

A member of the Official IRA (OIRA)told the inquiry that they had shot at soldiers very early on in retaliation to the shooting of two of the protesters. Saville concluded: “These two Official IRA members had gone to a pre-arranged sniping position in order to fire at the soldiers; and probably did so when an opportunity presented itself rather than because two civilians had been injured.”

However Saville concluded that, on balance, the army fired before the OIRA men.

Yesterday the PPS said there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute the two OIRA men who gave evidence to Saville Inquiry.

The twelve months leading up to Bloody Sunday saw a major escalation of violence, with republicans claiming the most lives, 107, and the army suffering most deaths, 45.

1971 was the most violent year of the Troubles until then and set the scene for Bloody Sunday in January 1972.

The murder of three off-duty Scottish soldiers in Belfast helped spark internment without trial, which was followed by further violence.

There were 1,756 shootings, 1,022 explosions, 493 bombs defused and 489 armed robberies. Republicans were responsible for 107 deaths, the army for 45, loyalists 22 and the RUC for one.

Those killed were 44 soldiers, 11 RUC, 5 UDR, 23 republicans and three loyalists.

Ninety four civilians were killed, 27 Protestant and 65 Catholic.

Arms finds and over 17,000 house searches netted 716 firearms, 158,000 bullets and 1,246kg of explosives.

A tally of those injured was 315 RUC officers, 381 soldiers, nine UDR and 1887 civilians.

Shane Paul O’Doherty: ‘Some of us in the IRA concluded back in the 1970s that violence was wrong’