Bloody Sunday "Like a Turkey Shoot"
Originally published between February 12th and 14th, 2001
Mitchel McLaughlin has described the Bloody Sunday killings as a "turkey shoot."
Mr McLaughlin, who has since become Sinn Fein Chairman and Foyle assembly member, also told yesterday's hearing of the Saville inquiry into the 1972 killing of 14 civil righs demonstrators that a soldier fired at him on Bloody Sunday in a "serious effort at blowing my head off."
Mr McLaughlin yesterday became the most senior member of Sinn Fein to take the witness stand at the Saville inquiry since public hearings opened almost a year ago.
In his direct evidence to the tribunal, the Derry assembly member recalled joining a riot on Bloody Sunday at William Street but moving into Bogside on hearing army vehicles revving their engines.
He told the inquiry that shortly after this he saw a soldier fire what he thought at the time was an aimed shot at a photographer. However, the bullet struck a wall just behind the assembly member's head. He said that it was only on further consideration that he concluded the shot was not aimed at the photographer but at him. However, he acknowledged it may have been a "warning shot."
The Sinn Fein chairman said that as he ran onto waste ground by Rossville flats he saw the body of Jackie Duddy lying on the ground.
"I ran towards the group of people who were standing around the body on the ground to see if I could help. It was like running into a turkey shoot," he said.
Shortly after this he saw one of those injured on Bloody Sunday, Michael Bridge, remonstrating with soldiers.
"He was extremely angry abut the shooting of the young man and was almost in a blind rage," he said.
"He began running towards the soldiers and was shouting and swearing. I can clearly remember him shouting: 'Shoot me! Shoot me!'," he said.
Mr McLaughlin said that when Mr Bridge was quite close to a group of soldiers one soldier "casually lifted his gun to his shoulder and shot him." He said that if the soldier had wanted to arrest Mr Bridge he could have done so easily.
After eventually making his way to safety at Free Derry Corner, Mr McLaughlin said he saw his father walk from the nearby Glenfada Park. A volley of shots rang out and his father and other people fell forward to the ground.
"My instant reaction was to think that my father had just been shot right in front of my eyes. My heart stopped and I think I was in shock at this time," he said.
But when he eventually returned to his home in Creggan he discovered his father and all his family members were present and safe.
During cross-examination, Mr McLaughlin told Counsel to the inquiry Christopher Clarke QC that the IRA had a "wall of silence" about its operations, but that it was common knowledge in Derry at the time that the IRA would not be present at the march.
AID WORKER ATTACKED
Also on Wednesday, a Derry father told the Inquiry of the sheer panic he experienced in trying to find his teenage sons on Bloody Sunday.
Hugh O'Donnell went on the 1972 march with his wife and sons, Hugh, Liam, Frank and Eamonn. While on the march his sons became separated from Mr O'Donnell and his wife when word spread that two people had been shot.
The witness said he suggested that his wife should return home while he would look for his sons. While searching for the boys in the Rossville Street area, Mr O'Donnell said he saw British soldiers disembark from armoured cars.
"As soon as each Saracen halted, the back doors were flung open and the soldiers flew out. I saw a big soldier carrying a rifle at hip level come out of the Saracen. He took up position and, like John Wayne, fired two rifle shots without taking aim," he said.
Terrified that he would be shot, the witness said the soldiers were not acting as if they were under fire. He said they did not take cover.
Mr O'Donnell witnessed two people, including a first aid worker who was administering to an injured man, being attacked and beaten by soldiers.
As his son ran for cover, Mr O'Donnell managed to pull his son into shelter at the corner of Rossville flats.
"I noticed the body of a young man with dark, wavy hair of about the same age as Hugh (his son) lying on the ground. Someone had pulled his pullover or shirt - I cannot recall which - high up onto his chest to expose a wound of about a couple of inches diameter on his stomach.
"The wound was not bleeding but was smoking, this scene traumatised me," he said.
Mr O'Donnell said he found a second son, Liam and the three men managed to make their way home.
"LIKE DODGE CITY"
On Tuesday, the wife of a Vietnam veteran has told the Saville Inquiry she saw a soldier fire a rubber bullet from point blank range at a young teenager.
Susan Ginger Hansen said her husband was in Vietnam with the US navy in 1972 and she was staying with her three children at her mother's home in Derry.
After being overcome with CS gas on the march, Mrs Hansen said she sought refuge at her aunt's home at Kell's Walk.
Often emotional, the witness described what she saw from her aunt's home as soldiers disembarked from armoured cars.
"It was like Dodge City. They (paratroopers) were firing live ammunition in the direction of the crowds at the southern end of Rossville Street near the rubble barricade," she said.
While looking from a window at her aunt's flat, the witness recalled seeing a boy of between 12 and 16 running from Chamberlain Street.
"About four or five of the soldiers caught him and they all started hitting him with the butts of their rifles. I particularly remember that the soldier who had been chasing the boy out of Chamberlain Street was hitting him very aggressively.
"I could see that the boy was now covered in blood. Next, I saw the soldier who had been chasing him out of Chamberlain Street aim his rubber bullet gun directly at the boy and saw him shoot the boy in the stomach at very close range," she said.
Mrs Hansen said the boy was thrown into an army Saracen on top of another man who she saw being attacked by soldiers.
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