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A Foul Unfinished Business. The shortcomings of, and plots against, Saville’s Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

By David Burke.

1. 50-year Concerted Cover-up.

The British government’s determination to absolve all British soldiers involved in killings during the Troubles means that there are now precious few opportunities to get to the bottom of what really happened during the Ballymurphy massacre and on Bloody Sunday.

The Bloody Sunday cover-up went into high gear in April 1972 with the report by the duplicitous Freemason and Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Widgery. See: Mission accomplished. The unscrupulous judge who covered-up the Bloody Sunday murders. Soldier F and other paratroopers have been protected by the British State for five decades. None of them now face prosecution. This perversion of justice began with the connivance of the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, John Widgery, a former British Army brigadier, Freemason and oath-breaker.

Lord Widgery, oath-breaker, Freemason, deceiver and former British Army brigadier.

2. A stab in the back: the Ministry of Defence’s charade of sympathy while waging a secret black propaganda campaign of vilification.

Widgery’s report was condemned as a whitewash around the globe, something that forced the grey-suited gnomes in Whitehall to plot a course correction within two years of its publication. This involved a pretence at sympathy for the relatives of the 14 murder victims of Bloody Sunday. The charade manifested itself in December 1974 when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that it was going to pay out £41,500 to the families of those killed in Derry as a gesture of “conciliation and goodwill”.

Hugh Mooney, character assassin.

Slyly, while this was taking place, a cohort of black propagandists were vilifying the victims of the massacre. The smear campaign was led by Hugh Mooney, T. E. Utley, Brian Crozier and the smearmeisters of the sinister Information Research Department (IRD) of the Foreign Office.

The money spent on the various smear campaigns was probably a multiple of the cynical token gesture afforded to the families.

The policy of carrot and smear was not a success and the issue remained an open wound. The relatives’ families pressed ahead with a  campaign for justice assisted by an array of activists, artists, lawyers, politicians, authors and journalists.

Finally, in January 1998, Tony Blair announced a fresh inquiry to be led by Lord Saville of Newdigate. Blair stated that Widgery had rushed his work, had failed to take evidence from the wounded and had not read the eyewitness accounts personally.

3. A cynical prediction about the likely outcome of the Saville Inquiry.

Lord Saville.

Tom Hayden, a Californian State Senator and former anti-war movement leader, who has studied state-sponsored cover-ups, predicted in 1998 that:

The more cynical analysis of the new Bloody Sunday inquiry under Lord Saville is that it will become another exercise in damage control, with perhaps some new drops of truth leaking out. In this scenario, the innocence of the victims will be reaffirmed once more and responsibility for the shooting lodged with an isolated “rogue” element of the army. Any inference of knowledge, complicity, or accountability at higher echelons will be rejected. A further apology will be offered, compensation paid, and perhaps a memorial constructed. As American cover-up and damage-control specialists would say, “let us bottom this up and get it behind us”. [1]

4. The MoD plots to deny Saville access to witnesses.

The Ministry of Defence plotted to thwart Saville from the start. Author Anthony Verrier submitted a statement to Saville warning him that: 

I know several members of the Parachute Regiment. One particular member of the Battalion in question who was present in Derry on Bloody Sunday was a mature student on one of my courses. I discussed Bloody Sunday with him. My understanding from him was that the soldiers had been instructed not to assist the Inquiry. This student told me that he had received a letter from the MoD which said he would be provided with legal advice should he wish to make a statement to the Inquiry but he was advised not to. He did not want to be involved in the Inquiry and did not want to give evidence. I am not sure if he has made a statement to the Inquiry“. [2]

5. Murder as material for comedy.

Soldier Cleary, also known as “Soldier F” shot Patrick Doherty in the buttock while he was on the ground crawling away from him. As he lay crying out in pain, Barney McGuigan stepped forward with a white handkerchief looking to help Doherty. Cleary dropped to one knee, aimed his rifle and shot McGuigan in the head. All of the victims of Bloody Sunday were shot in cold blood. None of them posed any sort of a threat to the elite soldiers of Support Company of 1 Para who slaughtered them.

Behind closed door, the civil servants at the MoD had little more than disdain for the victims. They gave the game away when, in 1999, Saville asked them about the whereabouts of the rifles which had been discharged on Bloody Sunday, i.e. the murder weapons which had extinguished the lives of 14 people. This sparked an internal email stating:

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry are after records (if any) of what happened to the Bloody Sunday weapons .. On Tuesday the Battle of Hastings Inquiry will want to find the longbow which put Harold’s eye out!”. [3]

An email of such depravity could hardly have been circulated as a joke if the employees at the MoD had an ounce of respect or sympathy for the 14 victims, the many wounded, their distraught relatives and the people of Derry.

6. The MoD secures the anonymity of the Bloody Sunday trigger men

Saville made his introductory statement at Derry Guildhall on 3 April 1999. Oral hearings began on 27 March 2000, with an opening speech by Christopher Clarke QC, counsel to the Inquiry. The first witness took the stand on 28 November 2000.

Soldier F.

The tribunal ruled in December 1998 that the soldiers of 1 Para would be named, save in exceptional cases. The Ministry of Defence appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeal which held in July 1999 that, notwithstanding the fact that this was a public inquiry, the military witness would remain anonymous.

7. ‘For some reason Soldier F is a protected species’.

The infamous Soldier F was a beneficiary of the ruling secured by the Ministry of Defence. Although Cleary – and he alone – was finally charged with murder, his anonymity was still being sheltered by the courts on the back of applications made by his lawyers and supported by the PSNI, even as late as 2021.

Colum Eastwood, Leader of the SDLP.

After the charges against him were dropped in July 2021, Colum Eastwood MP, named David Cleary under privilege in the House of Commons. After his speech, Eastwood told the BBC that “there is no reason for him to be granted anonymity. No other perpetrator involved would be given anonymity. For some reason Soldier F is a protected species”. Eastwood has a point. What is so special about the group of soldiers who murdered 14 innocent civilians in Derry nearly 50 years ago?’

Eastwood has posed a serious question.

He received death threats after naming Cleary.

Rossville Flat complex, Derry.

8. Controlling the venue where the Tribunal sat.

The reversal of Saville’s ruling to name the soldiers was not his only defeat by Whitehall. In August 2001 he ruled that the soldiers should testify at the Guildhall in Derry. Again, this was overturned by the Court of Appeal, in December, with the result that they gave evidence at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, London.

9. Perjurers, missing witnesses and discounted evidence.

Hugh Mooney and Morris Tugwell, both retired black propagandists [i.e. experienced liars], turned up at the Saville Inquiry only to perjure themselves: both denied that they had been involved in psychological operations in Northern Ireland. The Ministry of Defence, Foreign Office  and Downing Street knew perfectly well this was false yet did nothing about it.

The black propagandist Brian Crozier was not called to testify about the lies he had spread about the victims of Bloody Sunday in his various publications.

Other key witnesses made no appearance.

With the exception of a tiny number of the soldiers who appeared, perjury was committed on an industrial scale.

10. MI5’s blatant attempt to subvert the Saville Inquiry.

MI5 HQ London.

By far the most blatant attempt to mislead the Tribunal was perpetrated by MI5 who tired to use a preposterous agent designated ‘INFLICTION’ to convince Saville that the late Martin McGuinness, one of the Provisional IRA’s most significant leaders (and later Deputy First Minister), had fired the first shot on Bloody Sunday.

The Inquiry was provided with an alleged account provided by INFLICTION in which he claimed that: “one thing that bothers [Martin] McGuinness about the Bloody Sunday thing was that he fired the first shot, and no one knows this. This seems to be on McGuinness’s conscience. He has spoken to ‘Infliction’ about it several times.” However, a tape of INFLICTION’s debriefing was not disclosed. Did it ever exist?

David Shayler, a former MI5 officer who worked for the organisation’s counter-IRA section, T8 branch, had come across INFLICTION and said he was known in the organisation as a ‘bullshitter [D. Shayler statement to Saville Inquiry, 22 January 2001.]

Martin McGuinness, Peter Robinson of the DUP and Queen Elizabeth II.

McGuinness described him as ‘an informer who may or may not exist, the claims that I told “Infliction” that I fired the first shot on Bloody Sunday is a concoction, rubbish and a blatant lie’.

MI5 was acting in a devious manner in furnishing the ‘Infliction’ material about McGuinness to Saville. They knew better from a far more reliable agent, called Willie Carlin, a Sinn Féin activist who spied on Republicans for MI5, who told them a story that contradicted ‘Infliction’. Carlin realised that the relevant information had been withheld from the Saville Inquiry. He believed that it must have been ‘sitting somewhere on my files in the MoD. I am sure that my handler would have collated the information and passed it on’. [Statement of William Carlin to the Saville Inquiry, 20 October 2003. See Saville Exhibit KC0005, para. 61.]

He decided to make a statement to the tribunal and went public about what he had done which severely undermined MI5’s attempt to blame McGuinness for precipitating Bloody Sunday.

11. In Saville’s world, the integrity of British lawyers is beyond reproach.

Saville was no Widgery but he was not perfect either.

There were substantial material discrepancies between what the soldiers of 1 Para said in the aftermath of the massacre and what appeared in their statements for the Widgery tribunal in 1972. Professor Dermot Walsh, the Chair of Law at University of Limerick and the Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice, undertook a meticulous examination of the soldiers’ statements which revealed that there were three objectives to the exercise: {i} the erasure of implausible allegations, {ii} the making of statements which corroborated each other, and {iii} the removal of comments which had the potential to lead to accusations of murder. [Walsh, Dermot P.J, ‘Bloody Sunday and the Rule of Law in Northern Ireland’ (Gill and Macmillan, Dublin 2000)] Some of the statements had been changed up to four times. This information was known to the lawyers acting for the Tribunal but not to those for the families.

In 1975 Byron Lewis, who had served with 1 Para on Bloody Sunday, described how Widgery’s lawyers had manipulated the process:

“I was then interviewed in an office by two Crown lawyers on Lord Widgery’s team. I rattled off everything I had seen and had done. The only thing I omitted were names and the manner in which people had been shot, apart from that I told the truth which I wanted to convey. Then to my surprise one of these doddering gentlemen said ‘dear me Private 027, you make it sound as though shots were being fired at the crowd, we can’t have that can we?’ And then proceeded to tear up my statement He left the room and returned ten minutes later with another statement which bore no relation to fact and [I] was told with a smile that this is the statement I would use when going on the stand. What a situation! The Lord Chief Justice of Great Britain, the symbol of all moral standings and justice having his minions suppress and twist evidence, with or without his knowledge who can tell? I was amazed!“.

The notion that officials of the former Lord Chief Justice had engaged in such a reprehensible manipulation of the Widgery tribunal was too much for Saville to stomach. He rejected what Lewis had to say. In his eyes, it was Lewis who was the culprit, not Widgery and his team. “In our view”, Saville propounded, “what is likely to have happened is that Private 027 [i.e. Lewis] felt that he had to invent a reason to explain providing a statement for the Widgery Inquiry that was inconsistent with his later accounts; and chose to do so by falsely laying blame for the inconsistency on others”. [Saville Report Chapter 179, paragraph 26 contained in Volume 9.]

Yet, it is abundantly clear that the paratroopers lied to both him and Widgery and, clearly,  Saville accepted and knew that this was a fact. This being so, how did he think they managed to coordinate such a massive deception without help? If the sham was not overseen by some of Widgery’s officials, then by whom was it perpetrated?

12. Discounting the document written by an officer of 1 Para.

Significantly, he not only failed to appreciate the importance of a crucial document created by an officer of 1 Para but dismissed it as unreliable. It is possible to prove that Saville made a mistake in this instance, and a serious one at that. (This is an issue Village will return to later.)

Had he accepted the veracity of the document, his analysis of what took place in the days – if not weeks – leading up to Bloody Sunday, might have taken a different turn.

13. Saville failed to recall General, Sir Frank Kitson and General, Sir Mike Jackson.

Mike Jackson was a captain in 1 Para on Bloody Sunday. He later ascended to the pinnacle of the British Army. He had compiled what became known as the ‘shot list’. When he gave his evidence on 7 April 2003, the existence of the ‘shot list’ was not known to the Tribunal. When it was discovered later, Jackson was recalled and, on 15 October, 2003,  asked to explain discrepancies between it and subsequent accounts by paratroopers about what had happened.

General, Sir Mike Jackson.

Yet, General Sir Mike Jackson (as he had become) was not recalled and asked about a significant comments he made in his memoirs, ‘Soldier the Autobiography’ (Bantam Press, London 2007). A passage in his book described a debriefing taken from Col Wilford by Brigadier Frank Kitson. Jackson’s book came out in 2007.

General Sir Frank Kitson (as he had become) was not recalled either.

The Saville Report did not appear until 2010. Why did Saville not recall him during the interim period?

General, Sir Frank Kitson.

14. The lord’s finding that should not be taken as the gospel truth.

One of Saville’s key findings was that the paratroopers had lost their self-control and fired at unarmed civilians either forgetting or ignoring their orders and training; furthermore, that they had failed to satisfy themselves that they had identified targets who were threatening to cause death or serious injury.

Overall, Saville failed to look with a hard and suspicious eye at anything which implied premeditation or calculation on the part of the State in the events which preceded the massacre.

Saville’s glorified speculation that the soldiers of Support Company lost their self-control should not be taken as gospel.

Saville was undoubtedly a significant improvement on Widgery but that is not necessarily saying a lot, for Widgery was perhaps the most dishonest man to occupy a high judicial office in the last century: he quite literally covered up for murder, and did so on the riding orders of PM Ted Heath. See: Mission accomplished. The unscrupulous judge who covered-up the Bloody Sunday murders. Soldier F and other paratroopers have been protected by the British State for five decades. None of them now face prosecution. This perversion of justice began with the connivance of the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, John Widgery, a former British Army brigadier, Freemason and oath-breaker.

Boris Johnson and his advisers have now taken the baton for the killers of 1 Para with their proposal to halt all future prosecutions of soldiers who killed civilians in Northern Ireland.


[1] Hidden Truths (1998), pp. 98.

[2] Statement of Anthony Verrier to the Saville Inquiry. Saville Exhibit M102.

[3] Douglas Murray, ‘Bloody Sunday’ (2011), p .65

David Burke is the author of ‘Kitson’s Irish War’ which will be published by Mercier Press next October.

https://www.mercierpress.ie/irish-books/kitson-s-irish-war/

OTHER STORIES ABOUT BLOODY SUNDAY, THE BALLYMURPHY MASSACRE, BRIGADIER FRANK KITSON AND COLONEL DEREK WILFORD ON THIS WEBSITE:

Kitson’s Private Army: the thugs, killers and racists who terrorised Belfast and Derry. Soldier F was one of their number.

Soldier F and Brigadier Kitson’s elite ‘EFGH’ death squad: a murderous dirty-tricks pattern is emerging which links Ballymurphy with Bloody Sunday. A second soldier involved in both events was ‘mentioned in despatches’ at the behest of Kitson for his alleged bravery in the face of the enemy.

Mentioned in Despatches. Brigadier Kitson and Soldier F were honoured in the London Gazette for their gallantry in the face of the enemy during the internment swoops of August 1971.

Soldier F, the heartless Bloody Sunday killer, is named.

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Mission accomplished. The unscrupulous judge who covered-up the Bloody Sunday murders. Soldier F and other paratroopers have been protected by the British State for five decades. None of them now face prosecution. This perversion of justice began with the connivance of the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, John Widgery, a former British Army brigadier, Freemason and oath-breaker.

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Col. Derek Wilford who commanded 1 Para on Bloody Sunday.

Counterinsurgency war criminals, liars and cowards: Kitson and Wilford, the brigadier and colonel who led the soldiers who perpetrated the Ballymurphy Massacre.

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Frank Kitson, the officer in overall command of 1 Para.

Brigadier Kitson’s motive for murdering unarmed civilians in Ballymurphy.

The McGurk’s Bar cover-up. Heath’s Faustian pact. How a British prime minister covered up a UVF massacre in the hope of acquiring Unionist votes to enable the UK join the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the EU.