04/11/2003

McGuinness tells Saville Inquiry of IRA past

Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness has informed the Saville Inquiry that at the time of Bloody Sunday he was the adjutant and within two weeks of the incident he was the head of the Provisional IRA in Derry.

Earlier Mr McGuinness was warned by Lord Saville that he faced accusations that he had something to hide when he refused to answer specific questions. The Inquiry was adjourned briefly to allow Mr McGuinness time to consult with his legal team and later Lord Saville reminded Mr McGuinness that he had immunity from prosecution.

Mr McGuinness had been asked about his membership of the Official IRA, when he became Commanding Officer of the Provisional IRA in Derry, and whether Sean Keenan had been explosives officer.

Lord Saville of Newdigate chairing the session said that he could not understand why Mr McGuinness would not answer the questions when he had stated that he wanted to get to the full truth.

He said the if Mr McGuinness failed to answer these questions then he would deprive the Inquiry of opportunity to discover the "full facts and matter relating to Bloody Sunday" and it would be suggested that he had something to hide.

Refuting testimony from an earlier witness, Paddy Ward, who had claimed that Mr McGuinness was the leader of the IRA in Derry on Bloody Sunday and had been responsible for organising violence on the day, Mr McGuinness described Mr Ward as a "fantasist" and an informer who had been used by the British military establishment.

The Saville Inquiry, established in 1998 by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is expected to conclude its evidence taking phase by Christmas this year.

On Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972, during a civil rights march in Derry 13 people were shot dead and another person fatally injured.

(SP)

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