A former Sunday Times chief reporter said today he had spoken to a paratrooper who admitted the regiment had killed innocent civilians on Bloody Sunday.
Tony Geraghty, who was not in Derry when 14 people were shot dead on January 30, 1972, subsequently conducted a series of interviews with members of the Parachute Regiment for his book, entitled The Irish War.
Among the interviews was a conversation he had at a skydiving club with a senior NCO from First Para.
‘‘I put it to him that the people who had been killed were not apparently armed and that there was a view that this had been very damaging to the image of the Parachute Regiment,’’ he told the Saville Tribunal.
Mr Geraghty, who was a member of the Parachute Regiment in the 1950s, said the soldier had claimed a similar number of IRA terrorists had been killed or wounded and had been smuggled across the border.
‘‘His response was ‘well yes, we did kill innocent people that day. That is regrettable but we did kill other people who we think were combatants’,’’ he added.
The soldier, who was part of the first wave of paratroopers who entered the Bogside on Bloody Sunday, also told him that some members of his group were part-time members of the Territorial Army.
He was challenged by Edwin Glasgow QC, representing some of the soldiers, who said that there were no TA members in the Bogside on that day.
‘‘Did you not think to yourself, from your own experience, what on earth is this man talking about as a paratrooper soldier, suggesting that part-time territorials went into this sort of operation?
‘‘Did you think he was maybe not quite accurate?’’ he asked.
Mr Geraghty said that he had been surprised by the comments but added that Special Forces often operated in Northern Ireland wearing the badges of other regiments.
In his book, Mr Geraghty reported claims from his contacts that the first shot fired on Bloody Sunday were discharged from the walls overlooking the Bogside.
‘‘This raised the possibility that the shooting that day was triggered by what was termed a ‘blue on blue’ gunshot, that is, a shot from the soldiers on the walls,’’ he said.
Mr Geraghty said he had invited his sources to make contact with the tribunal and believed that one was ready and willing to give evidence.
But he added that he would not breach confidentiality by revealing their names.
Tribunal chairman Lord Saville said he would not be raising the question of sources today but Mr Geraghty could be recalled a later date to deal with the issue.