There was no master plan to kill innocent civilians on Bloody Sunday, the inquiry into the shootings was told today.
Anthony Stephens, who was head of the Defence Secretariat at the Ministry of Defence, said that Whitehall had not expected there to be any bloodshed on the civil rights march in Derry on January 30 1972.
British paratroopers killed 13 unarmed men that day.
Mr Stephens, who worked closely with Army officers and drafted reports to ministers on Northern Ireland, taking in information from high level sources, told the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, sitting in central London: “It was obviously possible that there might be some form of bloodshed at some stage of the march on January 30, and the expected size of the event naturally gave rise to rather more apprehension than usual.
“But I do not think it is true to say that anyone, in London at any rate, anticipated that bloodshed would occur.”
Tactics for what was going to happen on Bloody Sunday were decided by the Joint Security Committee, the Northern Ireland government’s committee responsible for security matters, he said.
General Sir Harry Tuzo, the General Officer Commanding, the Province’s premier, Brian Faulkner, and several Northern Ireland Ministers were members of the committee.
Mr Stephens denied suggestions that the JSC believed that a “shooting war” was anticipated.
He was not aware of a memo from General Sir Robert Ford, the Commander of Land Forces, that the best way to restore law and order was to shoot selected ringleaders of Londonderry’s stone-throwing hooligans.
Mr Stephens said the Stormont government wanted to see stricter enforcement of law and order but did not recall this being related “particularly” to Derry.
He also said he was not aware that 1 Para was selected for the arrest operation.