Source claimed McGuinness fired shots, Saville hears

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness allegedly fired a shot inside a bookmaker’s shop in Derry on Bloody Sunday, the Saville Inquiry heard today.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness allegedly fired a shot inside a bookmaker’s shop in Derry on Bloody Sunday, the Saville Inquiry heard today.

Journalist Kathryn Johnston said a source claimed the McGuinness fired a round from a Thompson sub machine gun at a door, believing soldiers were trying to gain access.

Ms Johnston, who co-wrote the book Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government with her husband, Sunday Times journalist Liam Clarke, was giving evidence on the first day of the return of the Inquiry to the Guildhall in Derry.

The Inquiry is examining the events of January 30, 1972 when 13 civilians were shot dead by members of the Parachute Regiment during a civil rights march in Derry.

In the book, a source given the pseudonym Des Clinton claimed Mr McGuinness had been planning a bomb attack on the British army from a bookmaker’s shop on the corner of High Street and Chamberlain Street in the Bogside.

The source was quoted as saying he was with Mr McGuinness in the bookies before one of the 13 victims, Patrick Doherty, was shot.

But Mr McGuinness, who was second in command of the Provisional IRA on Bloody Sunday, has dismissed the claims in the book as “a load of rubbish”.

He is due to give evidence to the Inquiry next week.

Ms Johnston told the Inquiry: “We have been subsequently told that after McGuinness and the others entered the bookies the door was locked and, in the general panic that ensued, one person was trying to kick in the door of the bookies.

“We have also been told that Martin McGuinness believed that it was the soldiers who were attempting to enter the bookies and fired a shot from a Thompson into the door, which was a steel door.”

Questioned earlier by counsel to the Inquiry Christopher Clarke QC, Ms Johnston said she had been a member of the Workers’ Party, which was politically linked to the Official IRA.

“I certainly was a member of the Workers’ Party which I joined around 1976 to 1977 and left in the mid 80s and have had no connection with the Workers’ Party since that time.”

Barra McGrory, a solicitor representing Mr McGuinness, accused Ms Johnston of political bias against his client.

Mr McGrory said the Workers’ Party would have been seen as vehemently opposed to the policies of Sinn Féin, while the Official and Provisional IRA had been involved in a bloody feud in 1977.

He said Ms Johnston had supplied a number of accounts of what happened at the bookmaker’s shop.

“In the first edition of the book Mr McGuinness and his friends apparently break the door down. Then we learn you get a telephone call subsequent to the publication of the first edition that in fact he had a key so he did not really need to break it down.

“Now we learn from yet another new source that in fact it was a steel door and what I want to know is, did you ask this person what kind of a steel door?”

Ms Johnston replied: “I can only tell this Inquiry what we have been told and we can only report truthfully and honestly in the book what we have been told by people.”

But Mr McGrory accused her and her husband of deliberately omitting facts in the book in order to put Mr McGuinness in a bad light.

He pointed out that she and Mr Clarke had since supplied a tape from former schoolteacher Willy Breslin, who said Mr McGuinness was in the crowd near the platform when the shooting began on Bloody Sunday.

“That does not sit very well with Mr Clinton’s theory that when the shooting started he was in the bookies with them around the time Paddy Doherty was shot yet you make no reference to this passage from Willy Breslin in the book.

“What I have to suggest to you Ms Johnston is that you cherry-pick the bits of information and you have used the bits information which is critical and damning of Mr McGuinness.”

Ms Johnston denied the book was politically motivated: “We certainly made every effort to contact Mr McGuinness. We would have reported him fairly and in fact if we had the opportunity to put the allegations which were put to us and which we report in our book to him, we would in fairness have had to report his answers.

“We clearly did not intend to set out to write a biased book.”

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