A Sinn Féin councillor, who was leader of the Fianna, the junior wing of the IRA in Derry, tonight denied its members were involved in attacks on the British army on Bloody Sunday.
Gerry O’hEara, a former northern chairperson of Sinn Féin, told the Saville Inquiry he was certain his friend and fellow Fianna member, Gerard Donaghy, was not carrying nail bombs when he was shot dead that day.
Mr O’hEara, 50, a member of Derry City Council, said he was prompted to make a second statement to the tribunal in October this year after seeing press reports of the evidence of former IRA man Paddy Ward, who claimed to be leader of the Fianna.
He said: “I have read what Paddy Ward says about the Fianna. What he says is quite wrong, and is incredible. The Fianna was not involved in military operations.”
Mr Ward has told the inquiry he gave Gerard Donaghy two nail bombs for a planned attack in Guildhall Square on the day of the march.
Although Mr Donaghy’s body was later photographed by the Army with four nail bombs sticking out of his pockets, Mr O’hEara denied he had nail bombs in his possession.
“I was with him on and off during the day. We stood and watched the riot and I am 100% sure that he was not carrying nail bombs.”
The inquiry is examining the events of January 30, 1972 when 13 civilians were shot dead by British army soldiers during a civil rights march in the Bogside area of Derry.
Mr O’hEara told the inquiry Mr Ward was not the leader of the Fianna, and if anything, was a peripheral figure in the organisation.
“It may be that the information he has given to the inquiry relates to a different period after Bloody Sunday. At the time of Bloody Sunday the picture he paints is complete nonsense,” he added.
In his first statement to the inquiry in March 2000, Mr O’hEara said he took part in the march with other members of the Fianna, including Gerard Donaghy.
He said that during the march a soldier, shooting from the hip, fired at least six shots at him at the Rossville Flats.
From his position on a balcony of the flats, he saw one of the wounded, Mickey Bridge, being shot by a soldier, he added.
“I saw Mickey Bridge go down like a sack of spuds. I couldn’t believe it. As he approached the soldier his hands were clearly empty and he presented no threat to the soldier.”
Mr O’hEara said from his position he could see two soldiers lying stretched out in Glenfada Park North, firing south along Rossville Street.
“I couldn’t see what they were firing at. I saw them open fire on at least three or four occasions. They would fire a few shots, would then nudge each other to alert each other to movement and would then fire another burst. They were both laughing,” he added.