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Report of the The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
- Volume I

General Introduction

General Introduction

On 29th January 1998 the House of Commons resolved that it was expedient that a tribunal be established for inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely “the events on Sunday, 30 January 1972 which led to loss of life in connection with the procession in Londonderry on that day, taking account of any new information relevant to events on that day”. On 2nd February 1998 the House of Lords also passed this resolution. With the exception of the last 12 words, these terms of reference are virtually identical to those for a previous Inquiry held by Lord Widgery (then the Lord Chief Justice) in 1972. Both inquiries were conducted under the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921.

In his statement to the House of Commons on 29th January 1998 the Prime Minister (The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP) said that the timescale within which Lord Widgery produced his report meant that he was not able to consider all the evidence that might have been available. He added that since that report much new material had come to light about the events of the day. In those circumstances, he announced:

We believe that the weight of material now available is such that the events require re-examination. We believe that the only course that will lead to public confidence in the results of any further investigation is to set up a full-scale judicial inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

The Prime Minister made clear that the Inquiry should be allowed the time necessary to cover thoroughly and completely all the evidence now available. The collection, analysis, hearing and consideration of this evidence (which is voluminous) have necessarily required a substantial period of time.

The Tribunal originally consisted of The Rt Hon the Lord Saville of Newdigate, a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, The Hon William Hoyt OC, formerly the Chief Justice of New Brunswick, Canada, and The Rt Hon Sir Edward Somers, formerly a member of the New Zealand Court of Appeal. Before the Tribunal began hearing oral evidence, Sir Edward Somers retired through ill health. The Hon John Toohey AC, formerly a Justice of the High Court of Australia, took his place. Lord Saville acted throughout as the Chairman of the Inquiry.

The footnotes

The footnotes provide, among other matters, references to the evidence and submissions on which we have based our views and findings. In the electronic version of this report, references are hypertext-linked, so that by clicking on a reference the reader can refer directly to the evidence or submission under consideration. Where photographs are reproduced in the report, we have in most instances considered it unnecessary to give the reference. The referencing system is the same as that used during the course of the Inquiry to identify the particular matter in question from the materials that were collected, considered and published, so that the reader can follow the references contained in that material. The Tribunal is of the view that with few exceptions the evidence and submissions relating to Bloody Sunday that were made publicly available during the course of the Inquiry should continue to be available, so that the report can be read in conjunction with those materials, which to that end form part of this report. The electronic version of the report provides direct access to these materials, which are also available through the Inquiry website.1 Cross-references within the report to other parts of the report are also footnoted and hypertext-linked. Cross-references are to chapters or to paragraphs within chapters. Thus, for example, a cross-reference to paragraphs 75–100 in Chapter 9 appears as paragraphs 9.75–100.


The ranks and titles of witnesses

It should be noted that many of the soldiers who gave evidence to this Inquiry had achieved over the years higher rank than that which they had held in January 1972. A number of civilians (for example, Bishop Daly and Sir Edward Heath) were also known at the time of the Inquiry by different titles from those by which they had been known in 1972. During the course of the Inquiry, all witnesses were addressed by the titles that they held at the time at which they gave their evidence. However, in this report we refer to all such witnesses by the rank that they held or the title by which they were known in January 1972.

For the reasons that we give below, many witnesses were given ciphers in order to preserve their anonymity and that of their families. We have preserved that anonymity in this report.

Legal representatives

In the course of the Inquiry, the families of those who were killed, the surviving casualties, and the families of those injured on Bloody Sunday who have since died were represented by various different combinations of counsel and solicitors. Separate teams of counsel instructed by the Treasury Solicitor appeared on behalf of one large group and three smaller groups of former and serving officers and soldiers, while other military witnesses chose not to be represented. In order to avoid undue complication, we have often referred in this report to submissions made by “representatives of the families” or “representatives of soldiers”, without distinguishing between the different groups, although where necessary we have been more specific. Further details of the families, surviving casualties, military witnesses and other parties represented in the Inquiry, and of their counsel and solicitors, are given in Appendix 1.


With the exception of a number of senior officers who gave evidence under their own names, military witnesses who gave evidence to the Widgery Inquiry were granted anonymity in order to protect them and their families. They gave their evidence under ciphers, which were alphabetical for those who said that they had fired live rounds on Bloody Sunday (the “lettered soldiers”), and numerical for the others (the “numbered soldiers”). Some police witnesses were also granted anonymity for the purposes of the Widgery Inquiry.

At the outset of this Inquiry there was controversy over whether military witnesses, other than those whose identities were already in the public domain, should be granted anonymity. Rulings of the Tribunal that in general they should not, save where special reasons applied, were quashed on judicial review. The Court of Appeal in London held that the Tribunal was obliged to grant anonymity to those who had fired live rounds. The Tribunal considered that the Court’s reasoning applied also to other military witnesses, unless their identities were already clearly in the public domain, and ruled accordingly. Where appropriate, the ciphers used in the Widgery Inquiry were retained, with the addition of the soldier’s rank at the time of Bloody Sunday (for example, Corporal A or Sergeant 001). Military witnesses who had been given no cipher in 1972 were identified by a number preceded by their rank and the letters INQ (for example, Sergeant INQ 1). Military witnesses sometimes referred in their statements to another soldier by an incomplete name, a nickname, or a name that otherwise could not be matched to an individual identifiable from official records. In these cases the Inquiry replaced the name with a numerical cipher preceded by the letters UNK (for example, UNK 1).

Some of the military witnesses in 1972 were given more than one cipher. While this had the potential to cause confusion, this Inquiry had access to unredacted copies of the witness statements and was able to ensure that they were all attributed to the correct witness.

No police officers were granted anonymity in this Inquiry, although some were permitted to give their evidence screened from the view of all but the Tribunal and the lawyers participating in the hearings.

Successful applications for anonymity were also made on behalf of a number of other witnesses, including certain Security Service and Army intelligence officers, whose ciphers were alphabetical (for example, Officer A), and certain witnesses who had formerly been members of the Official or Provisional Irish Republican Army (OIRA or PIRA) or otherwise had connections with the republican movement, whose ciphers consisted of numbers preceded by the letters OIRA, PIRA or RM as appropriate (for example, OIRA 1, PIRA 1 or RM 1).

The Tribunal had access in all cases to the names of the witnesses who gave evidence to this Inquiry.