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Report of the The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
- Volume I - Chapter 5

The overall assessment

Chapter 5: The overall assessment

5.1 The early firing in William Street resulted in two wounded casualties, neither of whom was doing anything that justified either of them being shot. It is possible that the soldiers concerned mistakenly believed that they had identified someone posing a threat of causing death or serious injury. Equally, each of those soldiers may have fired, not believing that his target was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, but only suspecting that this might have been the case.

5.2 The soldiers of Support Company who went into the Bogside did so as the result of an order by Colonel Wilford, which should not have been given and which was contrary to the orders that he had received from Brigadier MacLellan.

5.3 With the exception of Private T and with the probable exception of shots Sergeant O said that he fired at someone on a balcony of Block 3 of the Rossville Flats and which, (despite his assertion to the contrary) did not hit anyone, none of the firing by the soldiers of Support Company was aimed at people posing a threat of causing death or serious injury.

5.4 We have concluded that the explanation for such firing by Support Company soldiers after they had gone into the Bogside was in most cases probably the mistaken belief among them that republican paramilitaries were responding in force to their arrival in the Bogside. This belief was initiated by the first shots fired by Lieutenant N and reinforced by the further shots that followed soon after. In this belief soldiers reacted by losing their self-control and firing themselves, forgetting or ignoring their instructions and training and failing to satisfy themselves that they had identified targets posing a threat of causing death or serious injury. In the case of those soldiers who fired in either the knowledge or belief that no-one in the areas into which they fired was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, or not caring whether or not anyone there was posing such a threat, it is at least possible that they did so in the indefensible belief that all the civilians they fired at were probably either members of the Provisional or Official IRA or were supporters of one or other of these paramilitary organisations; and so deserved to be shot notwithstanding that they were not armed or posing any threat of causing death or serious injury. Our overall conclusion is that there was a serious and widespread loss of fire discipline among the soldiers of Support Company.

5.5 The firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury. What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland.