Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 28 February 2015

How the killing of an innocent man William McGreanery may have paved the way for Bloody Sunday

Authorities ruled on-duty soldiers could not face prosecution for opening fire – four months later came the massacre in Londonderry

Bloody Sunday. January 1972
Bloody Sunday. January 1972
Alana Burke who was eighteen when she was run over by an armoured personnel carrier on Bloody Sunday.
William McKinney, killed on Bloody Sunday.
Paddy Doherty, who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
The start of a grim day in Derry. Civil Rights marchers make their way through Creggan. They defied a Government ban and headed for Guildhall Square, but were stopped by the Army in William Street. 31/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery in his room at the Old Bailey as he looks through his report on the "Bloody Sunday" shootings
Michael McDaid who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
An injured man receiving attention on Bloody Sunday.
Bloody sunday in Derry 1972 when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march through the city.
Bloody Sunday 1972
JAMES WRAY IN HIS HOME IN THE BOGSIDE DERRY HOLDING THE COAT WITH BULLIET HOLES IN THAT HIS SON ALSO CALLED JAMES WRAY WAS KILLED ON BLOODY SUNDAY
Bloody Sunday. A number of civilians arrested by the Army are marched in a line, with their hands on their heads, through the Bogside. 31/1/1972
Hugh Gilmore who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. Funeral. Mrs Ita McKinney, 9 months pregnant cries behind the hearse carrying her husband James from St Mary's, Creggan. 2/2/1972.
Bloody Sunday. 30.1.1972
Bloody Sunday. Funerals. 2.2.1972
Bloody Sunday in Derry 1972 when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march through the city.
General Sir Robert Ford, Britain's Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland, pictured on July 3, 1972
Bloody Sunday when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march. PACEMAKER PRESS
Bloody Sunday: Up to 20 soldiers still face being formally questioned by police for alleged murder, attempted murder or criminal injury during the notorious incident
30th January 1972: An armed soldier and a protestor on Bloody Sunday when British Paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians on a civil rights march.
A scene showing British paratroopers near Glenfada Park in Derry where Bloody Sunday took place.
A scene showing a British paratrooper near Glenfada Park in Derry where Bloody Sunday took place.
A man receiving attention during Bloody Sunday.
Soldiers taking cover behind their sandbagged armoured cars during Bloody Sunday
St Mary's Church, on the Creggan Estate, during the Requiem Mass for the 13 who died on 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry.
Jim Wray who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
William McKinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Kevin McElhinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Paul Doherty in front of an image of his dying father Patrick Doherty who was shot on Bloody Sunday.
Hugh Gilmore (third left) seen clutching his stomach as he is shot during Bloody Sunday.
Lt Col Derek Wilford, the former commander of the members of the Parachute Regiment involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings
Bloody sunday in Derry 1972 when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march
Bloody Sunday - when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights marc. PACEMAKER PRESS
PACEMAKER BELFAST - FLASHBACK - Bloody sunday in Derry 1972 when members of the parachute regiment opened fire on a banned Civil Rights march through the city.PICTURE CREDIT PACEMAKER PRESS
John Young who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Gerald Donaghey who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Gerard McKinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Patrick Doherty who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Michael Kelly who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
An injured man receives treatment on Bloody Sunday. Survivor and campaigner Johnny Duddy has died aged 87
Lord Saville
A Republican mural is seen on the side of a house in the Bogside are of Derry, the scene of the 'Bloody Sunday' shootings. 2005
Scenes from 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry, Northern Ireland
A youth is arrested at gunpoint by a Paratrooper in Derry on Bloody Sunday Picture by Fred Hoare
A man receiving attention during the shooting incident in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, which became known as Bloody Sunday, January 31, 1972.
Fr Daly waving a bloody handkerchief as he and several others carry the fatally wounded Jackie Duddy, 17, past British soldiers on January 30, 1972, known as Bloody Sunday. Picture by Stanley Matchett
The Bloody Sunday Anniversary. Among the marchers were Native Americans who attended the event because of their sympathy with Irish Nationalists. 30/1/85.
IRA gunmen in Derry during a Bloody Sunday commemoration. Pacemaker Press Intl. 29 Jan. 1978
IRA gunmen in Derry during a Bloody Sunday commemoration. Pacemaker Press Intl. 29 Jan. 1978
Bloody Sunday Commemoration. IRA Gunman displays M60 Machine Gun on streets of Derry. Pacemaker Press Intl.29 Jan. 1978.
Commemoration of Bloody Sunday march in Derry. Gerry Adams and Martin Maguiness are pictured. Pacemaker Press Intl. 30/1/83.
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Relatives of those shot dead on Bloody Sunday wave to crowds after reading a copy of the long-awaited Saville Inquiry report, outside the Guildhall
Relatives of those shot dead on Bloody Sunday wave to crowds after reading a copy of the long-awaited Saville Inquiry report, outside the Guildhall
Relatives of those shot dead on Bloody Sunday wave copies of the long awaited Saville Inquiry report in the air outside the Guildhall
Prime Minister David Cameron tells MPs in the House of Commons that the Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings found the actions of British soldiers was 'both unjustified and unjustifiable'
Crowds gather to hear the findings of the long-awaited Saville Inquiry report into Bloody Sunday, outside the Guildhall
People watch Prime Minister David Cameron on a giant screen making a statement to the House of Commons regarding the findings of the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, outside the Guildhall
Crowds gather to hear the findings of the long-awaited Saville Inquiry report into Bloody Sunday, outside the Guildhall
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
A relative of Bloody Sunday victim Jackie Duddy is comforted by Martin McGuinness as she marches from the Bogside area of Londonderry to the Guildhall to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010
Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings march from the Bogside to the Guildhall holding photographs of their relatives, to gain a preview of the Saville Report on June 15, 2010

William McGreaner was not a victim of Bloody Sunday, yet his death on 15 September 1971 could hold the key to the actions of British soldiers four months later.

For almost 40 years after Mr McGreanery was shot dead by a British soldier on the streets of Londonderry, his memory has been sullied by allegations that he was carrying a weapon, that he was attempting to fire on the security services and even that he was a member of a paramilitary group.

Mr McGreanery, who was 41 when he died, has finally been exonerated. A new report that shows that he was simply an innocent civilian who was cut down in what police at the time viewed as nothing less than cold-blooded murder. He was not a victim of Bloody Sunday, yet his death on 15 September 1971 could hold the key to the actions of British soldiers four months later.

An official report into the circumstances of his death, released this month and obtained by The Independent on Sunday, shows how the Government's response to the shooting helped to pave the way for the Bogside assault on 30 January 1972 – in effect, giving the green light to soldiers to act with impunity.

The report, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Historical Enquiries Team (HET), reveals how the chief of what was then the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in Londonderry recommended that the soldier who fired the fatal shot be prosecuted for murder. But this was overruled in December 1971 by the province's attorney-general, Basil Kelly, who rejected any prosecution on the basis that the soldier was "acting in the course of his duty".

Mr McGreanery was shot dead by a member of the Grenadier Guards during a period of heightened tensions in the city. For decades, his memory was tarnished by allegations that he was an armed terrorist attempting to fire on the security services.

Like the Bloody Sunday victims, he has finally been absolved of any blame. "He was not involved with any paramilitary organisation; he was not carrying a firearm of any description, and he posed no threat to the soldiers at the observation post," the report says.

The revelations confirm long-held suspicions that soldiers "would be protected as far as the prosecution authorities were concerned", according to Mark Durkan, SDLP MP for Foyle. He added that the case meant that the British Army was effectively "being told they would be immune from prosecution, and whatever they did they could do with impunity".

Paul O'Connell of the Pat Finucane Centre, a human rights organisation, said: "If the authorities had agreed to the RUC's position and started proceedings against a British soldier, then all local military commanders would have been told to act with greater control." Instead, six weeks after British soldiers had effectively been given the signal that they could expect immunity from prosecution, they shot 27 civilians on Bloody Sunday.

The jubilation at last week's publication of the Saville report, prompted by a heartfelt apology from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, for the "unjustified and unjustifiable" killing of 13 people on Bloody Sunday, marked the end of the road for those families who had waited half a lifetime for their loved ones to be exonerated. But the shockwaves set off by the detail in thousands of pages of the Saville report continue to radiate outwards, prompting calls for perjury prosecutions and for further inquiries into other cases where British soldiers killed civilians, such as the Ballymurphy massacre in Belfast in August 1971, when 11 civilians were shot.



Sir Alasdair Fraser, Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, will meet Northern Ireland's new Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, tomorrow to discuss how police investigations might help future prosecutions.



And while the victims of Bloody Sunday have been exonerated, the report has not made comfortable reading for republicans – with its revelation that former IRA chief Martin McGuinness, now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, was carrying a submachine gun that day. "We cannot eliminate the possibility that he fired this weapon after the soldiers had come into the Bogside," the report states.



It adds that the same gun may have been used to kill two policemen in Londonderry two days before Bloody Sunday.

In an attempt to prevent the report from opening up old wounds, Mr Cameron has made a full apology and Mr McGuinness has not led calls for prosecutions. But while Lord Saville's conclusions may have closed the chapter on Bloody Sunday, it is far from ending the story of the atrocities – on all sides – that dominated the Troubles.

A unique insight into the mindset of soldiers on the eve of Bloody Sunday is revealed in an unpublished extract of a book by an officer who served that day. The identity of the author has never been established, but his account was submitted from the Parachute Regiment to the MoD for clearance in the 1970s, only to emerge as new evidence at the Saville inquiry.

It recalls the frustration of dealing with protesters at a march at Dungannon the day before Bloody Sunday: "It was almost as though we were willing them to come out fighting, and bring the whole business down to a level which we could at last understand and appreciate – violence."



And the officer tells how morale was high on 30 January, "after briefing on the promised confrontation – which they were all looking forward to" and "the expectations of 'preparation for battle' kept out the chill of the bright winter morning we had woken up to... This time the 'enemy' had promised us the biggest and best civil rights march... And we would be ready for them – indeed, this was an opportunity we had been waiting for. We, at last, had plans of our own".



The author cites fears that the "plan" was "fraught with danger" of becoming a "GMFU" (grand military fuck-up), and recalls how one officer's wife, on being told of the plans, remarked: "I can just see the headlines – Londonderry's Sharpville."

Independent on Sunday

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