IRA warned to get out of Derry on eve of Operation Motorman, inquest told
A former civil rights leader told the IRA to get out of Londonderry the day before Operation Motorman “to avoid bloodshed”.
Ivan Cooper told the inquest into the fatal shooting of a boy shot dead by a soldier during the operation that he had been told about it in advance by a senior RUC officer.
Mr Cooper, who was the SDLP MP for Mid Derry at the time, was giving evidence at the inquest into the death of Daniel Hegarty, the 15-year-old boy shot dead by a Royal Scots Regiment soldier on July 31, 1972.
During the second day of the inquest, Mr Cooper told Senior Coroner John Leckey that the day before Operation Motorman he met with the commander of the RUC in Derry, Chief Superintendent Frank Lagan.
Mr Cooper said he had regular meetings with Mr Lagan whom he described as “an enlightened police officer”.
The police commander told him he had met earlier with Brigadier Patrick MacLellan, the senior Army officer in Derry, who told Mr Lagan that the Army would be going into the Bogside the following day.
Mr Cooper said following his meeting with Mr Lagan he went to the home of former SDLP leader and local MP John Hume in the Bogside.
He told Mr Hume about his conversation with Mr Lagan and then left.
As he drove through the Bogside he saw a Rover car which he knew to be “an IRA staff car”, the inquest heard.
“He flashed his car lights to signal to the driver of the Rover to stop. Mr Cooper said he had met the driver previously in attempts to get the IRA to stop its campaign of violence.
He said he told the driver that the British Army would be coming into the Bogside the next day and that the IRA should get out to avoid any bloodshed.
Mr Cooper said he never saw the man again, nor did any member of the IRA tell him what their plans were for Operation Motorman.
Mr Cooper said he “absolutely reckoned” that the IRA men would be shot by the Army if they remained in the so-called no-go areas.
He said it was “common knowledge” on the day of Operation Motorman that the IRA “had left the no-go areas en masse and gone to Donegal”.
The inquest continues.
Former MP Ivan Cooper rose to prominence as a civil rights leader in Londonderry. He led an anti-internment march on January 30, 1972, a date better known as Bloody Sunday, after paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians in the city. A Protestant, he was a founding member of the SDLP with John Hume and Gerry Fitt.