Bloody Sunday: ‘All of Derry knows Saville was wrong on Donaghey’

Gerry Donaghey (17) who was killed by the British Army on Bloody Sunday.
Gerry Donaghey (17) who was killed by the British Army on Bloody Sunday.

In this article, CONAL McFEELY, a friend of Bloody Sunday victim GERALD DONAGHEY, argues that Lord Saville’s conclusion that the teenager was “probably” carrying nail bombs when he was shot makes no sense whatsoever.

It was unfortunate that Lord Saville used the fifth anniversary of the publication of his findings into Bloody Sunday to revisit what I, and many others, regard as the single greatest failure in the Bloody Sunday Report – the panel’s assertion that Gerald Donaghey was ‘probably’ armed with nail bombs when he was shot.

I was with Gerry at the start of the march on Bloody Sunday, along with my brother, and I am certain that Gerry had no nail bombs with him then. Those who helped him immediately after he was shot said that he had none on him then either.

After our fatally-wounded friend was taken to Raymond Rogan’s home for treatment, a doctor, a newspaper reporter and six other civilian witnesses testified that Gerry had no devices on him there either.

Indeed, one military witness, ‘Corporal 150’, who drove the car – with Gerry’s body in it – from a checkpoint at Barrack Street to ‘the Bridge Camp’, did not see any nail bombs. ‘Corporal’ 150 told the Inquiry that if there had been a nail bomb or bombs in Gerry’s pockets he was sure he would have seen them.

So, how come Gerry Donaghey was photographed on Bloody Sunday with four nail bombs protruding from the pockets of his clothes?

In dismissing the likelihood of nail bombs having been planted on Gerry by the British Army, the Inquiry concluded that any soldier or soldiers planting the nail bombs would have to have been content to see a colleague then drive the car with these devices on board.

But why would Raymond Rogan have driven a man with nail bombs in his pockets to hospital, through permanent military checkpoints, and why would Leo Young have sat in the back seat of the car beside a dying man harbouring visible – and dangerous – explosive devices?

The Inquiry rejected a submission on behalf of a number of serving and former police officers that the planting of nail bombs by soldiers at Barrack Street was “a credible possibility that cannot be dismissed”.

The Inquiry found that Gerald – like the rest of the Bloody Sunday dead and injured – was not posing a threat or doing anything that would justify his shooting. The Inquiry also concluded that there was no evidence that Gerald was engaged in “offensive paramilitary activity” on Bloody Sunday. He was innocent and was rightly proclaimed as such by the Inquiry.

But the Inquiry’s failure to dismiss what this entire city knows was a hasty ‘fit-up’ by the British Army leaves an undeserved and unacceptable smear on Gerry’s memory and reputation.

Ultimately, however, the Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry is, itself, tarnished in the eyes of this city by its failure to address this cover-up properly.

Lord Saville’s argument, or re-justification, last week that his finding in relation to Gerry was based on a “balance of probabilities” was demonstrably wrong. The only visible evidence of nail bombs is in staged British Army photographs taken after the fatally injured Gerry had been violated on his way to hospital.

It is not just a probability, it is a certainty that, if Gerry had had anything dangerous or compromising on him – such as a nail bomb – it would have been removed before he was put in the car. To have done otherwise would have placed other people’s lives in danger. But Gerry had no devices on him. There were no nail bombs thrown during the Bloody Sunday march, nor were any recovered afterwards – except for those photographed on Gerry’s body.

The significance of the Bloody Sunday Report for this city was huge, as was David Cameron’s apology for the events of January 30, 1972.

June 15, 2010, was a momentous and landmark day for this city. But, as long as Gerry’s name remains sullied, there will never be full acceptance of the report in this city.

The suffering inflicted on the Donaghey family by the Bloody Sunday Report has not gone away. Their dignity when the report was published five years ago was immense; the same was true last week. They have never allowed their own hurt to overshadow any relief that the Inquiry’s findings may have brought to others.

So, for the Donaghey family’s sake, and for the city’s, it is time to look afresh at the case of Gerald Donaghey and to relieve his family of their ongoing heartache.

It is important to remember that the State had a role in what happened on Bloody Sunday. It was State soldiers who came onto our streets and shot our fellow citizens. It was the State apologists who besmirched the reputations of the dead and wounded. It was a State inquiry which – in 1972 – upheld the killers’ version of events. And it was another State-ordered inquiry which five years ago left a shadow hanging over Gerry Donaghey.

Why should we – the people of this city – let the State ‘get away with it’ again?

I do not expect the State to revisit Bloody Sunday for a third time. I note that – despite the evidence unearthed in the second inquiry – not a single State actor has, to date, been charged with any offence. But should we have to rely on the State to right the wrongs done to Gerry Donaghey?

I believe we should not. I believe that we, as citizens, should do what we can to correct the injustice that was done to one of our own. As a gesture towards the Donaghey family – and to ensure a sense of truth and justice for my friend – the new Derry City and Strabane District Council should affirm his complete innocence and formally reject the Bloody Sunday Report’s conclusions in relation to Gerry Donaghey.

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