Facilitator of British Army ‘Bloody Sunday’ smears dies in England

Crowds gathered outside St Mary's Church, Creggan, February 1972 for Bloody Sunday funerals.
Crowds gathered outside St Mary's Church, Creggan, February 1972 for Bloody Sunday funerals.

The man who arranged a BBC interview, during which a British Army Colonel smeared the ‘Bloody Sunday’ dead, has died, aged 81, in England.

Hugh Peter Mooney, journalist turned spin doctor, passed away late last year and was buried in Cambridgeshire in January, it has emerged.

Mooney was among dozens of people who gave evidence to Lord Saville’s long-running inquiry into the slaughter of 13 innocent civil rights marchers in Derry on January 31, 1972.

According to his personal deposition to the ‘Bloody Sunday Inquiry,’ Mooney, had been manning Colonel Maurice Tugwell’s lnformation Policy Branch telephone on the day of the massacre. He helped the British military get their initial response onto the airwaves and into the newspapers.

Mooney claimed that by the time fuller details of what had happened had been gathered on the night of the shootings, it had been too late to get the army’s version of events into “the first editions of the London newspapers which would be read in Ireland.”

He stated: “The best the army could do was to put its side of events on the early morning radio bulletins. I decided to offer the local BBC corespondent, Chris Drake, an interview with Maurice Tugwell, who had spent the day in Londonderry with Major General Robert Ford, Commander of Land Forces.

“When Tugwell returned, I told him what I had done and he agreed it was in the army’s interest to do the interview. I remember him saying something like: ‘We had better see if Int. [intelligence] have traces on any of these people.’

“I then went home but came back to sit in on the interview with Drake.

“Tugwell then told me that four of the victims were ‘wanted’ or ‘on the wanted list.’ By that I took him to mean that Int. had some trace of involvement with the IRA. He said as much in the interview.

“Drake played the tape back to Tugwell and commented that he sounded a bit mild and conciliatory and suggested that Tugwell might do it again in a harder tone of voice.

“This Tugwell did. The broadcast was a last-minute, improvised, damage-limitation exercise. It became necessary because no provision had been made for a co-ordinated public relations response at Headquarters Northern Ireland (HQNI) simply because the ‘Bloody Sunday’ killings had not been foreseen.”

Mooney said he was unaware of the source of Tugwell’s false accusations and Tugwell, in his own evidence to the Saville Inquiry, said he believed the information was likely to have come from the British Army’s 8th Infantry Brigade or its intelligence branch.

Mooney acknowledged working as a propagandist in Ireland in the early 1970s but claimed that despite being a member of a “psyops working committee” at the time, he never knowlingly disseminated false information.

Saville, when he reported in June, 2010, found this to be the case insofar as the unsubstantiated ‘wanted’ smear was concerned.

“The inaccurate information published afterwards about the casualties was highly regrettable, and to our minds demonstrates a failure to take proper care in this regard.

“However, we have found no evidence that anyone involved in military information falsified any army or government document relating to Bloody Sunday, nor any evidence that anyone involved in military information disseminated to the public anything about Bloody Sunday, knowing or believing that information to be untrue,” he stated.

Mooney was born in England of Irish descent and studied for a time at Trinity College, Dublin.

He worked at the ‘Irish Times,’ Reuters and BBC External Services, before joining the Information Research Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which, had originally been set up to counter Soviet propaganda by “providing unattributable briefings to journalists and others”.

By the time Mooney joined in 1969 the unit’s brief had extended to countering all propaganda, including “republican propaganda” in the North.

Mooney maintained that he worked UK Government Representative (UKREP) office - a forerunner of the NIO - while in Ireland and was not seconded to the British Army.

His career is the subject of in-depth reports in both the summer 2018 edition of Robin Ramsay’s parapolitical magazine ‘Lobster’ and the current edition of the current affairs journal ‘Village.’