A man whose brother was shot dead on Bloody Sunday has said that he wanted to see the British Army officer who spearheaded the Parachute Regiment operation into the Bogside almost 44 years ago appear in a court dock.
Michael McKinney’s brother William McKinney, was 26-years-old when he was shot in the back as he attempted to flee through Glenfada Park courtyard on January 30, 1972. He was an employee of the ‘Derry Journal’ at the time he was killed.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ after news that Major General Robert Ford died on November 24, aged 91, Michael McKinney said that he would have preferred to “have seen him in a court dock to find out exactly what he did on the day.
“This is the whole point of trying to get soldiers into court, in order to have them questioned and see if they start pointing the fingers towards the military and political hierarchy who organised the entire thing,” he said.
General Ford was Commander of Land Forces Northern Ireland at the time of Bloody Sunday and during Operation Motorman almost exactly six months later. Overall, 16 people were shot dead by the British Army during both operations in Derry-14 on January 30, 1972 and two more on July 31, 1972 when a huge British military incursion aimed at breaking ‘No Go’ areas took place.
Ford gave evidence to the Bloody Sunday inquiry and the findings concluded that there was no evidence to suggest he had thought about using lethal force against unarmed rioters who were not posing a threat of causing death or serious injury.
However, in a confidential memo to his superior Lieutenant-General Harry Tuzo three weeks before Bloody Sunday, Ford stated he was coming to the conclusion that the minimum force required to restore law and order in Derry was to shoot selected ringleaders amongst the ‘Derry Young Hooligans.’ He also suggested that the standard ammunition in the British Army’s rifles was too powerful and that they should be converted to .22 bullets to allow soldiers to engage ringleaders. When cross-examined at the Inquiry, he said he’d envisaged the weapon being used to incapacitate and cause fewer casualties.
Yet, the Report failed to hold Ford to accountable as the commander who bore the overall responsibility that had ordered in the Parachute Regiment-an elite battle regiment unsuited to civilian policing operations.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ about this Michael McKinney said: “Ford came up with the idea of altering the ammunition for the Army’s SLR’s. But, regardless of all that, the Para’s are an elite fighting unit and not a regiment that should be in charge of a policing matter. So, what were they doing there at all?
“I remember very well thinking that day that ‘they are going to shoot us off the streets’ and that is exactly what they did.
“What else can be said about Robert Ford?
“You need to remember the Saville Inquiry and how the trail stopped at Colonel Wilford.”
The Saville Inquiry, determined that Wilford had expressly disobeyed an order from a superior officer, Brigadier Pat MacLellan, who prohibited Wilford from sending troops into the Bogside. The Saville Inquiry found that MacLellan was not to blame for the shootings.
Lord Saville said Colonel Wilford was wrong to send soldiers into an unfamiliar area where there was risk of attack from Irish republican paramilitaries, in circumstances where the soldiers’ response would risk civilians being killed or injured.
Michael McKinney continued: “The Widgery Tribunal never went any higher than Wilford either. General Ford and General Mike Jackson walked away. What can we take from that. That there was a cover-up. Saville said there was no cover-up, but there was. If you go higher up the chain than Wilford they you are looking at the political hierarchy including Ted Heath. Look at the conversation Heath had with Widgery prior to the original tribunal when he reminded him that ‘we are fighting a war and a propaganda war there too.’
“I cannot accept this because I have a responsibility to my brother.”
And, a woman whose brother was shot dead and whose father was wounded on Bloody Sunday has said that General Ford should have been charged with war crimes.
“General Ford died last Tuesday aged 91. He managed very well to escape justice in this world for the crime of Bloody Sunday.
“He should have been arrested and prosecuted long ago. However, history will now be his judge and that judgement could be a lot harsher. Imagine living your life to be remembered for ordering soldiers into a small area to massacre people who had nowhere to run to.
“General Ford should have been charged with war crimes at The Hague, but instead you have left your family with a legacy of disgrace,” Kate told the ‘Journal’.