Journalist gives final evidence to Manus Deery inquest

The final evidence at the fresh inquest into the killing of Derry teenager, Manus Deery, by the British Army in May 1972, has been heard at a Coroner's Court sitting in Derry.

Wednesday, 26th October 2016, 5:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th October 2016, 5:23 pm
Manus Deery.

Giving evidence on Wednesday was journalist, Kevin Myers, who was inside the Bogside Inn pub when Manus Deery was fatally wounded by a bullet fired from the city’s walls by the late Private William Glasgow.

Mr. Myers, a reporter with RTE News in 1972, told the court that he had been in Derry for ‘several days’ before the shooting. He told the court that, on the night in question, a meeting of the Official IRA was taking place in the pub. He said he had not been invited to the meeting and it was “fortuitous” that he was there when it was taking place.

Questioned by senior counsel for the Coroner’s Service, Mr. Gerry McAlinden, the witness explained what he did on his arrival in Derry.

“My procedure on arriving in Derry was to make contact with various people. I contacted Gerry Glover in the unionist community, plus John Hume and members of both the Provisional and Official IRA. I can’t remember who the contact was within the Official IRA, but there was an arrangement made to have a drink in the Bogside Inn,” he said.

Mr Myers said he walked to the bar from the City Hotel. Asked by Mr. McAlinden if he recalled seeing any IRA checkpoints en route to the Bogside Inn, he answered: “I have no recollection of armed checkpoints, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t there. You didn’t see people sauntering about Belfast with guns the way you saw them in Derry and the way you saw men moving into sniping positions.”

Asked if there had been any weapons on display at the Official IRA meeting in the Bogside Inn, the witness said there were no weapons present.

He recalled that he had been “on call” until after the RTE news broadcast at 9pm and that it was after this point that he went to the Bogside Inn.

Mr. Myers said that he had gone to the toilets in the bar where he was hassled by a drunk man who pestered him about not being supportive of republicanism.

“You don’t argue with a drunk, so I just made my way outside,” he said.

The witness could not recall whether he exited the pub through the main door or a back door but recalled hearing a shot ring out as he left the premises.

“It was not like a shot that I had heard before. The detonation of the shot was huge. I thought it was a bomb and I hit the ground,” he recalled.

Asked about the light conditions when he left the pub, Mr. Myers said: “This is something to which I have given a great deal of thought to over the last few days. This is why it surprises me that you have told me that it was so late because the light coming through that area was quite luminous. Derry has its own particular light. Derry people take it for granted but the memory I have is of a strong light coming from the west and shining through that area.”

The witness said he was coming out the door of the pub when the shot rang out and when he got up from the ground he was a matter of feet away from where Manus Deery was lying.

“Manus was lying on the ground to my left. This all happened in a fraction of a second. I don’t want to be melodramatic but I thought it was a loyalist attack of some kind. I immediately went back into the pub. The people inside the pub thought they were under attack from some other quarter. I then went back out to the location of the shooting and saw a young man being given the kiss of life.”

Asked by Mr McAlinden if he saw anyone in the vicinity carrying a weapon or a stick, the witness replied, “no.”

When asked if there were people in the area, he said: “The area was not devoid of people. I had a sense of people being around.”

Mr McAlinden then referred the witness to a recording of the news report he made about the shooting the following day - May 20, 1972 - and asked if he was directed to file the report by his bosses at RTE or whether it was a report he would have made in any case.

“It was something I would have been asked to do, but that I would have done anyway,” he replied.

He also said that, as a matter of course, he would have contacted both the British Army and RUC Press Offices for their side of the story.

After viewing the recording of Mr. Myer’s news report, Mr. McAlinden said that the camera crew seemed to be located at the back and to the right hand side of the archway where Manus Deery was struck by the bullet and he asked the witness if that provoked any particular memory of the incident.

Kevin Myers answered: ”Not in any way that satisfies me. I remember the ricochet being lower down the wall. At that time I wouldn’t have known the geography of the city. I wouldn’t have known where the shot came from. It was next day that people were telling me about it.”

The witness was asked if he was ever approached by the RUC or British Army to give a statement on his personal knowledge of the shooting.

“No,” he replied.

“The situation was one of extreme chaos and violence. I never pressed the matter. It was not part of my remit. You get a sense, but only a sense, if you read the book, ‘Lost Lives’, of what it was like. But it never entered my head to approach the security forces. The violence at the time was extraordinary.”

Asked if he did any follow-up news reports on the death of Manus Deery, Mr Myers told the court that he did not because RTE policy was that each victim was accorded one report and, then, they would “vanish” from the news agenda.

Mr. Martin Wolfe, senior counsel for the Ministry of Defence and PSNI at the inquest, referred Mr Myers to his 2008 book, ‘Watching the Door’, which charts his time in the north as a journalist during the ‘Troubles’ in the 1970s.

“Your book graphically illustrates the chaos of the time. Derry had been relatively quiet at that point. Is this the reason RTE sent you to Derry - because Belfast was on fire?” asked Mr Wolfe.

The witness replied: “It’s difficult as a journalist to explain this. You would have often called the police or army in relation to a shooting and they hadn’t heard yet that it had happened. RTE wasn’t aware of the amount of sniping going on in Derry at the time. It was a complete ‘no go’ area. I recall one patrol attempting to get in and they were very badly mauled. The amount of shooting in Derry that went unreported was considerable. After the murder of Ranger Best, the Official IRA came under pressure from the community but they were able to open arms dumps and put weapons into the boots of cars for removal without being seen by the security forces.”

Returning to the issue of light conditions in the area at the time of the shooting, Mr Wolfe put it to Kevin Myers that there could not have been much light at 10.25 p.m. in the evening.

In response, the witness said: “I was surprised to learn it was that time, but I have a memory of light.”

Mr. Myers added: “I was standing beside a young man giving the kiss of life to Manus. He had a terrible head injury, which he could not have survived. I was as close to him as I am to you right now. In the confusion, I sought refuge in the pub. There was chaos in the pub, too. If an attack is taking place you take cover where cover is offered. At that moment in time that was inside the pub. There was screaming - people inside thought an attack was underway. It was a very rapid concentration of events. If you told me it was around 30 seconds, it wouldn’t surprise me, but it was certainly under a minute. I thought I should go outside again.”

Mr. Wolfe then remarked: “You said in your news report that there wasn’t a gunman in the area, but would it be more accurate to say that you didn’t see a gunman in the area?”

Mr. Myers responded by saying that he, perhaps, hadn’t shown the “reserved response” that he should have done in the report but added: “I am here to tell the truth as best I can.”

It has been widely reported that the victim had been eating chips when he was killed and, therefore, had nothing else in his hands that could have been perceived as a weapon at the point when he was fatally wounded.

Mr Myers replied: “There were chips on the floor - on the ground. I assumed that somebody said that he had bought chips.”

Senior Counsel for the Deery family, Fiona Doherty questioning Kevin Myers, said: “It is clear that your memory of the fine details of the incident are sketchy, which is understandable after all this time, but you have a clear memory of coming across Manus Deery?”

The witness replied: “Yes.”

Finally, asked by Miss Doherty if the light he recalled in the area at the time was natural light or, perhaps, street lighting, Mr. Myers answered: “Again, this is an issue of memory. I have been interrogating myself about it over the last few days and the memory that I have is that it was the last of the sunlight, but there was light of some sort.”

In closing the evidence, Lord Justice Colton offered his condolences to the Deery family on the recent death of Manus Deery’s brother, Seamus, and paid tribute to the family for their attendance at the inquest in very difficult circumstances.

He also offered his sympathies to the family on the death of the victim, adding: “I know it will be cold comfort 44 years on.”

Lord Justice Colton also praised the media for their attendance, saying that they played “a vital role” in the proceedings and thanked all court staff for their helpfulness throughout the hearings.

Justice Colton also directed that the cut off point for final oral or written submissions to the inquest will be Monday, November 21, and that he would provide his judgement as soon as he possibly could.