David Burke's book reveals how those detained by the army after Bloody Sunday were subjected to beatings from paratroopers
There were other victims of Bloody Sunday, people who were beaten up by the paratroopers.
While the shooting was taking place, the people who had been on the march fled in a variety of directions. One of them, James Doherty, ran towards the car park of the flat complex but fell. As he tried to get back to his feet, a paratrooper struck him on the back of his head with the baton, while another kicked him in the back, arms and head.
He lost consciousness for a short while from the blows. When he regained consciousness, he realised he was being:
“...dragged by the hair, and by the coat by these two soldiers. Each time I tried to get to my feet, I was kicked as they shouted, ‘Come on, you pig, it is the paratroopers you are dealing with now.’ I was dragged into a Saracen – there were five soldiers there as well as the two who brought me in. They kept shouting, ‘Just you wait, you pig, we’re going to kick you to death.’ They kept striking me with batons and mouthing obscene remarks. Another man, about my age, was dragged in with his face covered with blood. A soldier kept hitting him across the face, butting him with his helmet – and bruising and cutting his mouth and nose. I saw through the open door a line of teenagers and men – all prisoners of soldiers – go past, with their hands on their heads.”
Fr Terence O’Keeffe, a local parish priest, was one of those swept up by the Paras in the chaos. Like the other prisoners, he was put onto a lorry and taken to Fort George, a fourteen-acre military base on the banks of the River Foyle, where he was forced to stand in various stress positions. Some of the prisoners were made to hold barbed wire. The room was cold with a floor of exposed concrete. Their ordeal lasted for three hours. The stress positions they were forced to adopt were rotated with one short five-minute break for a cup of tea.
Fr O’Keeffe was made to stand for an excessive amount of time with his arms above his head, which he found extremely difficult because his left arm had been battered so badly – he had sustained radial nerve damage.
At approximately 8 o’clock, a British officer arrived and issued orders that the prisoners were to be seated on chairs and electric heaters were to be provided. This was only a temporary respite. 1 Para had returned to its temporary base at Drumahoe after the shootings.
Soldiers E, F, G, J, O, and U were brought to Fort George at about 9.30 to identify alleged rioters so the RUC could charge them.
Soldier F seized the opportunity to assault the prisoners.
According to O’Keeffe:
“About 12 to 15 Paras came into the room and chose three or four apiece. I was not chosen at this time. Along with six others I remained on the chairs. During approximately 1 to 1 and a half hours, I witnessed many acts of brutality committed on the prisoners.
“The Paras kicked shins, stamped on feet, kneed groins, and struck the prisoners with fists. In one incident one youth of about 15 was severely struck twice by a paratrooper. I could not see whether it was with his fist or his knee but the youth was struck both times in the groin. He fell backwards and struck his head on the concrete. He was kicked on the ground and then hauled to his feet. He was unable to stand and had to be propped against the wall.
“Two youths were forced to put their heads back in an unnaturally strange position to bring their faces close to the electric heater which were overhead heaters on stands. The smaller youth was forced to stand on the larger youth’s feet to bring his face closer. They had to keep this position for 20 minutes to half an hour. During this time one paratrooper asked the young fellow whether he wanted a drink. When he said yes, he was ordered to open his mouth and a paratrooper spat into it.
“Eventually another paratrooper arrived to identify the seven or so of us who were still sitting on chairs. We were then brought up to the wall also and Lance Corporal F [Soldier F] kneed me several times in the groin when accusing me of throwing stones.
“We were photographed and Lance Corporal F made a statement accusing me of throwing stones. I was then brought into another room where the RUC were interviewing the prisoners.”
Fr O’Keeffe was not released until 11.40 p.m.
Once the bullets stopped flying, the lying began with (Col) Wilford in the vanguard of a ham-fisted attempt to twist the truth.
In a extract from David Burke's book, "Kitson's Irish War", a former paratrooper who was to testify at the Saville Inquiry was paid an unwelcome visit...
Review: Kitson's Irish War: Mastermind Of The Dirty War In Ireland – David Burke (Mercier Press, 2021)
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