Chief Constable pressed on McGuinness’ gun claim

Chief Constable George Hamilton
Chief Constable George Hamilton

The incoming chief constable is being pressed on whether Martin McGuinness will be probed for allegedly having a submachine gun on Bloody Sunday.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has placed the issue on George Hamilton’s desk on this, his first week leading the PSNI.

Mr Campbell made his request after Justice Minister David Ford told the MP that the cost of ongoing probes into the 13 shootings in 1972 is a PSNI matter.

So the DUP man has now requested the information directly from Mr Hamilton, also pressing him on whether it would need “a separate formal request from me for the ‘probability’ that Martin McGuinness had a submachine gun at the time (according to the Saville Report) to be pursued, or whether this will be investigated in the same way as the other inquiries relating to soldiers serving on that day”.

The PSNI said that once it has received the DUP MP’s correspondence “it will be given consideration and responded to in due course”.

Mr Campbell said yesterday: “I look forward to receiving answers to both these questions as they will provide valuable information as to how the follow-up to the Saville Inquiry is being pursued.

“A great deal of effort has been put into seeking witnesses to what happened on that day, with one possible outcome being a prosecution of some former soldiers.

“It will be a further litmus test as to how this society is dealing equitably with the past when we see former terrorists not being immune from similar questioning, as well as establishing exactly what the costs of such investigations are.

“The police have a duty to investigate all crimes. I await to see this being the case in the response from the new chief constable.”

But a Sinn Fein spokesman said the Saville Report was wrong on this matter.

“Martin McGuinness has consistently denied being in possession of any weapon on Bloody Sunday,” the spokesman said.

“What Gregory Campbell does is a matter for him.”

The Saville Inquiry found that British paratroopers killed 13 people in Londonderry more than 40 years ago after opening fire on innocent civil rights protestors in an unjustified attack.

In January it was revealed that police investigating the shootings are seeking statements from more than 1,000 witnesses.

“As part of this investigation, detectives are now seeking to make contact with and re-interview any former soldiers and civilians who gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry or who may have information about the events of January 30, 1972 in which 13 people died and a similar number were injured,” a PSNI spokesman added.

Two years ago police announced they were going to re-investigate the killings, after reviewing Lord Saville’s findings.

First Minister Peter Robinson has previously said that any police inquiry into Bloody Sunday shootings must probe the role of Martin McGuinness.

He was speaking in 2012, after police said they would launch a murder investigation into the deaths of the 13 people.

Mr Robinson said the deputy first minister had already admitted he was prominent in the IRA in 1972.

One of the inquiry’s findings was that Mr McGuinness was present at the time of the violence and “probably armed with a submachine gun” but did not engage in “any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire”.

Mr Robinson said: “How could you avoid an inquiry into that and say that we’re going to have an inquiry into the Army personnel that were there.

“The deputy first minister has openly admitted that he was in charge – if that was the case then there has to be an investigation if you’re investigating the Army.”

Mr McGuinness said in 2012 he would cooperate with the police but said he had no gun on the day.