By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness is furious over British military intelligence claims that he fired the first shot on Bloody Sunday, which then sparked the Parachute Regiment into shooting dead 14 civil rights marchers in Derry in January 1972.
McGuinness, a former IRA man, has long been to the forefront of demands for an independent inquiry into the events of that day. He called last week’s claim a "pathetic fabrication" and said if it is the best excuse the British Army can manage, it is "in for a miserable two years" at the Tribunal, which is now under way in Derry’s Guildhall.
A British military intelligence report last Thursday quoted an unnamed informer, code-named "Infliction," saying that McGuinness had admitted to him that he had opened fire on Bloody Sunday.
Nationalists in Derry have treated the report with scorn and McGuinness has himself received dozens of messages of support.
"No one in Derry believes this for one moment, not even the unionists in private, although some are still prepared to make political capital out of it in public" a republican source said.
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It is believed McGuinness is concerned about the lack of "equivalence" between his evidence and that of the claim against him.
McGuinness would be named and would testify publicly. British soldiers and military intelligence personnel, on the other hand, have been given anonymity. Thus the name of the informer who made the allegations against McGuinness, if he even exists, will never be known.
McGuinness, sources say, is angry that this "distraction," based on claims made 16 years after the shootings and that have never surfaced before, has been brought before the Tribunal.
"He is angry about the way this has emerged so suddenly and concerned that it may be part of a British strategy to shift the blame onto republicans for the actions of their own soldiers in killing 14 people that day," a Sinn Fein colleague said.
In April 1972, less than eight weeks after the massacre, McGuinness said in an interview: "The worst I ever felt was Bloody Sunday. I wandered about stunned, with people crying and looking for their relatives, and I thought of all that guff about honor between soldiers.
"The British army knew right well we wouldn’t fight them with all those thousands of people there, so they came in and murdered the innocent."
Another British security report admits there is no information to back up the informer’s claim other than intelligence that McGuinness was involved in IRA activity in the vicinity.