Manus Deery Inquest: Day 7

Eamon Sweeney in Derry Courthouse for the seventh day of the inquest into the British Army slaying of Manus Deery in 1972, reports that:

Final Evidence Heard At Manus Deery Inquest

The final batch of evidence at the inquest into the killing of Manus Deery in May, 1972 by the British Army has now been heard at Derry courthouse.

Giving evidence was journalist Kevin Meyers who in his capacity as an RTE news reporter was inside the Bogside Inn public house at the time when Manus Deery was fatally wounded by a round fired from the city's walls by Private William Glasgow.

Mr Meyers told the court that he had been in Derry for 'several days' when the shooting incident took place. 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 a matter that it was "fortuitous" that he was there when the meeting took place.

Under questioning by senior counsel for the Coroners Service, Mr Gerry McAlinden, the witness explained what he did upon 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, with 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. 

Mr Meyers said he walked to the bar on foot from the City Hotel. Asked by Mr McAlinden if he recalled any IRA checkpoints en route to the Bogside Inn he said:

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

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

Mr Meyers said that he had gone to the toilets in the bar and 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.

Mr Meyers could not recall whether he exited the Bogside Inn through the main door or a back door, but when he had left the pub it was then he said that he heard a shot ring out.

"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 said.

Asked about the light conditions when he left the pub, Mr Meyers said:

This is something to which I have given a great deal of thought to in 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 again he was a matter of feet away from where Manus Deery was lying after being shot.

Mr Meyers said:

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."

Also 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 Kevin Meyers 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 that he would have contacted both the British Army and RUC press offices for their side of the story.

When shown the recording of his 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 asked Mr Meyers if that provoked any particular memory of the incident.

In response, Kevin Meyers said:

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.

The witness was also 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 said.

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.

When asked if he did any follow-up news reports on the death of Manus Deery, Kevin Meyers 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 Meyers 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.

Kevin Meyers replied:

It's difficult as a journalist to explain this. You would have often called the police or Army about 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 in 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 killing, Mr Wolfe put it to Kevin Meyers that there could not have been much light at 10.25pm in the evening.

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

Kevin Meyers also told the court:

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. It 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 inside the pub-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. The one lacking in my brain at that point was clarity of thought.

Martin Wolfe then said:"You said in your news report that there wasn't a gunman in the area, but would be more accurate to say that you didn't see a gunman in the area?"

Mr Meyers 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 Manus Deery was 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 where he was fatally wounded.

Mr Meyers told the court: "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 in speaking to Kevin Meyers said: It is clear that your memory of the fine details of the incident is sketchy, which is understandable after all this time, but you have a clear memory of coming across Manus Deery?"

Mr Meyers 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, Kevin Myers replied:

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 giving portion of the inquest 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 "constancy" in attending the inquest in very difficult circumstances.

He also offered his sympathies to the family on the death of Manus 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.

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

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