Gerald Donaghey – Unfinished Business

Below is an excellent article by the Pat Finucane Centre and the continuing tragedy of Gerald Donaghey who was one of fourteen innocent victims killed on Bloody Sunday, 1972. The post also considers the malign testimony of Times journalist, John Chartres, who also had his bit part to play in the McGurk’s Bar disinformation. An independent witness Chartres was not.


In January 2012 the Bloody Sunday Trust and Pat Finucane Centre staged a ‘documentary theatre’  titled The Saville Report and Gerald Donaghey – Unfinished Business. Unsurprisingly, three years on, the planting of nail bombs on Gerald Donaghey remains unfinished business.

For readers not familiar it may be useful to remind ourselves of the circumstances.

Gerald Donaghey (17) who was murdered on Bloody Sunday.
Gerald Donaghey (17) who was murdered on Bloody Sunday. Reprinted from the Derry Journal.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry (BSI) concluded that the 17 year old  was shot by Private G in Abbey Pk and that the same bullet killed Gerard Mc Kinney. According to the BSI he was not handling a firearm and was not “engaged in offensive paramilitary activity” on the day and did not pose a threat to anyone when he was shot.

After Gerald was shot he was carried, seriously injured, into a nearby house where he was examined by a Dr Swords. He was en route to hospital in a car which was then stopped at a British Army checkpoint in Barrack St.  A Corporal  then drove the vehicle carrying the seriously injured youth  first to the Company HQ in Henrietta St and then to a temporary British Army post at the ‘Bridge Camp’ close to Craigavon Bridge. Until arrival at the Bridge Camp none of the witnesses, doctors, civilians or military, report the presence of any nail bombs on Gerald’s body.  Surprisingly the car containing the body was left unattended for some 10 minutes inside the base.

It is at this point that something extraordinary occurs. Allegedly, four bulky nail bombs are discovered in the pockets of Gerald’s jeans and wrangler jacket.  It isn’t the point of this article to rehearse all the contradictory accounts of what occurred that afternoon when this discovery was made. The booklet-Gerald Donaghey –the truth about the planting of nail bombs on bloody sunday- provides a forensic and damning counterpoint to the findings of the BSI on this issue. (now available on Amazon as an e Book)

According to the BSI, “…we have concluded that ….in our view [ he ] was probably in possession of nail bombs when he was shot. “

As the PSNI begin, yet again, to investigate Bloody Sunday it is legitimate to ask whether the planting of evidence on Gerald will also be the subject of investigation.  Will those soldiers and members of the RUC on duty at Barrack St and later at the Bridge Camp be interviewed under caution? Some are no longer available for interview having passed away.

One of those no longer available played a crucial role in the ‘discovery’ of the nail bombs. Times journalist John Chartres provided a statement to the Widgery Tribunal. He had met Lt Col Wilford and Captain (later General) Michael Jackson in Gt James St and they invited him to join second in command, Major Nicholls at an observation post on ‘the top floor of the building’ where he was allowed to listen in on the army radio traffic. He admits familiarity with ‘British army radio procedures’ which most likely had to do with the salient fact that he was also an officer in the Territorial Army, a detail not revealed in his statement.  Despite being in such a key location Chartres appears to have seen and heard very little of what subsequently occurred according to his February ’72 statement. By his own accord he left the scene soon after and made his way, via the City Hotel, to the Bridge Camp near Craigavon Bridge where he was allowed onto the base by the Battalion press liaison officer.  This same officer tells him of a car containing a corpse and invites him to view the body and the nail bomb ‘as an independent witness’.  Chartres claims in his statement that he ‘examined the corpse, which was in the HQ car park, and I saw a nail bomb projecting from the jacket pocket of the corpse.’  He also claims that a soldier in civilian clothes got into the car with the Army Technical Officer when it was moved to Foyle car park.  His statement raises a number of questions.

Why would a journalist remove himself from the scene of the biggest news story in western Europe, possibly the world, so soon after events unfolded ? There is no mention in his statement of any attempt to interview soldiers or civilians. He doesn’t file a story at the City Hotel but instead leaves a message for a colleague that he has gone to Bridge Camp. Why did he go there rather than Ebrington Barracks? He claims, twice, that a nail bomb was protruding from the jacket pocket. All others claim it was in the jeans pocket. No-one else mentions a soldier in civilian clothes getting into the vehicle with the ATO. Who was this? And is a reserve TA officer an ‘independent witness’ ?

The British Army had form when it came to fabricating stories. Just 7 weeks before Bloody Sunday both the British army and RUC fabricated a story suggesting that the bomb at Mc Gurks Bar in Belfast which left 15 dead was an IRA ‘own goal’. The Times reported that ‘police and Army Intelligence Officers believe that Ulster’s worst outrage, the killing of 15 people…..was caused by an IRA plan that went wrong.’ The story was filed by Chartres.  Commenting on the Mc Gurks fabrication fellow journalist Peter Taylor remarked, ‘John Chartres of the Times had proved himself the Army PR man’s dream’.

When the army shot teenager Danny O’Hagan dead in the New Lodge in July 1970 Chartres reported that he was an ‘assistant petrol bomber’.  Eamonn Mc Cann subsequently queried the alleged role of ‘assistant’ petrol bombers and asked whether they ’hold coats’?

The finding of the BSI that Gerald Donaghey ‘probably’ had nail bombs but didn’t pose a threat when shot in effect attributed to him the role of ‘assistant’ nail bomber. The onus is now on the PSNI to investigate what occurred at Bridge Camp that afternoon.  Sadly Chartres is no longer available to explain his role.

By Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre

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