With the revelation that the costs of Bloody Sunday inquiry have topped £188 million, you might have thought that news about the traumatic event would have been exhausted before the long awaited publication of the Saville Report itself. But you’d have been wrong. Radio 4’s Today programme reporter Sanchia Berg has had first bite at an astounding revelation from the 1972 National Archives at Kew. The official records show that after the Derry debacle in 1972, the army in desperation turned to Porton Down the scientific research establishment, to devise new, non-lethal methods of riot control. The boffins certainly obliged with unusual ideas to put it mildly: among them a substance to make streets too slippery to use; a grenade which would fire barbed wire coated with glue into the crowd (called “stiff ’em and stick ’em”); and “injector weapons”. Listen to Berg’s report in the 07.43 a.m. slot in the Today programme’s running order Post 9/11, the subject is far from dead. One result of linked US research in the field was the gas used to overcome a Chechin group holding hundreds of Muscovites at gunpoint in a cinema three years ago. But 100 died, showing that the use of the gas was no magic bullet, so to speak. New crowd control gases are made in Germany, others are being tested in China, we’re told. As one of Berg’s interviewees, Professor Steve Wright of Leeds University says: “Science fiction is becoming fact. We are seeing a revolution that has changed internal security forever.” And it’s happening without public debate and accountability.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London