Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Claudy bomb relatives: Did Heath know of collusion?

Main Street Claudy in August 1972 when three Provisional IRA car bombs exploded without warning, killing 9 local people and injuring many others.
Father James Chesney
Wreckage outside the Beavpont Arms, itself badly damaged, in the village of Claudy, Co Londonderry

Relatives of the victims of the Claudy bombings have demanded the British Government conduct a fresh inquiry into the atrocity as questions grow about what the then Prime Minister knew about the collusion.

Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson this week reported that senior Church, Government and RUC figures conspired to ensure that the priest suspected of carrying out the bombing was never questioned. But some relatives are now asking if the then Secretary of State was acting with the knowledge of Prime Minister Ted Heath.

Mark Eakin, who was blown off his feet in the blast that killed his eight-year-old sister Kathryn, said: “I feel I have been let down by the Government that I pay my taxes to. They have not performed at all, they have totally washed their hands of Claudy.”

Mr Eakin, a Protestant, called for a renewed effort to catch those bombers who may still be alive, adding there was “no way” Mr Whitelaw (then Northern Ireland Secretary of State) made this decision on his own.

“It had to come from higher up,” he said. “I would like to ask the British Government if they would now step in and investigate this thing further.”

Documentary-maker Michael Cockerell, who made a film about Mr Whitelaw, said that “it was possible” that he could have acted without the authorisation of the Prime Minister Edward Heath.

The film-maker recounted how Mr Whitelaw, who was known as the PM’s “loyal lieutenant”, had authorised an Army commander in Belfast to shoot if necessary loyalist paramilitaries, without first seeking Mr Heath’s permission.

Mr Cockerell said the former Secretary of State made no mention of his discussions about Fr Chesney in his memoirs or autobiography.

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