Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Probe calls over Claudy 'cover-up'

Owen Paterson said the Government was 'sorry' the victims of the Claudy bombing and their families had been denied justice
Wreckage outside the Beavpont Arms in the village of Claudy, Co Londonderry in 1972
Father James Chesney was suspected over the 1972 Claudy bomb outrage

Outraged relatives of a notorious IRA bombing which claimed nine lives have demanded a fresh investigation after it emerged the police, Government and Catholic Church conspired to protect the prime suspect, a Catholic priest.

As well as the dead, 30 people were injured when three car bombs shattered the tranquillity of the village of Claudy, Co Londonderry, in July 1972 at the height of the Troubles.

A report by Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson exposed a damning cover-up between state and church that led to Father James Chesney being spirited across the border into the Republic.

Responding to the report, relatives of the victims accused the authorities of brushing the matter under the carpet and demanded the British Government conduct a fresh investigation.

Mark Eakin, who was blown off his feet in the blast that killed his nine-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."

Colin McClelland, whose great uncle James was killed, said: "Where this has got to go now, it's got to go to Westminster, who ultimately made the decision to brush Father Chesney under the carpet, forget about this situation and get the man out of the country."

Mr Hutchinson's report revealed that Fr Chesney, who police believe was an IRA commander who drove the lead bomb car on the morning of the attack, was moved after secret talks between the then secretary of state William Whitelaw and the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal William Conway.

The two men discussed the atrocity after being approached by a senior Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer who was apparently reluctant to arrest a priest for fear of inflaming the volatile security situation.

Nearly 100 people died in July 1972, making it the most violent month in the most violent year of the Troubles.

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