Belfast Telegraph

Claudy: 41 years on, hopes for justice remain as remote as ever

By AMANDA FERGUSON

The Claudy families have been campaigning for truth for more than 41 years – and now it looks like they will never see justice.

On July 31, 1972, at the deadly height of the Troubles, three deadly bombs shattered the tranquility of the quiet Co Londonderry village.

Nine people, including three children, lost their lives on that day and more than 30 people were injured.

The youngest victim was little eight-year-old Kathryn Eakin, who had been cleaning the windows of the family grocery store when a bomb killed her.

The other eight people to die were Patrick Connolly (15), William Temple (16), Arthur Hone (38), Joseph McCloskey (39), Rose McLaughlin (51), Elizabeth McElhinney (59), David Miller (60) and James McClelland (65).

Both Protestants and Catholics were killed in the Claudy blasts.

The first car bomb exploded outside McElhinney's pub shortly after 10am, killing three people instantly and fatally injuring three other.

The second bomb was discovered by police in a van near the post office. People were evacuated from this area towards the Beaufort Hotel, where a third device had been left.

Three people were killed instantly when it exploded.

The Claudy atrocity was widely blamed on the IRA, even though the organisation never claimed responsibility.

An investigation found a conspiracy involving the police, the state and the Catholic Church had covered up a priest's suspected role in the Claudy bombing.

A 2010 report by then Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson exposed a damning cover-up in the wake of the bombing that led to a prime suspect – Catholic priest Father James Chesney – being protected from prosecution.

The report concluded the cleric, who was transferred by the Catholic Church across the border to Co Donegal, was an IRA leader.

Fr Chesney was transferred out of Northern Ireland following secret talks between the then Secretary of State William Whitelaw and the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal William Conway.

He died in 1980 without ever being questioned about Claudy.

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