Belfast Telegraph

Claudy: Families owed explanation for 'failures' says UUP

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

There are real concerns that political considerations influenced and undermined the Claudy bomb investigation, a senior unionist politician has claimed.

The UUP's Tom Elliott said the PSNI owed victims' relatives a full explanation after it was confirmed that the investigation into the atrocity that left nine people dead and more than 30 injured had been dropped.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA described the Claudy investigation as "a catalogue of failures right from the start".

"The involvement of a Catholic priest, Father James Chesney was known but covered up, and there is a strong suspicion that the involvement of others may be the reason why the full facts have never been allowed to emerge," he said. "Concern has been raised that many of the gaps are caused by political interference.

"It is vital that anyone who may have any information, including the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, (below), should come forward and disclose it to police."

Mr McGuinness has previously said he was nowhere near Claudy in the days before or after the bombing, claiming he was on the run from the British State instead.

Despite denying knowing IRA sympathiser Fr James Chesney in 2002, eight years later Mr McGuinness confirmed that he had spoken with the priest shortly before his death in 1980.

Unionists suspect Chesney was ordered to plant bombs in Claudy to take pressure off the IRA in Londonderry after the breakdown of the 1972 ceasefire.

They believe that Mr McGuinness, as an IRA commander in Derry at the time, must have vital information about the bombing.

Mr Elliott learned the news after he accompanied victims' families to a meeting with detectives probing the 1972 attack in the Derry village.

He said the revelation had been like a "bolt out of the blue".

"The news that the police have suspended the investigation due to a lack of evidence and information was met with a mixture of frustration and anger," he said.

Mr Elliott said there would be a further meeting with Chief Constable Matt Baggott into what some call "the forgotten atrocity".

"The victims of Claudy deserve an explanation from the Chief Constable on the handling of this entire case and we will seek an immediate meeting," he added.

MP Gregory Campbell branded the decision to suspend the probe "extremely disappointing but hardly surprising".

"The Police Ombudsman's report from three years ago into the tragedy where nine people, Protestant and Roman Catholic were murdered, had also indicated what quite a few people knew, which was that the late Roman Catholic priest, Rev James Chesney was a suspect," he said.

"After that report had been released the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness indicated that even though he had previously said he had never met Chesney he had in fact met him on one occasion. He also said that no part of his conversation included any reference to the Claudy bombing."

The East Londonderry MP said that for Claudy relatives to have closure those in the IRA at the time must bring information.

TUV leader Jim Allister also said abandoning the investigation was "astounding and utterly unacceptable".

"This was a bombing involving the Provo priest whom McGuinness denied even knowing; then it turned out he had visited him," Mr Allister said. "What else are McGuinness and other IRA leaders hiding over this wicked bombing? Now it seems the PSNI isn't even trying to find out."

Alliance justice spokesman Stewart Dickson MLA said the PSNI's suspension of the Claudy bomb investigation showed the important role of the public.

He said: "This move by the PSNI shows the important role the public play in passing on information relating to on-going investigations. There are those that hold information about this horrific bombing and now is the time to come forward. Anyone with even a scrap of information should contact the PSNI as soon as possible."

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