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Families of 1972 Claudy bomb continue fight for justice

Relatives tell of frustration on 44th anniversary of atrocity that left nine people dead

By Joanne Fleming

Published 01/08/2016

Relatives (from left) Gordon Miller, Desmond Temple, Mary Hamilton, who was injured in the outrage, James Miller and David Temple whose brother William died
Relatives (from left) Gordon Miller, Desmond Temple, Mary Hamilton, who was injured in the outrage, James Miller and David Temple whose brother William died
The devastation wrought by the Claudy bomb which left nine people dead
Mark Eakin

Relatives of those killed in the Claudy bomb have spoken of their desperate fight for justice 44 years on from the tragedy.

No paramilitary group has ever claimed responsibility for the attack in the Co Londonderry village in 1972, but the IRA has been linked to the atrocity. No one has ever been convicted.

In 2010 a Police Ombudsman report found that police colluded with the government and the church to cover-up the suspected role of a local Catholic priest, James Chesney, in the terrorist attack. However, the investigation found "no evidence of criminal intent on the part of any government minister or official or on the part of any official of the Catholic Church".

The church has also denied being involved in a cover-up and Fr Chesney, who was moved to a parish in Co Donegal, denied involvement in terrorist activities to his superiors.

Yesterday, to mark the 44th anniversary, relatives gathered at a memorial which stands in the village to commemorate those who lost their lives.

David Temple (63) lost his 16-year-old brother William, who was delivering milk when he was injured by the first explosion and killed by the third.

"My memories are still as strong as ever of that day," he said. "William worked in a local creamery, a fellow didn't turn up that day and he put his hand up to go. He was a young, intelligent man who enjoyed his sport. He would have been coming up to 60 years old if he had lived."

Mr Temple went on to claim: "The British government, the Irish government, the Roman Catholic Church were all involved in Claudy but nobody has come forward. We are trying to seek justice and we will never give up.

"My mum is 91 and it is very fresh in her mind. She looks at a photo of William every night when she goes to her bedroom. She always asks me, 'David, what's happening?' in relation to the investigation. It's very difficult."

The retired welder said he was not interested in "another Bloody Sunday" type of inquiry but said it was "very hurtful" that they had not been given similar consideration. He said he believed there were people in power with information who could come forward.

"The British government know about Claudy," he said. "They do not want to open it up. If they open it up Stormont could fail. They want it to go away."

Mark Eakin (56) was helping out in his family shop in Claudy with little sister Kathryn on July 31, 1972, when tragedy struck.

The little girl had gone to wash the windows outside the shop when she was killed by a 250-pound bomb.

"It is something you think about every day but more so on a day like today," he said. "I can still see her. She was just a tomboy. She did not do dollies, she was more into getting mucked up. She had a very old head on her shoulders.

"We had spent over a month together at a caravan in Castlerock. You didn't get everything handed to you in those days. We were broke after spending money during our holiday in Castlerock so we worked in the shop. My mum sent Kathryn out to wash the windows, something she regretted for the rest of her life."

Mr Eakin, a builder, said he shared the frustrations of Mr Temple in seeking justice.

"The government, church and ex-RUC have been involved in covering it up," he alleged. "Why Claudy? It does not make sense."

Kenny Donaldson, director of services at victims group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), called for anyone knowing anything about Claudy to show "repentance".

"The fact that the Claudy families continue to have no resolution for the events of that day is a stain upon the many institutions involved," he said. "Provisional IRA terrorists carried out the attack and bear core responsibility, but they are joined by the Roman Catholic Church, and UK and Republic of Ireland states in having shown complicit actions in denying justice from being served in the aftermath of the atrocity.

"Our prayers remain with the Claudy families as they continue to search for answers. How many more of those left behind will go to their graves not knowing the truth of Claudy?"

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