Belfast Telegraph

Ombudsman failed to quiz Vatican on alleged IRA priest

The Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman failed to ask the Vatican or the papal nuncio if they knew of a priest's involvement in the Provisional IRA.

Ombudsman Al Hutchinson did not question church leaders on whether the late Fr James Chesney was responsible for the murder of nine persons in the 1972 bombings at Claudy in Co Londonderry.

"This was outside Mr Hutchinson's remit," the spokesman told the Irish Independent last night.

"Mr Hutchinson's terms of reference were to ascertain if there was collusion involving the British government, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Catholic Church in not arresting Fr Chesney on suspicion of murder."

The spokesman confirmed there had been full co-operation from Cardinal Sean Brady and other members of the hierarchy in regard to the information sought by the police ombudsman.

The report found that Cardinal William Conway, the then Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, was involved in a decision to transfer Fr Chesney from a parish in the Derry diocese to Malin Head in Co Donegal.

However, it is reported that the truth as to Fr Chesney's membership of the IRA and involvement in the Claudy bombings lies in the secret vaults of the Vatican archives.

This information relates to confidential reports sent to the Holy See's Secretary of State by the late Nuncio, Archbishop Gaetano Alibrandi, who was known to be staunchly in support of the republican movement.

It has also been learnt that in 1994 Archbishop Alibrandi, then in retirement in his native Sicily after serving 20 years in Ireland, completed a detailed memoir of his time here in Ireland.

But diplomatic sources have said that Archbishop Alibrandi was summoned to Rome where his manuscript was confiscated and lodged in the Vatican archives unpublished.

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