Belfast Telegraph

Let’s name and shame all the Claudy killers

By Lindy McDowell

The Sperrins surround it, the Faughan flows by, At each end of Main Street the hills and the sky, The small town of Claudy at ease in the sun, Last July in the morning, a new day begun ...

So much has been written in this last week about the massacre described in simple melodic words by the poet James Simmons in his Ballad of Claudy and about the priest who we are told, was directly involved in it.

The story of Father James Chesney, mass murderer and child murderer, has made headlines round the world. And no wonder. For it is a story with twists beyond any Hollywood screenwriter.

It is a story of atrocity beyond comprehension carried out by a supposed man of God. A story of shameful cover-up, involving church, government and police.

And at its heart is the rogue priest, a well-heeled, well-educated middle-aged man with, it is said, an eye for the women, skiting round the rural roads of south Derry in his sports car like some grotesquely murderous version of Toad of Toad Hall.

What is the full truth? Even now it’s hard to say.

But amid all the many, many words about Claudy and its legacy, it’s an interview with Mark Eakin, brother of murdered eight-year-old Kathryn, that stands out for sheer heart-tearing humanity.

Speaking to Gail Walker in this newspaper this week, Mark described his parents’ suffering, how they never got over their little girl’s murder.

In one poignant aside he refers to the day his own oldest daughter — Kathryn is her middle name — turned eight.

“Samantha’s eighth birthday was a whole ding-dong; mum took that so badly. ‘My God, she is eight,’ she would say to me.”

In that one simple sentence you glimpse an entire lifetime of loss.

There is no side to Mark Eakin. Claudy to him is not a Protestant/Catholic thing. People from both sections of the community died side by side that day. He wants justice for them all and he says the justice he would like to see now is the other bombers named and shamed.

In the aftermath of the HET report much focus has been on what’s seen as collusion between church, state and some police leaders in getting Chesney shifted across (only just) the border.

And, of course, there are questions which do have to be answered about all that.

But what the collusionists are in danger of obscuring is a clear focus on the real culprits.

Cardinal Sean Brady, however stumbling his interview technique, or his handling of this whole affair, did not actually himself bomb Claudy.

But there are those in high public office in Northern Ireland today who surely know exactly who did. The deputy first minister of our local government, no less, was the self-confessed commander of the IRA in Derry at the time of Claudy.

It is unthinkable that Martin McGuinness does not have considerable information about what happened that day.

The pressure should now be on Mr McGuinness to reveal what he knows. Will it though? Or is there another sort of collusion about covering-up the past?

The final word belongs there to Merle Eakin, Kathryn’s mother, in one of the last interviews she gave before her own death a few years ago.

“Other people were involved. They know what happened. For the IRA to admit it would be a start. I would like to see the godfathers brought to justice,” she said.

“For Kathryn's sake.”

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