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Evidence on Fr Chesney is thin on the ground

Your editorial and letters (August 31) contain unfair criticism of the Catholic Church. Where is the prima facie evidence of Fr Chesney's involvement in the Claudy bombing?

In the 1970s, Chesney's vocal republican opinions were sufficient "evidence" for the RUC to suspect involvement in IRA activities. As an 'expert witness' I had some experience assessing flimsy, dubious and so-called 'forensic' evidence presented in courts at that time.

Take the case of the Army's infamous 1970s Gelignite Sniffer, - claimed to specifically sense gelignite. However, it was also sensitive to many other compounds of a high electron affinity - such as those in cigarette smoke.

A policeman gave evidence that he smelled gelignite on a suspect's hand several hours after being locked in a cell. That was impossible. The volatile compound in gelignite, giving a marzipan odour, completely and quickly disperses, when small traces of the explosive are exposed in an open atmosphere.

The so-called evidence of traces of explosives in Fr Chesney's car also does not stand up. A dog's behaviour, on sniffing in a car, is not forensic evidence. Moreover, Fr Chesney was a chain smoker.

Cardinal Conway's real error was to hide the allegation and, in the name of discretion, agree the transfer of Fr Chesney - instead of demanding the RUC and State proceed with its case against him.

As a committed Catholic, I detest both clericalism and the IRA, but in this matter would like to see more light and less heat about all the relevant issues.

PROFESSOR J J ROONEY

Belfast

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