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Claudy: Church continues to follow the path of denial

Malachi O'Doherty's take on the Claudy scandal was like the curate's egg — good in parts.

Wherever he got the report of my address at an Ulster Vanguard meeting, he would be wiser to contextualise it rather than dismiss it as “an absurd notion”.

Sadly the actions of James Chesney were well known. I discovered this when Jill Knight told me of a parliamentary visit in Northern Ireland.

While in Coleraine RUC station they saw his picture among others wanted for questioning. Enquiring why he had not been arrested, they were told that the bishop had removed him from the jurisdiction.

He was not the only one. I know there were many priests with whom I may have had theological differences but they would not have supported such activity. One faced the ire of IRA supporters because he simply used the funeral liturgy and no oration at the funeral of a terrorist.

I also remember in Disraeli Street, when I sought to restrain Protestants reacting to aggression from Jamaica street, being accused of hindering them while the priest was encouraging his side to attack them.

Automatically I put it down to so-called ingrained Protestant bigotry, only to learn from my colleague that they were right. Sadly James Chesney followed the path of denial, and prelates of the Church continue to do so.

I pay my respect to the bereaved families and the ombudsman for his revealing the facts. I wait for a fulsome apology from the Prime Minister and proper recompense for the victims.

Rev Martin Smyth

Belfast

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