A Sinn Féin assembly member arrested by police investigating the Claudy bomb attack has accused the PSNI of trying to wreck his reputation.
Francie Brolly was among four whose homes were raided on Tuesday following on the reopening of the investigation into the attack, in which nine people died. The case was reopened after allegations were made that the British government had helped to cover up the role of a Catholic priest in the bombing. All parties in the North are seeking an inquiry into the still murky and contentious incident.
The East Derry Assembly member said the only reason given for him being treated as a suspect was that he lived 10 miles from the scene of the blast.
The Sinn Féin assembly member, who has revealed he knew two people who died in the attack, was held for 48 hours before being released without charge.
The East Derry representative described the 1972 attack as a “terrible, thing” and urged police to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“There are still families who are keen to know who did this terrible thing. I do not understand why things like that could have been contemplated even.”
All those arrested have now been released without charge in what is being viewed as an attempt to generate publicity damaging to Sinn Féin.
At a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Belfast on Thursday, Mr Brolly said that he had nothing to do with the bombing and had no foreknowledge of what would happen.
He said the experience had damaged what he described as his “progressive” views on the policing issue.
“I would be one of the people more on the plus side of what is a very serious and ongoing debate within the party on justice and policing,” Mr Brolly said.
“I would have been more progressive, and less sceptical, on the new beginning to policing.
“I am very disappointed at the experience I have had in the last couple of days: being arrested, with everything divulged to the press, my house being photographed...has made me begin to review my position on policing.”
He said he was “seething with anger” at the way he had been treated.
“Those people could have come to my house at any time, but the whole charade of the arrests reminded me of internment days.
“What I told the interviewing officers is that I had no foreknowledge [of the attack], I had no knowledge at the time and no knowledge afterwards.
“The only evidence, if you can call it that, they were putting forward of my involvement was that I lived in Dungiven, which is 10 miles from Claudy - it’s as ridiculous as that.”
Mr Brolly said his reputation had been damaged, saying that despite being released without charge, people would think there was “no smoke without fire’.
“I do appreciate that this has harmed me personally it has harmed my family. Apart from the political kind of undertones, it has been a character assassination.”
His party colleague Mitchel McLaughlin described Mr O’Hagan as a “rank and file” member of Sinn Féin.
Mr McLaughlin also accused the police of leaving Francie Brolly open to attack by unionist paramilitaries by divulging his name and address.
“It might put the notion in their heads that Francie and his family were people who could be targeted.”
Mr McLaughlin said the arrests had been a “political stunt”.
“This arrest and media-spin operation was never about the Claudy bomb or seeking justice for those bereaved,” he said.
“It was yet another political stunt by the Special Branch to try and damage Sinn Féin and the wider peace process.
“It was driven by a core of former RUC personnel still at the heart of PSNI Special Branch.”