Irish Republican News · August 24, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Claudy lies exposed

The British government conspired to cover up one of the worst atrocities of the conflict, an investigation has found.

Nine people died in bombings in Claudy, County Derry on 31 July 1972, which was blamed on the IRA. At the time of the attack, the IRA denied involvement and no arrests were ever made.

In 2002, the Police Ombudsman’s office in the North began a probe into the original investigation.

It has now found that a suspect in the attack was secretly moved over the border to County Donegal.

No action was ever taken against Fr James Chesney, who died in 1980.

The report, published this morning, found that the (then RUC) police in 1972 had concluded that Chesney had been involved in the bombing.

The Ombudsman said that by acquiescing to an arrangement between the British government and the Catholic Church to move Chesney to a parish south of the border, the RUC was guilty of a “collusive act”.

The report said this had “compromised the investigation” and the decision had “failed” the victims of the bombing and the bereaved families.

Mr Hutchinson said attempts by some RUC officers to pursue Fr Chesney were frustrated ahead of a meeting between British Direct Ruler William Whitelaw and the leader of Ireland’s Catholics, Cardinal Conway.

There, it was agreed that the priest would be moved to a parish in the 26 Counties.

Claudy is a small village, with a mixed Protestant and Catholic population, six miles south-east of Derry.

Five Catholics and four Protestants were killed in three no-warning blasts, which happened on 31 July 1972.

The attack occurred as it appeared five months after Bloody Sunday amid surging support for armed struggle against British rule.

Chesney died in 1980 without ever revealing the truth behind the bombings.

The Ombudsman found that the RUC Chief Constable, Graham Shillington, was made aware of the decision to protect Chesney, who was never arrested or questioned.

Mr Shillington said he would “prefer a move to Tipperary”.

Little explanation has emerged from the British government as to the motivation for the cover-up and calls for a public inquiry into the matter have been routinely dismissed by the authorities.

The current Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchinson, said that the cover-up amounted to collusion but lent weight to a theory that the British government was trying to prevent a civil war.

“I accept that 1972 was one of the worst years of the Troubles and that the arrest of a priest might well have aggravated the security situation,” he said.

“Equally I consider that the police failure to investigate someone they suspected of involvement in acts of terrorism could, in itself, have had serious consequences.”

He said he had found no evidence of “criminal intent” by anyone in the government or the Catholic Church.

Sinn Fein spokesperson on truth, Francie Molloy said the deaths in Claudy were wrong and should not have happened.

“The families of the those who died or were injured there deserve and are entitled to the truth about the deaths of their loved ones.

“They have the same right to know as the families of those killed in Ballymurphy, Springhill and the New Lodge. Sinn Fein support them in this.

“The inquiry by the Police Ombudsman was into the nature of the RUC investigation. Due to its limited remit it could never deliver the truth about the circumstances surrounding the bomb for the families of those killed.

“It is our view that what is required is an independent international truth commission which all participants in the conflict could participate fully in. This is a mechanism which could actually get to the truth and deliver closure for the families.”

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