Claudy bomb: Conspiracy Allowed IRA Priest to go Free
The police, the Catholic Church and the state conspired to cover up a priest’s suspected role in one of the worst atrocities of the Northern Ireland Troubles, an investigation has found.
Nine people died in bombings in Claudy, County Londonderry on 31 July 1972.
The NI Police Ombudsman’s probe found that high-level talks led to Fr James Chesney, a suspect in the attack, being moved to the Irish Republic.
No action was ever taken against Fr Chesney, who died in 1980.
Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said that the government was “profoundly sorry” that Fr Chesney had not been properly investigated.
In 2002, the Ombudsman, Al Hutchinson, began a probe into the original investigation.
His report, published on Tuesday, found that detectives in 1972 had concluded that Fr Chesney was an IRA leader and had been involved in the bombing.
He added that by acquiescing to a deal between the government and the Catholic Church to move Fr Chesney to a parish in the Irish republic, the Royal Ulster Constabulary was guilty of a “collusive act”.
Rather than act on these opportunities a senior RUC Officer sought the Government’s assistance in December 1972, through their engagement with senior figures of the Catholic Church, to ‘render harmless a dangerous priest’. In view of the considerable Intelligence available to the RUC in respect of Father Chesney the Police Ombudsman has concluded that this was wrong and compromised the investigation.