Cover-up in deadly Northern Ireland bombings

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 Police Ombudsman’s office began a probe into the original investigation.

Al
Hutchinson’s newly released report 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”.

He
said this had compromised the investigation and the decision “failed those
who were murdered, injured or bereaved” in the bombing.

He
said that if officers involved were still alive, “their actions would have
demanded explanation, which would have been the subject of further investigation”.

As
well as investigating complaints made against the Police Service of Northern
Ireland, the Police Ombudsman also has the authority to look at investigations
carried out by their predecessors, the RUC.

The
head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, said the church
was not involved in a cover-up over the role of Fr Chesney.

“The
Church was approached by the secretary of state at the instigation of senior
members of the RUC,” he said.

“Furthermore,
the Church subsequently reported back to the secretary of state the outcome of
its questioning of Fr Chesney into his alleged activities.

“The
actions of Cardinal Conway or any other Church authority did not prevent the
possibility of future arrest and questioning of Fr Chesney.”

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