Thursday 30 March 2017

New Claudy bombing inquiry urged

Father James Chesney, the priest suspected of the 1972 Claudy bombing. Photo: PA
Father James Chesney, the priest suspected of the 1972 Claudy bombing. Photo: PA

Former police officers have urged PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott to launch a new inquiry into the Claudy bomb atrocity after challenging some of the Ombudsman's findings into the 1972 outrage which left nine people dead.

They claimed that relevant issues had been overlooked and key sources of information were not researched in Al Hutchinson's report.

The Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers' Association said they believed the interests and rights of deceased officers had not been properly protected and upheld by the Ombudsman's office.

Relatives of the dead and injured had also been failed by what they said was the inadequate and highly constrained nature of the investigation.

A one-dimensional and highly selective approach appeared to have been adopted which meant there were serious shortcomings, the organisation said.

The information obtained, considered and subsequently released fell far short of what could justify the conclusions, it said.

The Retired Officers' Association said the decision-making process at the time had to be measured against what was happening in the North when the Claudy bombing took place.

Almost 500 people were killed in 1972, when the Army was in overall charge of security and an IRA ceasefire had broken down.

IRA leaders had been involved in talks with then Secretary of State William Whitelaw in London and, when those negotiations failed, the Provisionals responded by detonating 20 bombs in Belfast in just over an hour, killing nine people on what became known as Bloody Friday.

A statement said: "It is the Association's considered view that the rights of their colleagues who are now deceased and therefore unable to answer for themselves as to the reasoning behind their specific actions, have not been properly protected and upheld by the office of Police Ombudsman.

"Many retired police officers feel yet again that they and their deceased colleagues are being made scapegoats in the pursuit of an agenda which seeks to blur the historical record and affords to the real perpetrators of violence the opportunity to evade censure."

In his report, which was published last month, Mr Hutchinson claimed that one of the alleged suspects in the bomb, Catholic priest Father Jim Chesney, was never questioned by investigating officers.

He was later transferred to another parish across the Irish border in Co Donegal. He died of cancer in 1980, aged 46, having always protested his innocence.

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