Bomb suspect priest met with McGuinness before his death
The priest suspected of the 1972 Claudy bombing met the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness shortly before he died, it was revealed today.
Mr McGuinness confirmed he spoke with Father James Chesney about the priest's support for a united Ireland - but the no-warning car bomb attack which killed nine people was never mentioned.
He said today: "I never knew Father Chesney before Claudy. I never knew Father Chesney for many years after the bombing.
"I was asked, whenever I was told that Father Chesney was dying, I was told he was a republican sympathiser, would I go and see him and meet with him in Co Donegal.
"I did that. There was no mention whatsoever of the Claudy bomb. During the course of that, he just talked about his support for a united Ireland."
Claudy happened six months after Bloody Sunday in Derry, 16km away, when Mr McGuinness was an IRA leader. He denied the IRA in Derry was involved in the Claudy outrage.
Father Chesney, who was allegedly one of the terrorists who took part, died in 1982.
The priest denied to church colleagues that he was involved.
A report by the Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson last month claimed that senior police officers, the Catholic Church and the British Government were involved in a cover-up at the time when Father Chesney, a priest in south Derry, was transferred to another parish across the border in Co Donegal.
Mr McGuinness admitted several years ago that he was in the IRA at the time of Bloody Sunday when soldiers shot and killed 13 men attending a Civil Rights march in the city.
Asked if he had any information about Claudy he replied: "The Derry brigade of the IRA on a number of occasions since the Claudy bomb said they had no hand, act or part in it. I absolutely believe that."
Mr McGuinness denied the priest had said anything to indicate he had been directly involved with the IRA.
"Absolutely not," said Mr McGuinness.
"When the allegations were then levelled against him, I have to say it came as a surprise to me because none of that formed the content of any conversation, albeit a very short conversation that I had with him at a time when he was very ill."