Father James Chesney was never questioned about the Claudy bombings. Photograph: PA
A Catholic priest directed devastating IRA car bomb attacks in the Northern Irish village of Claudy in 1972 and his role was covered up by senior police officers, government ministers and the Catholic hierarchy, an official investigation has revealed.
The government said today it was “profoundly sorry” about the cover-up, while Northern Ireland’s Catholic church said it accepted the findings, calling them “shocking”.
Nine people were killed and more than 30 were injured when three vehicles exploded on the main street without warning on 31 July. It was one of the worst atrocities of the bloodiest year of the Troubles.
Three of the dead caught up in the mid-morning blast were children. No one was ever charged with the killings, and the IRA at the time denied responsibility.
The long-awaited report by the police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, published today, confirms suspicions that Father James Chesney, a priest in the nearby village of Bellaghy, was directly involved in the IRA operation, and suggests his involvement was even greater than previously assumed.
Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detectives who investigated the attack, the report says, concluded “that the priest was the IRA’s director of operations in South Derry and was alleged to have been directly involved in the bombings and other terrorist incidents”.