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Witnesses to History

Mark Devenport | 15:31 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Northern Ireland Office line is that no purpose would be served by an inquiry into the Fr Chesney scandal because all the key participants are dead and all the written documentation has already been made available to the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman. As we heard on the BBC's Good Morning Ulster this morning, which included an interview with one of the detectives originally tasked with investigating the Claudy bombing, not all those with first hand knowledge of the affair have passed on.

On the government side, William Whitelaw may have died in 1999, but two of his junior ministers, Lord Windlesham and Lord Howell are, so far as I am aware, still alive. Indeed Lord Howell is not only alive, he is in fact a minister in the current government, serving in the Foreign Office. The minister was on holiday when the Claudy report was published.

Given that he had responsibility in 1972 for Finance, Commerce and Agriculture Lord Howell may have had no knowledge of his boss's dealings with the Catholic church over Fr. Chesney. However I can't say this for sure as when my colleague Julian O'Neill put in a bid for a BBC interview with the minister about the matter the FCO turned it down without any explanation.


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