Northern Ireland

Retired officers call for new Claudy bomb inquiry

Scene
Image caption The aftermath of the Claudy bombings in July 1972

The association that represents former police officers wants the Chief Constable Matt Baggott to launch a new inquiry into the Claudy bombings.

In a statement, the NI Retired Police Officers' Association challenge some of the Police Ombudsman's findings into the 1972 atrocity which killed nine people.

It alleges that other relevant issues have been overlooked.

It claims the rights of dead officers had not been properly protected.

'Scapegoats'

The Retired Police Officers' Association said relatives of the dead and injured had also been failed by what it said was the "inadequate" and "highly constrained" nature of the investigation.

It said there was serious shortcomings in the report because a "one-dimensional and highly selective approach" appeared to have been adopted which had left many retired officers feeling like "scapegoats".

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

The Police Ombudsman's report found the police, 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.

The NI Police Ombudsman's investigation 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.

Image caption The report said police believed Fr James Chesney was an IRA leader and was involved in the bombing

'Collusive act'

Al Hutchinson's report, published in August, 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.

Mr Hutchinson said some detectives' attempts to pursue Fr Chesney were frustrated ahead of a meeting between Northern Ireland Secretary William Whitelaw and the leader of Ireland's Catholics, Cardinal Conway.

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

'Misrepresented'

The NI Retired Police Officers' Association said it would have been "infinitely more desirable" if the late Fr Chesney had been interviewed regarding his alleged involvement in the Claudy bombings.

It claims the actions taken by the police and other authorities has been fundamentally misrepresented in Mr Hutchinson's report and wrongly presented as "collusion, that could amount to criminal wrongdoing".

A statement said: "The Association has, as a consequence of its deep concern that such an incomplete record of the Claudy atrocity is now in the public domain, written to the Chief Constable urging a complete criminal re-investigation into all aspects of the bombings, in the hope that some offenders may still be brought to justice."

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