Catholic church to comment on Claudy bomb call 'after report'

THE Catholic Church has said it will comment on a call by East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell to release any files that relate to the Claudy bombing - after the Police Ombudsman publishes his report on the atrocity.

Mr Campbell has urged the institution to lay bare any files it may hold on the alleged role of a priest in the 1972 atrocity, which claimed the lives of nine people.

The DUP MP was reacting after senior Catholic cleric, Bishop Noel Treanor, last week publicly lent his support to a campaign for an inquiry into the Army killings in 1971 of 11 people-including a priest - in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast.

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Gregory Campbell said the onus was now on the Catholic Church to be "as unequivocal about Claudy as they appear to have been about Ballymurphy."

Three bombs decimated the village of Claudy in the mid-morning of July 31, 1972. Six people died on the day, with three more victims passing away in the following week. The youngest victim of the bombs was nine-year-old Kathyrn Eakin.

It is alleged that a parish priest, James Chesney, drove one of the cars containing an explosive device into the village. The massacre is widely believed to have been the work of the South Derry Brigade of the Provisional IRA, although the organisation has always denied responsibility for the attacks.

Mr Campbell said that, considering Dr Treanor's "particularly definitive stance" on Ballymurphy, the question to be posed back to the church is why "they have not opened up in terms of what they know" about Claudy.

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The DUP man also said that if such files do exist they should be handed over to the appropriate authorities.

"We could then judge what involvement there was, by whom, at what level, and what knowledge there was, not just by the Catholic Church, but by other senior Provisional IRA people at the time.," he said.

The MP also stressed that he was not calling for an "expensive and long drawn out" inquiry akin to the Saville Inquiry.

And, speaking on the long-awaited Police Ombudsman's report into Claudy, due to be published this month, he added: "We will wait and see what that brings forward but I think many people, including those close to the Claudy victims, have all but given up of expecting an outcome.

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"They have been told on so many occasions that issues would be resolved, either there would be prosecutions or at least information on what happened and who carried out the atrocity.

"None of it has come to pass so I don't know if any of them will live in great expectation of it."

A spokesman for the Catholic Church told the Sentinel: "The Church will comment after the publication of the report by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman."