The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has released his long awaited report into the Claudy bombing which killed nine people in July 1972.

In it, he has effectively confirmed what many have believed for 38 years – a Catholic priest was involved in carrying out the atrocity and that the police, British government and Catholic Church conspired to keep that fact a secret.

The report said that police in 1972 believed that Father James Chesney was the IRA’s director of operations in south Derry and was directly involved with the Claudy bombings.

However, the police force at the time, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, never brought Fr Chesney in for questioning.

Fr Chesney was the curate in Cullion, one of the smallest parishes in County Londonderry, near the village of Desertmartin.

Ombudsman investigators spoke to a former Special Branch detective who said he had wanted to arrest Fr Chesney in 1972, but was told by an assistant chief constable (ACC) that matters were in hand.

That same ACC then wrote to the Northern Ireland Office asking what action “could be taken to render harmless a dangerous priest”.

He asked would it be possible to bring the subject up with cardinals or bishops.

In December 1972, a NIO official wrote back to the ACC to say that the matter had been discussed by the Northern Ireland Secretary Willie Whitelaw and Cardinal Conway, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The letter read: “The Cardinal said that he knew the priest was a very bad man. The Cardinal mentioned the possibility of transferring him to Donegal.”

The then RUC chief constable, Graham Shillington, said he would prefer a “transfer to Tipperary”.

Fr Chesney was moved to a parish in County Donegal in 1973, he died in 1980.

No paramilitary group has ever claimed responsibility for the bombing and no one has ever been convicted of it, but for more than 30 years rumours circulated that a Catholic priest and the IRA were behind the attack.

When the investigation into Claudy was re-opened in 2002, part of its remit was to investigate claims that the British government, RUC and the Catholic Church conspired to cover up the activities of the priest.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said that a search of papers from 1972 indicated that a priest in south Derry had been an active member of the IRA.

They did not name him, but few doubted the priest in question was Fr Chesney.


Currently, we are celebrating the 50 th anniversary of the dreadful Claudy Bombing in which nine people were killed.

I cannot understand how anyone, especially a priest, would have it in them to murder anyone – especially innocent people.

Many Catholic members of the Republican paramilitary groups used the Catholic Church’s own teaching of “the just war” to justify their actions.

Most of us would agree that a just war is a war against invading aggressors.

But by 1969 the British had been in Ireland for 800 years. During that time they had inflicted massive wrongs and injustices against the Catholic and Nationalist community.

There was indeed widespread discrimination to be fought against.

And as somebody who has been in Northern Ireland for 44 years now I have to admit that the unjust Unionist Junta would have never ceded power without being forced to.

No reigning power in the world ever gave up power willingly.

It is a sad lesson of history that unjust regimes have so often had to be removed by the power of the gun.

I am very sad when reflecting on this.

But I simply cannot get my head around a priest blowing up innocent people.

To my mind it is the absolute anthitisis of what the priest follower of Christ is meant to do.

The Two Priests


Man in the West
Man in the East

Man lives best
Who loves life least,
Says the Priest in the West.

Man in the flesh
Man in the ghost

Man lives best
Who fears death most,
Says the Priest in the East.

Man in the West
Man in the East
Man in the flesh
Man in the ghost

Man lives best
Who loves life most,
Who fears death least,
Says the Man to the Priest
In the East, in the West.


Archibald MacLeish, from Collected Poems 1917–1982, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1985.





  • Very Rev Canon Gerald Powell to retire as Parish Priest of Tullylish and to reside in the Parochial House, Burren Parish.
  • Very Rev Desmond Loughran, PP Mayobridge to become Parish Priest of Tullylish Parish and Vicar Forane of the St Patrick’s Pastoral Area.
  • Rt Rev Mgr. Hugh Connolly, returning to the Diocese of Dromore following his chaplaincy at the Irish College in Paris over the past five years, to become Parish Priest of Mayobridge.
  • Rev. Colm Murphy, returning from a period of sabbatical and study leave, to be CC of the parishes of Moyraverty and Seagoe.
  • Rev Shajan Panachickal Michael, on loan from the Eparchy of Kothamangalam, India, to be CC Magheralin.
  • Fr. Robert Markuszewski, CC in the Parishes of Newry and Saval, returning to be a Parish Priest in his home city of Bialystok, Poland.
  • Fr Krzysztof Kosciolek, SChr, CC in the parishes of Burren and Warrenpoint, to take up a new position in the Society of Christ Province of the Sacred Heart.
  • Fr Wojciech Stachyra SChr, currently working in the Archdiocese of Westminster, to be CC in the parishes of Newry and Saval, with an outreach to the Polish community in the region.
  • Rev Carlos Esteban Rojo, on loan from the Archdiocese of Armagh, to continue his ministry as Deacon in the Parishes of Newry and Saval.
  • Permanent Deacon, Rev Brendan McAllister will continue his ministry in the Parish of Kilbroney, Rostrevor.
  • Permanent Deacon, Rev Gerard McBrien will continue his ministry in the Parishes of Clonduff and Drumgath.