Claudy has exposed a drifting system that is increasing victims’ pain

So now the Historical Enquiries Team are planning another review into the Claudy bombing. This follows the Police Ombudsman’s report based on their review of old police files – presumably also reviewed by the HET earlier when they were dealing with the 1972 files as a whole .  The process seems to be going round and round and growing ever more complex. Small wonder that the Police Ombudsman the Canadian Al Hutchinson protests to Barney Rowan that the whole business is getting on top of him.

There are currently 106 historical cases on his desk — all requiring detailed examination… ”

It took eight years to complete the Claudy investigation, a report that confirmed a cover-up by Government, police and the Catholic Church after priest Fr James Chesney was identified in RUC intelligence reports as a senior member of the IRA who had directed the bombings.

“I dismay at the task we have in front of us,” Mr Hutchinson said. “I don’t think it’s the right course… “I have appealed and I appeal again to Government to work hard with civil society to find a cross-community solution to getting truth and information.”

On the caseload currently with his office, he admitted: “Well, I’m saying it will take up to 50 years.

I’ve met a number of families and laid that truth on the line.

“It’s not only unacceptable, but that’s 106 cases today and we keep getting referrals from the Historical Enquiries Team (and) the public keeps coming forward to us.”

( The ” eight years” seems as incredible as Saville’s twelve years,  but we’ll  let that pass).  Rowan reports that a new advisory panel is about to start helping the Ombudsman’s office to assess priorities. This may be useful because as far as I know the Ombudsman’s team, like the HET is largely staffed by outsiders. While they are no doubt very professional and have got a handle on much of material, greater local involvement seems overdue – held back no doubt because of the perception of being tainted.

Hutchinson’s plaintive appeal should prick up the ears of  the  politicians in Stormont and Westminster.  This sounds like a system near collapse, or at least,  badly bogged down. For Hutchinson’s more incisive predecessor, hand wringing is not enough. Nuala O’Loan is on record as favouring a bolder approach.

What is now essential is the creation of a single, impartial, independent investigation office to deal with all the outstanding cases of the past. Properly funded and empowered for whatever period is necessary, working with full governmental co-operation, it could, in a much more cost-effective manner, deal with such cases.

While Eames Bradley has been rejected, its analysis and many of its solutions are the best we’ve got. It contains the options for a new recovery process.  (and let’s get over the recognition payments). Dealing with the Past is a topic that is drifting.  It threatens only to cause more heartache and frustration, the very negation of its purpose. It’s about time it was gripped.

Issues like freedom from self-incrimination and  who shall fund it can be ducked no longer.  

Do the people of Claudy have to go through all that again?  For what?

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  • drumlins rock

    The ombudsmans office should not be dealing with historic cases, their current role is too important ensuring public confidence in the PSNI, imperfect as it is the HET should be properly enabled to deal with all these issues, maybe with some ammendments to its remit but its the only show in town getting anywhere.

  • Damian O’Loan

    “its the only show in town getting anywhere”

    Could you be more precise on the ‘product’ of HET to justify such high praise?

    At this point, no organisation is getting anywhere, and nobody is raising concerns. That is a ticking timebomb.

    Brian, you seem very much in favour of extending amnesties. Have you looked at their impact internationally on democratic institutions? Their use has, invariably, led to a concentration of power in extra-democratic,usually military/security, organisations. Given the record of those in NI, that is hardly an uncontroversial solution, even aside from the ethical questions it raises.

  • Alan Maskey

    Claudy exposes how the belligerants are intent on shofting the blame for their own crimes to the Roman Catholic Church. Until convincing evidence/any evidence is presented against the late (Fr) Chesney, he should, in accordance with his own denials and protestations, be presumed innocent.
    The attempts to nail him, to crucify him only serves to pass the blame and the buck from where thye really lie and should stop.
    The dead have their rights. Until those rights, which involve living people, are settled, there can be no peace, absolutely no forgiveness and absolutely no forgetting.

    The waty forward is to get independent assessors from coutnries such as India, Colombia, Venezuela, and Iran to assess the Troubles and to apportion blame. Those most to blame should suffer the most.
    If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. Names that come to mind are Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, Gordon Kerr.

  • Turgon

    Mr. Walker,
    You say Eames Bradley is the best we have got. You admit it was rejected. Eames Bradley in their utterly disingenuous and let us be frank, lying, fashion after pretending no to, called for an amnsety after a period of procrastination.

    Many of the victims’ relatives from Claudy who have been on radio or television recently have called for prosecutions. The HET has apparently agreed to look at the issue again.

    The people of Claudy most directly affected want to try to go through the process. As such your comments are condescending nonsense or blatant dishonesty.

    We were prosecuting Nazi war criminals until extremely recently. As such the 38 years since Claudy is not long as compared to some cases.

    It may be that no one will be prosecuted or no one found guilty. However, if the possibility that they might be gives a few of the people who have been publicly named so frequently a bit of fear that is at least a very little benefit.

    As I said above it is for the families to decide: they clearly want to try for prosecution. As such all decent people should support them. Eames and Bradley’s dishonour is clearer now than ever.

  • Alan Maskey

    Turgon, I never prosecuted any Nazi war criminals, real or alleged. However, and you will get a kick out of this, Italy is stil prosecuting these old men, who fought back at the Italian turncoats.
    This is the same Italy who did unspeakable war crimes in Absynia, Libya and the Balkans. Not one Italian ever did a day of time over their war crimes and they gave some of the biggest c-nts state funerals and named his home town after one of them.
    So, Nazi war criminals is a multi edged sword. Careful how you wield it.

    Like you, I have no time for Eames. I would also like to see that weasel in court for reasons very different from your own.

    Every Protestant who lost loved ones through the actions of the IRA have a right, if not to justice (which they have), but at least a right to clear answers as to why their loved ones died.

    Howevr, life goes on. It does not suit some powrful people in the British establishment (this includes PSF) to give those answers.

    If I may say so, your problem with the likes of Eames and Walker is they are neither hot nor cold so you spit them out. But sometimes being just that is the best thing of all and that is of course where their proffered solutions come from. They probably make better neighbours for one than the gentlemen who staffed Gerry Adams’ old crew.

    Instead of trawling through interminable cold cases, why not haul the main protagonists up and make them answer. Gerry Adams, for one, could not complain if the cost of Iirsh unity was his head. Better men, as thye say, paid a higher price.

  • Alias

    Truth, Justice or Reconciliation commissions are only applicable in countries where the regime is no longer in power, and cannot therefore control the terms of such commissions or otherwise influence their outcome.

    They have no relevance in countries where the regime remains in power, and where the state-sponsored murder gangs and other belligerent protagonists now assist in the administration of the regime.

    Anyone who thinks that the British government has any intention of exposing its organisational role in the sectarian squabble to public scrutiny is deranged, arriving at such a bizarre conclusion sans any familiarity with the proliferation of examples where it has acted to suppress such information. Shall we have detailed accounts of how agents of the British state tortured dozens of ‘touts’ who supplied information to the British state about the activities of a murder gang that was operationally directed by the British state, before dumping their hooded, bloodied and naked bodies on a border road? I don’t think so.

    Likewise, folks elected members of sectarian murder gangs and sectarian rabble-rousers to the regime’s regional administration centre, and these degenerates have no intention of allowing any process that depicts them in any light other than saintly peacemakers. Folks knew that electing those most responsible for creating victims to public office would mean that the victimizers would not use that office to secure justice for their victims but would rather lead to them using that office to deny it.

    So, folks can’t eject the central regime, and they have chosen to shaft victims by electing victimizers. This is really just about stringing the victims along until they’ve had enough and give up. The rest is bullshit.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    It seems its two entirely different problems.
    Arresting people and charging them with serious offences is something which just wont happen. No Para is going to jail for Bloody Sunday. Nobody is going to jail for Claudy. Nobody is staying in jail for Shankill Bomb……..and there will never be justice for Ballymurphy Massacre, McGurks Bar. La Mon.
    38 years to find “Recognition” of crimes and cover up is much too long but while journalists are at the front demanding some kind of “Truth” process….it may not have taken 38 years if they had reported events such as Bloody Sunday or Claudy and the rest more accurately.
    They signed up to CREATIVE AMBIGUITY. Youre wrong that Eames-Bradley is the only show in town. CREATIVE AMBIGUITY is the bigger show that underpins our Peace Process.
    The journos aided and abetted by the Press Offices went way too easy on the criminals. Peace was the goal.
    Peace was achieved. Now the same journos discover their independence and their principles and the ……Truth.
    Hate to go all Jack Nicholson but the CREATIVE AMBIGUITY cant handle the Truth.
    As Ive posted on several threads Creative Ambiguity is actually the BIG LIE. But it holds together the Process. We have been encouraged for 15 years or more NOT to look too closely at the War. “Its over” and “shure what was it all about anyway”, “good and bad on both sides” “all 50-50”.
    Next time you visit Belfast, take a trip on the Tour Bus……thats what they say. Thats the line.

    For an historian it is of course a negation of History itself merely to “split the difference”. Historical analysis (aided by Allied victory) does not split the blame. Allies 100% right.
    Since 1945 (Middle East for example) we want Peace and everybody to split the difference in blame or righteousness and evil.
    But that only works when one side has (at least) crushed militarily the other (American Civil War) or (at best) militarily and politically and philosophically (Worl War 2).
    Rightly or wrongly ..our stalemate…..or our “wisdom” at catching ourselves on……has produced a situation where the Truth cannot be established without jeopardising the whole process.
    Which means that the victims will never see the killers of their loved ones in Court.
    Whether Mrs O’Hara (mother of a hunger striker) opposed to the Process and Willie Frazer (relative of victims) opposed to Process……OR Joyce McCartan (deceased now but mother of victims and Peace Worker) and Alan McBride (husband and father of victims and Peace activist) spoke or speaks more authentically for victims..I have no idea.
    But TELLING victims whats right for them is not in our gift.

  • Alan Maskey

    Alias: This is one of the best and greatest posts I have ever seen.
    Brian Walker: Do not delete Alias’ excellent post. Or od if you like. I have saved it to my hard disk.

  • Rory Carr

    The dead have no rights whatsoever despite Alan Maskey’s fervent championship of them. They have no need of rights in Heaven, where presumably all is right and they certainly won’t get them in Hell if it’s all that it’s cracked up to be. Here, on earth, they do not even have the right to be buried – that is merely a responsibility upon the living for the sake of either private sentiment, public order, custom or hygiene.

    This specualtion and inquiry upon Fr Chesney’s purported role in the bombings is not an attack upon the Catholic Church. Indeed, the RUC and the government, believing him to have had a prime role in the bombing, acted in such a way as to shield the priests and adherents of the Church from further harm, even to the extent of shutting down a vital avenue of investigation into the bombing. Even one so severly critical of the RUC as | can see that.

    The Catholic Church has had many great and good men within Holy Orders – Father Damien, the Leper Priest of Molokai springs to mind, but it does no favours to the reputation of such men that wrongdoers be allowed to cower behind the skirts of their great humanity.

    Father Chesney’s denial of participation can be weighed in the balance of any evidence available but so too must any evidence that points to his culpability. This is only but just and justice, surely, does not threaten your church, does it?

  • Alan Maskey

    another excellent comment

  • Alan Maskey

    It is not my church and there are plenty of priests I would gladly string up.
    The dead have rights. The dead of Claudy, Ballymurphy, Kingsmills, La Mon, Sean Graham’s have the right to the truth.
    The institutional Catholic Church is more of a culprit than any country bumpkin cleric sectarians would like to string up. The instiitional Catholic Church and its closet gays hide behind the walking saints, whose shit does not smell. Chesney is dead. Whether Conway thinks Chesney, whom he most probably never met, is a bad man or not, is irrelevant (except if the Vatican try to canonise him).
    Chesney is a red herring. Ask Martin McGuinness to say what he knows about post Motorman PIRA strategy.

    And even on this site, isn’t it odd that Orangies are fixated on Chesney and gloss over the Donaldson mystery. Most here regard the RIRA as being thick and they are certainly not very subtle. But why do McGuinness and Adams such a great favour by offing Donaldson?

    Let us have posts that move the process forward and pinpoint those who have the biggest cases to answer. People like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

    Alias and Fitzjames have made two excellent comments and they are well worth considering.

  • I agree also, this is a very good post.

  • Quite provocatively a good post.

  • Brian Walker

    It’s such a characteristic of the silos of NI that people hold to their own visions whatever happens. You can rehearse these as much as you like. But there is a reality somewhere out there. The main questions are not what you believe without evidence but with total certainty really happened or ideally ought to happen but what is established happened, is happening and is likely to happen.

    I conclude no one will be sent to jail for terrorist offences committed before 1998. .Anyone disagree?

    Right next.

    Are the HET and the Police Ombudsman all part of a cover-up conspiracy? Or are the police files so poor and/.or doctored that they’re wasting their and our time?

    Are we lacking whole classes of infomation? If so, how do we get it? I agree that more official files should be released.But Stalker/ S

    Should we ( whoever we are) demand a whole new inquiry process into the whole of the Troubles?

    Short of that, what else is there?

    For myself I believe that an oral and written history project is the best bet for getting closer to what happened.
    Parallels with victor’s justice only partly apply Anyway plenty of old SS men were running around free for years, covered by Limitations and the limits of inquiry . .

    I also say this to the swarm of dark conspiracy theorists: it’s just flat wrong to say that the worst stories of Perfidious Albion don’t come out. I’m pretty sure the same will apply to NI. Quite a lot has emerged already.

    Try exploring the history of Empire – Hola Camp,Kenya, Palestine,Cyprus, Iraq, India, Ireland pre-1921. etc. But the stories are of course rounded, so they mightn’t satisfy you.

    Not good enough because it doesn’t fit your thesis, your private privileged knowledge of what REALLY happened?

    Would anything? No? If nothing would, why should anybody else care what you think? .

  • Damian O’Loan


    “are the police files so poor and/.or doctored that they’re wasting their and our time?”

    This touches on an interesting point. Perhaps it should be a criminal offence to be in possession of RUC files, or there should be a reward for their return, so as to encourage that. There are no doubt many in old shoeboxes in attics and there is currently no incentive to even have a look. Those ‘lost’ in filing cabinets in Whitehall are another question and I don’t think offering a redacted truth in 70 years is good enough.

    The IRA and paramilitary organisations can’t be expected to have left such a paper trail so their members really shoud be brought forward for interview. But how to bring that about?

    The problem with offering an extended amnesty is that, where this has been done, it has served democracy markedly less well than ‘stability’ and so it’s not a convincing offer for ex or current Irish nationalist terrorists, at least, not to mention wider society. Who’s winning the PR battle so far? Why would PIRA members extend that deal?

    I agree with you on historians being the best placed to offer a narrative. But individual cases are another matter, there is a right that can’t be simply ignored in terms of partisan or even cross-partisan interests. Woud it be more prudent to begin with abolishing the public nature of justice before abandoning the entire concept, as appears to be the status quo? Could restorative justice survive without retributive?

    Incidentally, that over-arching inquiry you mention is the SF position. They have laid down their conditions for PIRA secrets and until then, seem fairly happy to have the blame placed on priests or ‘the Brits’ without discrimination, just as the British government will hang a regiment here or there out to dry in the ongoing PR battle. Whether SF could negotiate terms for such an Inquiry that doesn’t render its position even more absurd is another question.

    You seem very frustrated, I’m sure it’s early days yet for this debate.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    No one seriously disagrees …no-one is going to jail for anything prior to 1998. Thats obvious.
    The point of disagreement is whether this is acceptable. To some……Justice is paramount. To others who believe that the Peace Process cannot sustain itself against criminal trials..Justice is secondary.
    As are the personal feelings of the “victims” (who are not and never will be a homogenous group). For some its a Crusade. For some an Obsession. For some its about moving on.
    And while my own “victimhood” was extremely low scale..I have no idea whether when faced with “real victimhood”, I would be a Joyce McCartan or a Willie Fraser. I know which Id prefer. I know which Id fear.
    But this is not to disparage either.
    The point is that we live in a DELIBERATELY contrived grey area.
    We all “know” that nobody is going to jail.
    But we must believe that HET can bring charges….even if CPS declares it “not in public interest” “time elapse”, “lost files” and frankly any Judge would throw anything out of Court.

    So…politically there is no will to declare an official amnesty. Even if it exists de facto. Without that statement rcognising reality…there wont be any rush for “oral history projects” with some kinda official status.
    And God save us from journalists being involved.
    There are actually a number of “oral history” projects. I am involved in one myself.
    Effectively all a call for “an oral and history project” is a call for the Johnny Come Lately Establishment (Overclass) to muscle in with their professional er “expertise”. The canny academics and the canny community groups have been doing it for years.
    Still…….with Peace ending the lucrative gravy train….for solicitors, journalists and the rest.I cant blame them for wanting some “residuals”

  • A.N.Other

    I am not sure where or what the “pain” is, and how you propose that one can go about measuring it. Grief forms part of a psychological process, with, for most people, the pain slowly dissolving away over time. It does not do one any good to remain absorbed in the past. The same applies to society at large.

  • Brian Walker

    AN- The pain is great enough without the process increasing it, I should have thought.

    Damian you leave out the crucial word ” international ” in SF’s “inquiry” which means more than Irish. I take their position to be tactical, in the belief that it won’t happen – I would be delighted to be contradicted authoritatively. Who thinks the chances of anything like full IRA disclosure are other than remote? . SF might adopt the old decommisssioning stance and say “We tried but we can’t give orders..” Nor indeed can they.

    There wil be no major inquiiry exercise because:

    nobody will pay for it

    prior agreement on the extent of truth telling is unattainable

    the local parties especially SF, at least privately couldnt see it far enough.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if all parties, HMG above all, stall until after the 2011 elections, even over Ballymurphy. The Ombudsman will be left holding the baby and his 106 case load. The courts may progressively order disclosure for inquests but the British government will not rush to anticipate them.

    Their problem is privately funded civil actions. They willl hope to convince that the evidence doesn’t justify the effort and expense.

    Yes Damian I’m frustrated at the lack of willingness to grip the problem honestly. As usual. How long have we been
    ” debating ” this now?

  • Are we also ignoring a rather difficult elephant in the room – the final and unequivocal dissolution of the idea that the state is an honest broker in this?
    The two very different forms, scales and focus of the inquiries by Saville and the Ombudsman have both confirmed that the state and its agents failed to fulfil their legal duties and obligations. Some people will obviously want to qualify that by claiming exceptional circumstances, yet the paradox is that the state pursued a ‘normalisation’ policy as part of its political arsenal and, as such, denied that such conditions existed.
    In terms of cost the state expended an unconscienable amount of money at Saville defending what it knew to be indefensible (bizarrely so, cui bono?). In the case of the Ombudsman’s report on Claudy, an interminable wait ended in the briefest of reports that can be summed up as follows: Fr Chesney provided an alibi to a suspect whilst he was also under suspicion yet he was not questioned for political reasons. As did the report, I have purposely omitted a statement regarding his actual guilt or innocence since both are technically unproven, although one is being assumed in popular sentiment, the other in law. Despite the lengthy delay the relatives were not even offered an official and definitive digestion of intelligence or qualified speculation on the chronology and actors in the Claudy bombings to suggest that the state has any coherent grasp of how events unfolded.
    Mick has pointed out that this is a problematic issue to unpack. In short – I think an agreed consensus on this will not emerge from the political field since all of the players have a stake of one form or other either in disclosure or non-disclosure. To imagine that the state has no strategic interest in this has been completely dispelled by Saville and the Claudy report. As such, if an agenda is to be formed and pursued it will have to happen elsewhere. Investigative journalists, documentary-makers, historians and others will have to take the lead. It seems unlikely that some transformative moment will arrive that will dramatically alter the consensus on this, so, anyone willing to take it on must also realise they are contributing to a long term project whose value may be slow to be appreciated.

  • diarmaid

    very ironic that a month after the british state accepts the murder of innocent civillians now a priest whos is dead is accused of these bombings, with no evidence at all.
    so the ruc were in league with the british government and catholic church to surpress catholics in the north

    irony or rewriting of history.

  • diarmaid

    ira disclosure may be remote but that of the british state is never going to happen because they have to justify their partition of a country along sectarian lines to creat a majority in an entity that never existed before and should never have existed.
    the problem is that nationalists are prepared to accept what happened, their role and accept a vote, a house, and peace, whereas other refuse to accept their role in creating the ‘troubles’, the sectarian nature of the currant situation and anything other than a revision of history of a 6 county state that was invented for their benefit.

    you would think the ira grew up overnight for no reason and just wanted to bomb for the craic, if you listen to the currant revisionism.

    enough with this – end the orange state, and reunite this country where all religions are equal, wit ha proper palliament, with true democracy not this 2/3 religious majority joke of a parliament, that will take decades to control the civil service who really run the north as shown by the recent ni water debacle.

    if this was south africa it would be racism but in ni its ok cos thew glorious north always existed and is to always exist

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thanks. Mr Walker overlooked it in his round up. He also overlooked my second post.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thanks. Mr Walker overlooked it……and my second post.

  • Kevin Barry

    I agree wholeheartedly with you Brian

  • Gendjinn

    Would that be better or worse than the amnesty the paratroopers got for murdering civilians in Derry?

  • Hell’s teeth, Maskie: there are still many unanswered questions about the Trojan War! Yet you assume there is a “right to clear answers” over events in living memory! In many ways, fallible human memory — not excluding very partial and highly-selective, even monocular, memories, such as your own — is itself the problem.

    Sticking the odd individual’s head on a pike, with or without some kind of show trial, is no “answer”either.

    Yes, it remains important that questions are put to the historical record. And that history answers.

    Answers may be glacially slow in coming, and never total, never absolute, never final and authoritative. The process is more Kantian than Pauline.

    It took years for a second maths teacher to show me a quicker, neater solution than Pythagorus’ to the right-angled triangle theorem — surely itself an “absolute” answer. Yet had I known and displayed that alternative, I would likely have failed GCE, even Leaving Cert Maths.

    Allow me, then, to drag in today’s Economist, which concludes inconclusively:

    Relatives of those killed in Claudy say they are still dissatisfied: all these years of inquiry have produced new information but no accountability. Sometimes inquiries can achieve their aims, as the almost universal welcome for the report in June into Bloody Sunday showed. In this case there is more work to be done.

    Why am I repetitively citing The Economist? Because it tends to set the agenda for the London Sundays, and thereby is an opinion-former out of proportion to its circulation.

    Oh, and by the way, if you think the term “Nazi” is relevant to the Mussolini régime (except, arguably, the puppet Salò Republic), you are mistaken.

    Even there, Salò lives on, via Luca Romagnoli’s dismal Movimento Sociale Fiamma Tricolore, all of a few hundred strong. They, too, are convinced they have the absolute “truth”. They offer the only political, economical and spiritual system able to bring the freedom and social justice that [is] today denied to Italians and all other world populations. Be warned.

    The past is ever with us, of us, and inside us. There are no epiphanies of blinding, all-clarifying “truth”, except for those swivel-eyed “true believers” who seek me out on my doorstep and elsewhere, to demand if I have been “saved”. I’d rather have my continuing doubts and problems, thanks.

  • Brian Walker

    diarmaid, What was secret about partition? The evidence (if that is what it is) about Fr Chesney didn’t orginate from the RUC. And how can you argue that his removal shows they were all in league to suppress Catholics? You need to expose your reasoning to more critics in advance ..

    John, I agree that an 8 year wait for the Claudy report is hard to defend but you muddle up all sort of things here, Normalisation is an early C21 concept, far away from 1972. when crisis to near collapse was the order of the day.( If you don’t remember it, read the CAIN chronology).

    In 1972 the State ( in the form of recently imposed Direct Rule) was in some respects an “honest broker” over a new political settlment. You may be too young to remember the boldness of the early moves.

    Almost immediately Whitelaw began the talks which led to power sharing and he had just failed in his attempt to get an IRA ceasefire. The Chesney example was a judgement not to much about politics but on the impact on the community of his arrest. The RUC thought it would have exposed the priesthood to greater sectarian attack and themselves to even more accusations of sectarian bias. Right or wrong, is that really so hard to understand?. As the community was hardly in an ideal situation, it follows that neither was the State, The State is not some leviathan up there, it’s us.

  • Alan Maskey

    Brian Walker
    Normalisation, which you say was a c21 construct, was integral to the 1970-81 plan to criminalise PIRA. It had three strands: criminalisation-Ulsterisation-normalisation. There is no debate on that one.
    The State is not “us”. The State, the British state that is, was a foreign power allowing apartheid against Catholics to thrive under their local proxies.
    When 1969 burst on the scene and the State’s agents wre seen battering civil rigfhts protesters, elected Cathpolics included, mercilessly, the foreign British state had no answer. They were shown up globally for the savages that they are. Their response was to encourage PIRA and to paint the conflict as a trivial two tribes go to war here we go again conflict with mighty Britania being the honest arbitrar.
    Engaging PIRA made plenty of sense from the British side. Sending the squaddies in before turning them on the Taigs etc. All was containment. The Provos played their part in that too.
    When old wounds are not healred, they fester. The dead have rights that must be respected, not least because thye affect the living.
    One of the strangest things is this Fr Chesney saga is the attempt to implicate the Catholic church and thereby absolve the leaders of PSF.
    As Fr Faul used to say, the British play the long game. So whose side is everyone batting for?
    Allied to the Chesney story, we have the Donaldson and Stakeknife stories which, if told in their entireties would have to embarrass Gerry Poc fada Adams. Stakeknife, it turns out was Fredddie with the Italian name. Yet Loyalsits bumped off an old guy in Ballymurphy with an Italian name (the family later got in a squabvble with the Provos) and no one saw the connection.
    If this is drifting off thread, let me put it back on: Forget about the monkeys. Get the organ grinders if you want justice to be achieved and pain to be ameliorated.

  • Brian – I wasn’t muddling anything up, I think you just don’t fully sign up to my particular analysis! I was refering to ‘normalisation’ as a strategy not as a named formal plan for ‘Normalisation’. I meant the decisions to do things like remove political status from prisoners, ‘criminalisation’ of the conflict etc, which occured back in the mid-1970s (you don’t have to be an out-and-out republican to admit that those were official policies, since they were).
    There are numerous major pulse points that you could select to begin charting the path the state took: the official parliamentary processes like the Compton Report, the retrospective legalisation of arrests by soldiers under the SPA, Widgery etc etc and probably countless other local actions directed from the highest levels of government (Claudy being a case in point). The sum total of these clearly identifies that the UK government breached its own laws and did not pursue those who committed crimes (under its legislation) for political motives.
    In terms of the state as an ‘honest broker’ – I’m not sure how you think I employed the term so I’ll be as blunt as possible. From as early as 1971, the British government had to cover-up aspects of it’s activities in Northern Ireland because they were illegal under its own laws (torture via Compton, illegal arrests under the SPA via legislation, murder via Widgery and again with Claudy etc). Not only that, the denial of the cover-ups and the narratives it had to perpetuate to support it’s own denials contributed significantly to the alienation of significant proportions of the population.
    Since I was born in 1972, these are all historical events to me, rather than memories. Whether Heath and Whitelaw and others thought they were acting with a selfish strategic interest or whatever is only interesting in what the French Annales school of history would call an événement, a short term sense. I am interested in the longer term picture (the longue durée if I’m going to maintain the high level of pretentiousness of this reply). The state participated in the troubles, it did not sit on the sidelines and merely observe. So far it has clearly demonstrated that it retains a vested interest in protecting its own performance and so cannot be regarded as the point of origin of any form of truth process.

  • Rory Carr

    I see that Alan Maskey is at it again: “The dead have rights.”

    This is patent nonsense. They cannot have rights. They’re dead. What the hell good would “rights” do for the dead? We are not living in some poltically correct George Romero movie. This is life. What distinquishes the dead is that their life and any entitlement to, or need of, “rights” is over.

    ” The dead of Claudy, Ballymurphy, Kingsmills, La Mon, Sean Graham’s have the right to the truth.”

    Well, no they don’t. It wouldn’t do them any good whatsoever – they’re dead, remember? They already knew the truth when they were living, but in death they are past caring.

    Only the living care, only the living can have rights, but even the living don’t have any “right” to the truth, hard as that may be to accept. They do however have the right to demand the truth and, unlike the dead, have the power to enforce that demand if they strive hard enough. They may not uncover all of it within their own lifetimes and it may be that it will be left to the historians of the future, those who live on after they are dead to complete that task.

    But all of this will not be for the dead but for the living, for only the living matter, only the living care.

  • jim

    if u want to get the organ grinders offer ira vols of the time money to come forward.since the surrender of the pira most of the vols have been hung out to dry with the usual suspects buying holiday homes shops houses talks most of the operators are walking about skint if adams n co can jump on the bandwagon writing books y cant x vols come forward n be paid for telling what really happened.

  • Nunoftheabove


    The living who don’t care much for truth are a worrying kind, are they not ?

    And let’s bear in mind who benefits most from any suspension to the right to it in these circumstances; defeated freedom fighters who killed people for (as it turns out, whatever about their motivation) nothing, sectarian criminal thugs, child-raping churches and justice-perverting ruling class Brits.

    You’re absolutely entitled to your opinion and i think I know where you’re coming from, just be clear that you know whose side you’re on.

  • DerTer

    Responding to your earlier suggestion for an oral history project, I resoundingly agree. Anyone who has read Ed Moloney’s ‘Voices from the Grave’ will recognise the value of interviews with people directly involved. I look forward to more from the Boston College archive.

  • DerTer

    This last was of course directed to Brian, not to John!

  • Alan Maskey

    Good point.

  • Alan Maskey

    Rory Carr: So you were against the campaign to exonerate British soldiers executed in The Great War for desertion? You are against HM The Queen giving posthumous pardons? Or are you just against anytihng with any tint of a rleigious undertone?
    Some people call it closure. Charlie Armstrong RIP has rights. Jo Jo Dlollar and Deirdre Jacob have rights. Ian Brady’s victims have rights. It used to be called a Christian burial but, hey, whatever.

    So nunoftheabove: whose side are you on? And are there only two sides? How one dimensional is that?

  • Nunoftheabove


    It’s a lot more three-dimensional than anything you’ve offered so far (or, I’m hazarding, likely/able to offer) mon brave, a LOT more. The truth is what I’m interested in and committed to (that’s several more dimensions than you appear able or willing to grasp/embrace), one is not at all interested in or impressed by Columbo-inspired fantasy bullshit which provides cover – or apologies for child-raping priests or for the British ruling class. Or indeed for self-serving provos with (maybe) guilty consciences, come to think of it.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Paid ? In return (presumably in addition to some form of amnesty) for not continuing to pervert the course justice and for colluding in massive distortions of the truth in relation to non-combatants that they killed ? Really ?

  • Alias

    I see that Alan Maskey is at it again: “The dead have rights.”

    This is patent nonsense. – Rory Carr

    Murder trials occur because a dead person was deprived of his right to life. I understand why supporters of sectarian murder gangs would want to create the impression that murderers should not face the Courts for their crimes but that, thankfully, is not how the civilised world views it.

  • Alan Maskey

    You have raping children on the brain. It is not relevant to this case. If Chesney were alive and to be tried by judge and jury, those remarks would disqualify you.
    You want to get at the truth? Great. I am asking questions, the answers to which would help establish the truth. No one is answering them.

    Don’t think Provos have active consciences. When you are steeped with “rivers of blood”, you just swim on. I have met several of these characters, some of whom committed some of the most notorious acts PIRA perpetrated. They just get on with life and, like so many others, live within the ocnfines of their own constructed beliefs and myths.

    My thing is: if you can’t do the time, don’t do the “crime”. But I know these guys: fleas using smaller fleas. Get the big guys. Make them pay.
    If PIRA did Claudy and we all seem to agree they did (even the Dalkey wine bar troll does), well then get the big guys, who sit at Stormont, not some long dead priest against whom there are only ill founded rumours.

    When a terrible crime like rape or murder is committed and the guilty party sentended, the victim or their family usually talk about letting the prisoner rot in jail , or they comment on the length the sentence.

    I say: get Gerry and Martin. Make them squeal.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Yes and what you also believe is that we should give the catholic church hierarchy off the hook. Fine, at least you’re being fairly clear for a change.

    Now T least I know you’re a plain enemy of truth and justice and a believer in sinister fairytales. Not worth debating with as you believe you already have all the answers anyway, shared with you by justice-perverts, sexual deviants and fascist-sysmpathetic clerics.

    Good luck with that, your pals will be well acquainted with how to make people, particularly young people, squeal.

  • Alan Maskey

    There you go again. I don’t know if you are externalising the internal with all this talk of kiddy bonkers.
    Nor can you claim I support the Catholic hierarchy. I see where Conway, O’Fiaich. the two Daly came from and I respect anyone who holds true to what they believe. That would here include Turgon (evangelical Christian) and Brian Walker (presumably ecumenical Anglican).

    I am an ethnic Irish Catholic and I am aware of the bigger “sins” of the Catholic church, which have zero to do with this Chesney case.

    Your problem is with Catholicism and you are using Fr Chesney, unfairly, to attack Catholicism which ,at that time, was most certainly more closely allied with the SDLP than it was with PSF/PIRA.

    The Special Branch could have used someone with your outlook. Juries would not have you, I am afraid.

  • John East Belfast

    John O’Neill

    Dont forget over 20,000 people in NI faced due process and served prison sentences after being convicted of crimes.

    Did certian elements of state forces over step the mark and commit crimes by their own rules – probably.

    However in my opinion the overwhelming majority fo UK Govt reaction was within the law and was a lot more than could be expected from most states in the world.

    Therefore you way over cook your “is the state an honest broker in all this”

    Indeed it is why I, and most unionists – including those with unsolved murders – object to this whole Truth Commission project.

    Such an approach is about equating the PIRA campaign with the State one. Most unionists are happy to leave things as they are rather than any legitimacy be bestowed upon the late 20th century PIRA Campaign.

    We are all getting older and will go to our graves accordingly – but if there are people having nightmares about their crimes that is their problem and if they have religious convictions they know what they need to do before it is too late.

    I think it is essential that the inheritance we give to future generations is that the PIRA campaign and the so called loyalist recation thereto was illegitimate in case anyone thinks they can draw on either for future legitimacy.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “I see that Alan Maskey is at it again: “The dead have rights.”

    This is patent nonsense. – Rory Carr

    Murder trials occur because a dead person was deprived of his right to life.”

    The only problem with your response is that the caption of the relevant action will read, in pertinent part, here in the US: State v. —- or People v. —–. The latter caption makes the point of the action entirely plain.

    Lastly, while the PIRA killed some of their fellow humans, I would not call them a “sectarian murder gang”. How bombs did they detonate? How many were killed? And so what is their bomb detonation to kill ratio? And if they were so intent on murder, then why phone in the warning? Most murderers don’t.

  • John East Belfast

    Alan Maskey

    “I am an ethnic Irish Catholic and I am aware of the bigger “sins” of the Catholic church, which have zero to do with this Chesney case.”

    The Cardinal is shown a file implicating a Priest in mass murder to which he responds he knew “he was a very bad man” and the result is he moves him to be a Priest in Donegal about 70 miles away ?

    Do you think this was ok ?

  • Nunoftheabove


    Puerile ad hominem response – again. My problem with the catholic church is not Father Chesney, it’s the catholic church’s dealing with Chesney which illustrates its problem and part of my problem with it. And it fits a pattern, so stop pretending that the issue is a couple of rotten/incompetent/unlucky provo apples in/from Bellaghy.

    And do please stop trivialising what the catholic church has been responsible for perpetrating, concealing and evading on a huge scale. It’s not kiddy (sic) bonking Alan. It is child rape.

    Perhaps you’re more au fait with the requirements of a talented special branch oficer than I am.

    I don’t like you presuming what I am or who I am or what I believe in, Turgon and Brian Walker can raise their own objections to your own pigeon-holing of them, if they have any. Just don’t do it with me, son.

    As for the church’s institutional alignment with/to the SDLP in the 19070s and 1980s, which doesn’t even need saying, is that supposed to impress any of us or are you going to refresh us all by actually having a point in so saying ?

  • John – I’m not advocating a formalised Truth Commission project – I’m suggesting that it not only that anything that happens should be undertaken by ‘the people’ but also that the state will not advocate a Truth Commission because it is too embedded in what happened to be somehow apart from the process.
    If you are happy to define what the state (and loyalism) did as a ‘reaction’, then you are making a better case for a Truth Commission than you intend.

  • Sorry – John – I think I’d misread the tone of your post, I take you feel that the guilty will get their just reward one way or other.

    My concern isn’t in some sort of balancing act – I just think people have put their faith in the British government defining some sort of process or solution that isn’t going to happen (for the reasons I’ve pointed out) and no-one ‘officially’ has the guts to tell everyone that (although it is blatantly obvious in the way they have dealt with Saville and Claudy to date). I think it is compounding things to give people false hope.

  • John East Belfast


    I was simply pointing out that in the scales of British justice v Paramiltary justice or Paramilitary crime v State Crime the State would win hands down.

    I just picked up in your post that you saw those scales shifting – yes Claudy was shocking but it would appear that the State aim was to reduce further violence.

    In a Truth Commission the starting point will be that those scales are in balance and that is simply not acceptable to me

  • I just though the state wasted a huge amount of money and time over Saville (and time over Claudy) to produce a result that was pretty much common knowledge. People just seem to expect the government to provide a solution when they are part of the problem – I honestly think only some sort of public initiative will provide a framework that isn’t ‘political’. You know, like take over and conserve Crumlin Road Court House, create an archive for future generations – firstly by inviting victim’s families to submit depositions and see where it goes from there. Only one rule – whoever runs it cannot be involved in politics (or the churches). If it spills over – take over the jail and use it as well. At the moment none of this has an official space (like the VIetnam Wall or whatever) – it is just lingering in people’s minds.

  • Rory Carr

    Alan Maskey replies to me with a teenage girlish response,

    “So you were against the campaign to exonerate British soldiers executed in The Great War for desertion? You are against HM The Queen giving posthumous pardons? Or are you just against anytihng with any tint of a rleigious undertone?

    Well, I wasn’t against that campaign and, like the dead soldiers themselves, I wasn’t for it either. Like the dead, I just didn’t care – about the dead that is. I would however be pleased for the living relatives of those executed if they were able to find some solace in the cowardice label being removed from the names of their forebears if it would comfort them.

    Of course I am not “against anything with a tint of religious undertone”. To be so would be to deny the greatest works of art, poetry, philosophy, music and architecture inspired by religious sentiment and I’m certainly not about to deprive myself of such beauty. I’m not a masochist.

    But neither am I prepared to wallow in pseudo-religious sentimental fantasy and extend that mushiness to political, legal and social life by imagining that the dead have rights. That nonsense belongs to the fantasy world of zombies and vampires.

    Slappy corrects Alias’s thinking on murder trials. In the UK a charge of murder is brought because it “offends the peace of Her Majesty the Queen”, not because the murdered have any “right” to justice. Even the living do not have that right. The state holds all authority and all “right” in that regard and quite often do not prosecute a murder case in the “best interests of the state”. Indeed isn’t that partially what all this Claudy/Chesney brouhaha all about?

    The only apparent “right” that the dead might appear to have in law is the right to have their will executed according to their wishes but on closer examination we will realise that what really happens is that the property of the dead is disposed of according to the wishes of the man recorded while he was yet alive. It is the wishes of the living man that are being fulfilled, not the dead one. The dead one doesn’t care; he doesn’t have any wishes. He cannot even wish that were still alive.

    So let’s leave the dead alone. They can do us no harm and we can do them no good. As to the living – do they have any right to the truth? Well no they don’t I’m afraid. What they do have is the ability to strive for the truth, to work to uncover it.

    In that, with all my heart, I wish them well

  • Alan Maskey

    “Alan Maskey replies to me with a teenage girlish response,”

    Sexist and ageist, just like Nunoftheabove’s “son”. Oh well. Let the dead sleep. Let the Disappeared sleep in their unmarked bogholes. The dead have no rights. Unless they “offends the peace of Her Majesty the Queen”. Thank God I am not a Royalist.
    I am sure victims’ families will love your sad semantics.

    John EB: Moving priests, especially non sycophantic ones not well in with the bishop is par for the course with the RC church which has strong centralist and authoritarian streaks to it. Archbishop Mannix, the biggest of them all, was hoofed from Maynooth to Melbourne Austrlalia. The RC Church is much bigger than Ireland and Ireland is hardly even a pawn in their game.
    Chesney was obviously not kicking with the right foot in the RC clergy scheme of things so Doengal it is.
    His sermons seemed to have too much of a Provo whiff about them so he was moved. Moving him to Tipperary would have been outside the diocese and probably not so good a move. So Donegal it was. Nothing unusual there: get the Provo priest out of the way.

    “Many” ex IRA men have become priests. One of the most notable was Piaras ODuill, who was active in South Derry with an IRA flying column during Operation Harvest. They put him as chaplain to Dublin’s Grangegorman Lunatic Asylum. He joined the Capuchins which, it may be said, is one of the RC orders of choice of Irish Republicans. No way were the RC bigwigs going to move him up to Derry. He was very prominent in the H Block protests.

  • Rory Carr

    Oh, Alan. do stop this sentimental, emotional hogwash and try framing arguments in the real world.

    “Thank God I am not a Royalist”, you moan, implying somehow that I am merely because I point out some legal nicety that confounds your distorted thought processes. Why should victims’ families be disturbed by the truth of what I point out since truth is what they seek. They certainly won’t find it if they allow themselves to wallow in your sentimental, unreal mode of thinking. It is hard noses and hard hearts and steely minds that will be required. In this forest of lies and distortion Bambi cannot survive.

  • Alan Maskey

    More puerile insults Rory. The thing is Bambis should survive and it is up to others to make the conditions that they can survive. That is why people would have joined PIRA and the UFF and so on. Dirty jobs needing doing argu,ment
    No one has th right to impugn the dead without reaosns; ergo, the dead, an easy target, have rights.
    As regards the Queen, I don’t give a shot about her.

    To get back to the thread: until the rights of the dead are respected – and these include Robert Nairac, Seamas Ruddy and the other disappeared, there will be no peace. They are still picking over victims of the Tan war.

    I am not wallowing in anything and I have never been sentimental in any way when push came to shove. When Brian Keenan was in A Division, he was banged up with a mass killer who was woried about the welfare of cats on a wll opposte. Keenan thought this was funny: mass killer worries about cat.But in a different circumstance, that killer would show that tagann n duchas tri shuiule an chait.

    Chesney is a blind alley, a dead end. Some pursue him for sectarian reasons and others to deflect blame.

    I stand with St Thomas: show me the evidence.

    ps: As regards Colombo, that so many here on fixated on, one of my favourite episodes with him was when the “villain” was an Irish IRA type gun smuggler: whiskey drinker, poet, tweed coat, the whole nine yards. I thought it ridiculously funny in its cardboard caricature; others no doubt thought it gospel.

    ASgain: if it don’t fit, acquit.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Too late to convict due to the connivance of the church you seem very keen to defend against all criticism (as of course all church critics must be right-wing sectarian Protestant Unionists with axes to grind against uppity taigs, right Alan ?); as a result of their collusion with the state and senior RUC officers, the investigatory trail went cold. Odd how you’re fine with that kind of collusion but not other forms.

    Whether or not there was or could have been sufficient evidence to convict Chesney of anything, we will never now know.

    You could at least acknowledge that your apparent sneaking regard for Chesney is nothing to do with an interest in justice, still less justice for the victims of Claudy; it’s because he was a priest, and by your own account a provo-minded one at that. At least have the honesty to declare that interest in the matter.

    And also do please at least try to have the sense to understand the difference between criticism of what happened in this case (church/state/RUC collusion and perversion of the course of justice) )with anyone stupidly trying to convict Chesney after he’s dead. Those trying to do so based on what we know for certain at the moment are just pulling their own chains.

  • Rory Carr

    “I stand with St Thomas: show me the evidence.”

    Ok, Alan, I’ll go along with that. Show me the evidence that the dead care. Give me one instance of any right being accorded to the dead that would have the slightest effect upon them.

    Anyway it’s a dead loss attempting to have any meaningful discussion with you I think I’ll browse through the Horror Channel and see if they’re showing Dawn of the Dead. It’ll be slightly less silly at least and it’s in colour.

  • Alan Maskey

    “Whether or not there was or could have been sufficient evidence to convict Chesney of anything, we will never now know.”


    And, as regards my regard for priests, I would have no difficulty planting one.