‘Dead men don’t talk back’

After the north of Ireland Police Ombudsman’s report into how the British state dealt with the Claudy bombings, the susequent furore/media focus has been on Father James Chesney and his later move to a parish in Donegal.

This has been treated as acceptance, admission or proof of his involvement in events of that day. Nothing of the sort was shown in the report.

This small truth, his moving parishes, has become an absolute demonstration for many of his involvement in the bombings – no proof or evidence has been offered and the Ombudsman investigation was solely focused on RUC/British state failings, not an evidential assessment.

An article from Suzanne Breen in today’s Tribune noted this allegation now masquerading as fact.

Clearly Chesney had Republican sympathies, clearly he was a catholic, clearly gossip and allegation is being used to label him an active member of the IRA and central to the Claudy massacre.

As Padraigín Drinan said:

The explanation circulating has been that arresting a Catholic priest would have worsened the security situation by inflaming nationalists. “That doesn’t ring true,” says Drinan. “During the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre, British soldiers shot dead Fr Hugh Mullan who had gone to help an injured man.

“Another priest was also shot in east Belfast but survived. And two Belfast priests, Fr Peter McCann and Fr Malachy Murphy, were arrested for not completing the 1971 census forms in protest against interment.

“The state had shown it was prepared not just to arrest priests but to shoot them, so why not question Fr Chesney if there was evidence against him? I don’t know if he was or wasn’t involved in Claudy, and I’m no fan of the Catholic church, but something stinks. It’s easy to scapegoat Fr Chesney because dead men don’t talk back.”

The only thing clear is the Claudy families/victims still don’t have truth or justice and while it may suit many to pretend these claims against a priest amount to truth – they don’t.

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  • lamhdearg

    i dont know if this man was gulity or not, had he been arrested and convicted the uvf/uff would have had targets in uniform.

  • Alan Maskey

    Fair play to Breen for beginning the digging. I wonder why the Kilrea IRA man opened his gob? Did touting not involved a death sentence? Good to see Martin McG in the frame where he belongs but still a long way to go on this.

  • The question of Chesneys innocence or guilt could be answered easily if PIRA named those who were responsible.

    In the meantime there are unanswered questions. I understand HET is looking into the case, perhaps they will find the answers.

  • Alias

    It’s easier for the British state to blame a dead priest for the actrocity than it is to place the blame where it actually belongs – with a deputy first minister of the British state.

  • tacapall

    Its an old fashioned lynching, wild west style, this is Unionisms manufactured Saville revellation only there’re just gonna point the finger at the dead without any evidence other than a nudge nudge wink wink from RUC Special Branch.

  • Westsider

    Good post.

    I read everything about this over the course of last week and couldn’t find a single piece of evidence linking Chesney to this atrocity.

    It seems the media needs a balancing tale to the Bloody Sunday inquiry and here they found it.

    And it is without hazard given the man is dead. That piece by Breen is incredibly interesting; the fact that Ivan Cooper, the public face of a lot of coverage and a media darling after the Bloody Sunday film, headed up much of this, and yet his testimony at the BS inquiry was dismissed is fascinating.

    I didn’t know that. Were any other Slugger brethren aware of that?

    This story has a lot longer to run, and some media outlets, I’d wager, are going to have red faces as a result.

    Did Martin McGuinness authorise it? That’s something that needs to be explained. The official report makes no mention of it, but Breen, who hates and despises Sinn Fein, includes a quote from her favourite ‘unnamed source’ to throw shit in his direction.

    I don’t think it is as simple as that.

    There’s something about this…. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is just something that is incredibly sinister and cloaked about this atrocity.

  • tacapall

    No it is not! The Ombudsman has given his report. It hi lights unanswered questions and raises more and now I understand the HET are looking into the case.

    Personally Im not in favour of these historical investigations. It seems to me they do more harm than good.

  • Westsider

    Im no admirer of SF but I have to say I would be deeply suspicious of anything derogatory said about SF from someone who ‘hates and despises them’!

  • tacapall

    Yes a bit like the McGurks bar, Dublin, Monaghan bombings lots of finger pointing when they happened but the truth eventually outed but not the one mouthed at the time by the people in power at the time.

  • Westsider

    Don’t read the Sunday Tribune then. For an investigative reporter she is strangely silent on one of her former favourites – Paddy Murray – and has given two others a wide berth in recent months.

    I wonder why?

    Nevertheless, when she is good she is very good, but it’s just not that often. If only she could unburden herself of those hang-ups and hatreds, she’d be as good as Susan McKay, Fionnuala O’Connor or the late, and greatly lamented, Mary Holland as Ireland’s premier female journalist.

  • tacapall

    And where did the Ombudsman get his evidence from – Special branch files and oral evidence – No physical or tangible evidence that connects anyone other than hearsay.

  • tacapall

    In the absence of PIRA assistance what else was he supposed to use?

    There is no lynching, no kneecapping and no kangaroo court, there are questions and hopefully they will be answered.

  • Westsider

    If I stopped reading newspapers because I did not approve of the journalists politics I would never read any!

    Besides I did not say I do not admire Ms Breen, I do. She has shown courage and tenacity. If she has an achilles heel it is her dislike of SF.

  • “Dead men don’t talk back”
    “this allegation now masquerading as fact.”

    But those still alive can tell you about their experiences and knowledge of them as the former PIRA volunteer does in the Breen article.

    “He was extremely confident and dynamic. He wasn’t just a verbal republican. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.”

    Or are we only supposed to believe the first half of the Breen article and ignore the second half?

  • tacapall

    Wheres the evidence connecting PIRA to this atrocity again hearsay and innuendo fingered by those who have no other evidence other than their own discredited opinions and assumptions.

  • Alan Maskey

    Breen has to be applauded for STARTING the digging and showing up some interesting things about Chesney, like his father being a Prod (was not yet in the public domain).
    Kilrea is a long way from Cullon so how did the Kilrea guy know of Chesney and how come he is now touting, sometging SFIRA disapprove of? The bingo money getting nicked would have to be verifiable. And PIRA having mass meetings in Bingo halls? Where were the Branch? Were they not following the usual suspects….to Bingo?

    Tosu maith leath ne h-oibre.

  • tacapall

    Now you’re reaching! If there is one thing every independent agrees on its that is was the IRA what done it.

    Oh and Mr Chesney does seem to have been active IRA, at least if Ms Breens informant is to be believed.

  • tacapall

    Pippakin im not reaching any more than you are ,” every independent agrees on its that is was the IRA what done it “. Again no physical or verifiable evidence other than opinion and assumption.

    “Oh and Mr Chesney does seem to have been active IRA, at least if Ms Breens informant is to be believed”. Are we going round in circles here – produce the verifiable evidence.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    “North of Ireland”? Come on, it’s 2010.

  • Turgon

    Alan Maskey,
    Cullion the parish of which Father Chesney was curate is near Desertmartin. Desertmartin is 15 miles from Kilrea: so not it is not far away at all.

  • tacapall

    At the end of the day its all speculation. Throw up factual evidence connecting Fr Chesney to the atrocity that can be independently verified. I dont think you or anyone else can.

  • tacapall

    I am perfectly happy to wait for the results of investigations which btw is what I have been saying from the start. I will not however be holding my breath on SF/PIRA telling the truth, that would be a remarkable first!

    What Im not prepared to do is assume there are no questions to be answered, there are questions, there is an ongoing investigation and I will wait for the answers.

  • Dead men don’t talk back, but useful information is there if anyone genuinely wants to find it. A modicum of actual research might have actually shed some light on this instead of the nonsense presented by Suzanne Breen (and others).
    I just spent a couple of minutes looking through the online Irish Times archive. The cars used in Claudy were stolen in Dungiven and Magherafelt before the 30th July 1972 – so the Claudy bormbing appears to have been organised before Motorman, so there goes the MMcG angle that some would obviously love to add (to any and every story). Also, Motorman in Derry was reported to have began at 4am and was over by 5am, so anyone pushing the idea that the IRA were organising diversionary actions to take the heat off no-go areas in Derry is merely demonstrating an embarasingly limited knowledge of the realities of what was going on.
    The Provisionals repeatedly denied involvement in the days after Claudy, but they would, wouldn’t they (of course as they eptimose pure evil)? None of the well informed commentators have bothered to do anything other than take that for granted. Yet the Belfast Battalion of the IRA admitted to the Bloody Friday bombings (21st July 1972), certainly that was what was reported in the Irish Times of the 22nd July (so the admission must have been made on the day). So, why deny Claudy a week and half later? Unless, of course, it was actually carried out by what was to become the ‘Independent’ IRA unit in South Derry that wasn’t under control of the Provisionals? It is not that that is hard to comprehend, but chances are people won’t get any closer to the truth if they want to keep ignoring that as the more likely explanation (particularly if they want to profile the likely suspects).
    The IT also reported that the three guys who were unable to ring a warning in Feeney or Dungiven and then warned of the bombs in shops in Dungiven were aged between 13 and 17. These guys must be between 51 and 55 if they are still alive – did anyone even give any time over to trying to work out who they were/are and try and track them down to get some answers.
    If anything positive is to come from a mess like Claudy, some of those professing an interest need to up their game significantly.

  • Alan Maskey

    I thought it was the Cullon between Derry and Strabane. Snyway, hopefully some truth will come out of all this. Digging can only be good.

  • Alias

    Claudy occured after Motorman had concluded, so the distraction theory is a non-starter anyway. And besides, an extra 4,000 troops were drafted into NI for Motorman, so how many of them did Marty think he could distract?

  • Alias

    Incidentally, the only attention that Claudy would have ‘distracted’ is the public’s attention from the three teenage cousins who were shot by British soldiers during Operation Motorman, killing one of them. As is customary, the British state brought no legal action against the boy’s murderer, choosing instead to blacken the dead boy’s name by calling him a terrorist (an MoD statement that was later recanted). As is clear, the reputations of its citizens mean nothing to the British state.

  • Liam

    Good post John. You hit the proverbial nail on the head.Want to take a stab at who was being protected?

  • Oracle

    Okay a few things,

    First Tacapall,

    I really need to know are you seriously suggesting that the Claudy bombing was not the work of the PIRA, tell me do you also believe that dinosaurs roamed the earth 6,000 years ago, the Sun orbits the Earth and that the Earth is flat??

    Second John O’Neill

    Don’t get hung up on the cars John, it was common practice to nick anything and hide them in lock ups or barns until they were needed, one car was famously left in a garage in Hillhead Cresent for 4 years.

    As for Mortorman being over, well it wasn’t the British Army secured the city in a few hours but they hadn’t searched it yet for manpower and weaponry, so a distraction wasn’t out of the question.
    You should also have read that the senior IRA man was in jail at the time and was relaying what other IRA personnel has given him as an excuse, and there were only 2 senior PIRA men from Derry in jail at that time so your italics as a form of dismissal are ill conceived.

    I’m surprised John your normally a lot sharper than this display hopefully it was the long weekend at fault.

    Lastly Westsider,

    As with the note to John above any reasoned gathering of clues will identify the source as one of two people so not such an unnamed source after all, perhaps your own personnel hatred of Breen is hampering you from seeing a little clearer.

  • Cynic

    …………and PIRA were desperate to show that they still had clout but didnt dare move in West Belfast or Derry so easier to murder children in another area

  • Alan Maskey

    John

    Yours is a good but necessarily imperfect post. You have fingered other possible culprits.
    Much more importantly, you have done some digging, digging the media and coppers are paid to do. When all we do is regurgitate gossip that is already in the public domain, we serve invidious interests.
    Truth is the first casualty of Peace Processes.

  • Oracle, my point is simply that a lot of the story people are trying to get out of Claudy just doesn’t stand up to any half-serious examination – and that is no use to anyone.
    The idea that Claudy might have been ordered as some sort of distraction sounds like an idea dreamed up after watching Battlefield on the History Channel. Motorman in Derry was over in an hour at 5 am with no resistance.
    As to the issue of the cars – I agree it is somewhat incidental, but it doesn’t exacty fit the Motorman distraction theory either.
    As to your point about the IRA and well informed sources – its so garbled I can’t get any sense out of it and I can’t figure out how you think it relates to what I wrote.

  • tacapall

    Oracle when someone can put evidence other than gossip on the table then I will believe, give a logical reason why, if it was the PIRA, they did not claim responsibility but have always denied it. As for dinosaurs roaming the earth 6000 years ago you would be better directing that question to the people who are pointing the finger at Fr Chesney as they’re the people who actually believe in fantasy.

  • Don’t have a clue, LIam. Was it unusual for a suspect like Chesney to not be questioned about a crime for operational reasons or whatever (i.e. in that sense, is this such a unique case)? Maybe no-one was being protected – I think there was a mixture of arrogance, incompetence and indifference at play.

  • Alan Maskey

    Oracle: As regards nicking cars, that is not as straightforward as you think. HM Armed Forces specialise and so too did PIRA etc, to an extent. The cars used in Omagh, for example, were most likely nicked in Monaghan by INLA guys. One north Dublin crew nicked a lot of cars for PIRA.
    After a bombing or whatever, the cops start looking for clues. Recall that after the RIRA attack that stiffed the two Brits, they did not burn out the car properly. So the cops have forensics and a car they can trace. Not good for RIRA.

    Whilst Claudy was done in relatively early days, the car thing is important. There are also rumours – no court of law yet – that bomb traces were found in the boot of Chesney’s car. If so, he would not have walked – for many many years.

  • tacapall

    Alan (1974) is that the same type of forensic evidence that they used to convict the Birmingham 6, all sorts of skullduggery was going on at that time, the Dublin Monaghan bombings, McGurks bar, its not inconceivable this was carried out by the same people.

  • Violence is the diplomacy of the incompetent.

    and

    To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
    [Both Isaac Asimov]

    In which connection, Hari Seldon was professor of Mathematics at Streeling University, Trantor, and the originator of psychohistory.

    Actually, psychohistory predates the Foundation series by many decades: Freud and Reich were both at it.

    It’s an example of psychohistory that, on one side of the Great Irish Divide, a Roman Catholic priest would be self-evidently incapable of being a terrorist. Cross the societal rupture, of course, and … well, in that context, anything goes.

    Yet, it is equally possible for Chesney to be guilty-as-charged, but, in his own terms, perfectly justified by the historical moment. It would be a small step for one attracted to the modish “liberation theology” of Gustavo Gutiérrez. Any practising student of Catholic theology, particularly one in Northern Ireland at that point of time, would have been cognizant of that movement. After all, the cultist A Theology of Liberation was (if I recall correctly) published that year.

    Suddenly, according to the changing climate of the times, Chesney could equally be depicted as a heroic figure. Such ambiguity is greatly exploited in theological history.

  • “Kilrea is a long way from Cullon so how did the Kilrea guy know of Chesney and how come he is now touting, sometging SFIRA disapprove of?”

    Cullion and Kilrea are in the same County. They are about 50 miles apart. They were covered by the same IRA unit – ‘South Derry’. Chesney has been described as QM and Director of Ops ample reason why an OC in Kilrea would know him as he would be getting direction and weapons from the person.

    “how come he is now touting”

    He would have been giving the police the information at the time and perhaps the murder of nine innocent people including children pricked his conscience?

    ” PIRA having mass meetings in Bingo halls? Where were the Branch? Were they not following the usual suspects….to Bingo?”

    Most likey waiting outside for their informers at the meeting to debrief them on who was there what was discussed and what was being planned. Little or none of which they’d find out if they raided it.

  • Correction15 miles

  • Oracle

    John the phone system was banjaxed due to a previous bombing.
    The IRA bombers couldn’t get through on the phones and moronically and murderously waited too long waiting for a workable phone…

    by the time they realised they had fucked up and gave verbal warnings to shopkeepers in neighbouring towns to warn the emergency services….. THE BOMBS HAD EXPLODED and people were robbed of life

    They then went into denile after that

  • I wasn’t challenging that sequence of events at all. I even pointed out what the papers identified of those who gave the warnings in Dungiven. They were described as three kids, 13 to 17 years of age. Now, if anyone can work out who they were, this might go somewhere.

  • Tacapall,

    There have been several murders carried out around this time that the Provisionals denied that they have subsequently admitted – the whole disappeared thing. Many of these were carried out by the same branch of the Provisional organisation as Bloody Friday. I would suggest this undermines your argument that at this period the provos admitted things that were bad publicity and so would have admitted Claudy on the basis they admitted Bloody Friday.

  • Reader

    Drinan: “The state had shown it was prepared not just to arrest priests but to shoot them, so why not question Fr Chesney if there was evidence against him?”
    Drinan seems to be referring to a monolithic state here. One where the split second decisions of private soldiers conform exactly to Government strategy. Here on planet earth, Drinan’s actual question has already been answered.

  • Alan Maskey

    And others, TUVers etc, want to paint the Church as a monolith, with the Roman emperor moving his little pawns around, a bomb here, a child there. dangerous, incendiary stuff.

  • tacapall

    Garibally I am well aware of that, but if you are going to point the finger of blame because of previous form then you cannot discount the UVF, who during the same period carried out the Dublin Monaghan bombings, McGurks bar and never claimed responsibility. At that time the same people who pointed the finger at the PIRA for those attacks are the same people who are pointing the finger at Fr Chesney.

  • It’s certainly possible the UVF planted these bombs. However, the balance of probabiliy suggests it’s more likely that an organisation that was in the middle of a reckless campaign of bombings targetting city and town centres that claimed the lives of many civilians was responsible.

    Whether Fr. Chesney was involved or not, I’ve no idea. Whether he was or wasn’t doesn’t add or detract at all from what happened as far as I’m concerned.

  • Gendjinn

    Pippakin,

    like how SF said those murdered in Derry by the paratroopers were innocent and British Government said they were terrorists?

    Or how SF said the Guildford 4 were innocent and the British Government said they were terrorists?

    Or how SF said the Maguire 7 were innocent and the British Government said they were terrorists?

    Or how SF said the Birmingham 6 were innocent and the British Government said they were terrorists?

    Or how SF said the British Government was talking to them and the British Government said they weren’t?

    I see what you mean.

  • Reader

    Alan Maskey: And others, TUVers etc, want to paint the Church as a monolith, with the Roman emperor moving his little pawns around, a bomb here, a child there. dangerous, incendiary stuff.
    I haven’t seen any coherent case that the Church was involved in violence at an institutional level. Just the opposite in fact.
    On the other hand, cover-ups seem to come naturally to all institutions.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Pipp

    “>Im no admirer of SF but I have to say I would be deeply suspicious of anything derogatory said about SF from someone who ‘hates and despises them’!<"

    The unintended irony here is startling! Switch Republicans in the form of Father Chesney say for SF and Breen for………oh I don't know the RUC and apply the same logic.

  • Alan Maskey

    “On the other hand, cover-ups seem to come naturally to all institutions.”

    Agreed. And,by the way, the Provos sure believe the dead don’t talk back. Denis D is csuire not gonna spill any beans.

    Can any of our Unionist friends tell us how many outrages they denied before later ‘fessing up. There was Birmingham, the Gerry McCabe MURDER for starters.

  • Prince E

    What makes you think irony was unintended. I try, not always successfully, to keep bias out of my comments. I am not a supporter of SF but Im not against them either, except for certain outstanding charges. I think Martin McGuiness has every prospect of being the next first minister and in spite of the repeated assertions of one, I have seen nothing on these threads to change that.

    Chesney was a suspect, he should have been interviewed, that he was not cannot be blamed on the RUC, they did as they were told. It is the fault of the British government of the time and the RCC, and the truth however unpleasant is that both were adept at coverups. If the reasons are known at this date they should be given to the HET who are now looking into this mess.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Eh Pip, I have read your feelings that Father Chesney had a case to answer just because on the Cardinal said thread, just because that was your feelings. Considering that then if your irony is intentional then…………..is it hypocrisy? Remember that those positing the case to answer scenario were in the position of Breen who you quite rightly suggested may have suspect intentions.

    You can’t really have it both ways

  • Prince E

    Fortunately I dont answer to you, I can have it anyway I like!

    I have said there were questions for Chesney to answer, I wont be changing my mind. He is entitled to the presumption of innocence but that does not affect whether or not there were questions.

    I am suspicious of ‘informed sources’ in these circumstances, there are too many people out there with axes to grind and more than willing to grind them into the ‘enemies’ back!

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Well Pip you may not answer to me, quite right too, however if you want what you say to be considered as any worth then it is best to be consistant.

    >”I have said there were questions for Chesney to answer, I wont be changing my mind. He is entitled to the presumption of innocence but that does not affect whether or not there were questions.<"

    For the sake of absolute clarity those questions were raised by the RUC………….remember Breen and SF?

    Apologies for hammering home but…………….

  • tacapall

    What happened to the Garda line of enquiry that it was the RIRA that murdered him. Seems its throw mud and it sticks on slugger these days.

  • tacapall

    What happened to the Garda line of enquiry that it was the RIRA that murdered him. Seems its hearsay that counts as fact these days on slugger.

  • Prince E

    I have been nothing but consistent. The RUC were the investigating force. Are you saying that if they pointed the finger at a loyalist that would be alright but if at a catholic that would not.

    I dont trust any of them but to be fair to the RUC the British government were up to their ears in the case and they thought there were questions. The RCC, admittedly not known for their honesty, were also involved and must have been given more than “we dont like your man take him away” to agree to move him.

    All I have said is there are questions and so far as possible I think they should be answered and let whoever is to blame take the blame.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    I refuse to repeat myself over and over here Pip. Your wilful bodyswerving of the obvious inconsistancy in your analogy of Breen/SF and Chesney/RUC is startling…………..I mean I even cut out any wiggling room that you might have used.

    Best of luck frustrating someone else…………got to go ;¬)

  • Alan Maskey

    I sure would have liked to know what Denis had on Gerry and what conversations he had with Gerry and Martin before he went to the Provo Riviera. Wouldn’t you? But dead men don’t talk back. That Collins tout fdrom Newry sure is gonna keep his lip zipped. Come to think of it, decaying remains don’t have lips to zip.
    Deer in the headlights as an ex leading dissident said to me of all these people, including the late Dominic McGlinchey

  • tacapall

    Yes Alan I sure would like to know what was said between them but I know this our Gerry was never debriefed by his own internal security about any slips of the tounge he may have dropped to Donaldson when they were best mates. As for Collins well he just couldn’t stop having something to say about his former comrades especially where he was living it was just suicide.

  • joeCanuck

    The usefulness of these threads have probably passed their “best by dates”. So far as I can tell, nobody commenting has any idea of what the truth is.

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    nice to see a sensible convo on a sporting thread :). well done the Down men.

  • aquifer

    “The explanation circulating has been that arresting a Catholic priest would have worsened the security situation by inflaming nationalists”

    EH?

    Convicting a Provo priest as perp would have inflamed Paisleyites, not nationalists.

  • Reader

    aquifer: Convicting a Provo priest as perp would have inflamed Paisleyites, not nationalists.
    Both, surely? Unless you think Nationalists aren’t partial to their martyrs, and vulnerable to mixed messages from their church.

  • pinni

    Every single person – I presume they were all Catholic – who helped in any way in the Claudy massacre is as guilty as those who actually set off the bombs.

    I have no idea if the priest was involved with the others or not, but God will be their judge, and they will all pay the penalty for this heinous deed.

  • pinni

    Indeed, MU. I think MM is a secret Free Stater!

  • joeCanuck

    I’m not religious so I don’t hold out any hope for eventual damnation.
    But yes, someone (AM?) made a bit of a deal about 3 people who did the planting but obviously there were others, perhaps quite a few others, who assisted, providing the explosives, the cars, assembling the bombs etc. It’s so sad that apparently none of them have, or ever will, face justice. So sad for the families of the dead and the injured.

  • jojo

    Surely whatever the truth about the priest the story is the cover up?

  • joeCanuck

    Yes, jojo. I’ve said that a number of times but people want to simply shout guilty/not guilty ad infinitum.