Claudy survivor: I don't think we will ever get justice

A survivor of the 1972 Claudy bombings has said she has lost all hope of justice ever being done for the victims of the atrocity.

Monday, 31st July 2017, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:48 pm
Claudy bombing survivor Marjorie Leslie pictured at the 40th anniversary of the atrocity

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the attack, when three no-warning car bombs tore through the small Co Londonderry village, murdering nine people and injuring many others.

Marjorie Leslie was one of dozens of people caught up in the carnage and was badly injured, losing the Achilles tendons in the heels of one of her feet.

The bombing left survivors such as Ms Leslie to live with the mental and physical scars of that terrible day.

The aftermath of the Claudy bombing in July 1972 which killed nine people

She recalled the awful moment she learned that eight-year-old Kathryn Eakin, who she used to babysit, had been killed by the first bomb.

Kathryn was cleaning the windows of her family’s shop when the bomb went off. She died instantly and was the youngest victim of the bombings.

“It is so vivid in my mind,” she added.

“I have suppressed those memories for so long and they have all started coming back to me over these last few weeks in the run up to the anniversary.

The memorial to the Claudy bombing victims

“I was traumatised for a long time after the bombing. When I got out of hospital I was afraid to go back to the village.

“For many years I had a deep fear of enclosed spaces, even getting into a lift.”

But Ms Leslie said she does not indulge in “self-pity”, adding: “There are many victims who are much worse off than me.

“There is hardly a family in Northern Ireland that has not been affected by the Troubles or that doesn’t know someone who was affected in one way or another.”

The aftermath of the Claudy bombing in July 1972 which killed nine people

More than four decades on, there is frustration that no one has ever been brought to justice over Claudy, one of the most notorious acts of Troubles violence.

No paramilitary group has ever claimed responsibility for the bombings, but a report by the NI Police Ombudsman in 2010 found that Catholic priest Father James Chesney, and the IRA brigade he was allegedly part of, were suspected of being behind the attack.

It also said the police, the state and the Catholic Church had covered up Fr Chesney’s suspected role.

While she said she does not harbour any hate for those who carried out the massacre, Marjorie is still angry over the alleged cover-up.

The memorial to the Claudy bombing victims

She added: “I don’t hate anyone, even those responsible for this horrific attack.

“The past is the past. We need to acknowledge the hurt and the anger, but we also need to move on and make Northern Ireland a better place for our children and grandchildren.

“No one has ever been brought to justice over Claudy and realistically, I don’t believe anyone ever will.”

Police suspended their investigation into the bombing in 2013, telling relatives of the victims that their inquiries would not resume unless new information or evidence is received.

“Some people want a full inquiry to be held into Claudy, but where would that lead us?” Ms Leslie asked.

“Too much time has passed, we are not going to get the truth. So we need to focus on moving forward and building a better future.”

Ms Leslie said one person who may have had answers to the questions long-held by victims was the late deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness.

In 2012, at the time of the 40th anniversary of the bombings, Ms Leslie called for a meeting with the former IRA leader to ask him what he knew regarding the atrocity.

She said: “Obviously that meeting never happened and he has now taken what he knew to his grave.

“There are others out there who know what happened that day. But I don’t think the families will ever get the answers they seek.

“As a victim you never forget what has happened. But there comes a time when we must move on as a society.”

Speaking of the ongoing political stalemate at Stormont, Ms Leslie urged the DUP and Sinn Fein to put their differences aside and restore devolution.

She said: “I am deeply disappointed that the two main parties are at loggerheads and we have no functioning Executive, at a time when our education and health services are in such dire straits.

“I worry very greatly that if we end up going back to direct rule, we will go back to the bombing and the bullets of that past.”

To mark the 45th anniversary of the Claudy massacre, a service of remembrance and thanksgiving will be held at 7.30pm today in the car park which houses the memorial to the victims.

Clergymen from the Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church and Church of Ireland will facilitate the service, with the involvement of family representatives.