Nine years after the Police Ombudsman found the Claudy bomb probe was compromised by communications between elements within the RUC, British Government and Catholic Church, the families still yearn for justice.
This week, loved ones laid wreaths at the Church Street memorial to the nine victims killed in the IRA triple car bombing of July 31, 1972.
James Miller, a grandson of David Miller, who was 60 when he died in one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, said: “It’s an ongoing open wound in our families’ hearts. It’s a constant sore.
“It’s made even worse by the fact we’ve never had any closure. We’ve never been able to find out who was involved, to find out why it happened. But we’re determined to get the truth.”
David Temple’s brother William was 16 when he was killed in one of the bomb blasts. He was delivering milk.
“It was classified as ‘Bloody Monday’. No Government, no RUC, no PSNI, no Roman Catholic Church has come forward to tell the victims of Claudy what happened on that day.
“We are still looking for answers. There have been many opportunities along the way...but Martin McGuinness said in 1972 he was a commander [he told the Saville inquiry he was Adjutant of the Derry Brigade of the IRA at the time]. Why was this man not arrested and asked about the Claudy bombing?”
Former UUP councillor Mary Hamilton was badly injured in the bombing. One of the bombs went off outside the Beaufort Hotel which was run by her and her late husband Ernie.
“My memories are as vivid today as if it was yesterday. We were in the house. The first bomb went off up the street. We heard a noise. We rushed up.
“Then they escorted people down here past our place to the health centre and we didn’t realise we were just walking into another bomb,” she said.
Kathryn Eakin (8), Joseph McCluskey (39), David Miller (60), James McClelland (65), William Temple (16), Elizabeth McElhinney (59), Rose McLaughlin (51), Patrick Connolly (15) and Arthur Hone (38) died in the carnage.
Back in 2010 the then Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson reported that the RUC had obtained significant investigative opportunities in relation to late Catholic priest Father James Chesney’s alleged involvement in the atrocity which could have implicated or exonerated him.
He reported: “Rather than act on these opportunities a senior RUC Officer sought the Government’s assistance in December 1972, through their engagement with senior figures of the Catholic Church, to ‘render harmless a dangerous priest’.”
He concluded that this contact had compromised the investigation.
Mr. Miller said: “As time goes on individuals, key suspects, die off. We’re still hoping.
“The Bloody Sunday families fought and had a very good result. We’re hoping to do the same.”
Mr. Temple said: “Fr. Chesney, he was allowed a free hand by the British Government...to run across the Irish border and come across in here.
“He was never arrested. He was given a free run to operate while the investigation into Claudy was going on. Why was this man not apprehended and questioned?
“Nobody wants to step forward and answer the questions the victims are asking.
“Nobody wants to do something like that. The Roman Catholic Church don’t want to do it. The PSNI/RUC don’t want to do it. The British Government, the Irish Government don’t want to do it,” he claimed, adding:
“At the present minute they are waiting for people to die away and try and sweep Claudy under the carpet but this will never happen.”
Mrs. Hamilton said: “Other people are getting justice and answers. We get nothing. We seem to be forgotten.
“I feel we are like Omagh or Enniskillen or Kingsmill or Teebane, all these places that are waiting for answers,” she added.
From left, William Jamieson, David Temple, Mary Hamilton, James Miller, Joyce Galbraith and Ernest McCay pictured at the Claudy memorial on Wednesday. DER3119-109KM