The UK government and Roman Catholic church conspired with police to cover up a priest's leading role in an IRA bombing that killed nine people, including a little girl, in a Northern Ireland village in 1972, an official report concluded yesterday. Father James Chesney was believed to be the IRA's director of operations in south Derry when the three car bombs exploded in the village of Claudy, according to the report from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman. But the then Northern Ireland secretary Willie Whitelaw and the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal William Conway, colluded with officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to conceal the priest's role for fear of inflaming the security situation in the province.
Al Hutchinson, the ombudsman, was given access to secret government and church files to compile his report, which yesterday caused outrage among survivors of the attack. Fr Chesney was transferred to a parish in the Republic of Ireland soon after the bombing. He has since died, as have the other figures in the scandal.