Bishop Edward Daly in defence of Fr James Chesney

Fr Chesney

The retired leader of the Catholic Church in Derry has said he still does not know if Fr James Chesney was a member of the IRA or if the cleric took part in the Claudy bombing 38 years ago.

Bishop Edward Daly cast doubt on last week's report of the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, which, he says aired suspicions about the Derry priest that were based solely on intelligence reports.

In a statement Bishop Daly criticised the media for presuming that Fr Chesney was guilty of the Claudy bombing in which nine people were killed and that he was active in the IRA  without coming up with concrete evidence.

He said everyone takes the same unquestioning line and competes to write the most lurid headline and that t he once sacrosanct presumption of innocence has been dispensed with and replaced with a presumption of guilt.

Bishop Daly said he was not at all convinced that Fr Chesney was involved in the Claudy bombings.

Bishop Daly also defended the late Cardinal William Conway who acceded to a joint approach from the British government and the RUC and moved Fr Chesney to a parish in north Donegal.

In particular, Bishop Daly said it was strange that a Northern Ireland Office note of December 6, 1972, attributed to Cardinal Conway an uncorroborated description of Fr Chesney as being a very bad man.