Police, Government, Church: Violence and Cover-Ups in Northern Ireland

The report into the horrific bombings in the village of Claudy in 1972 – in which 9 people were killed – has been published today. It appears to make sickening reading:

The Police Ombudsman found talks between the Catholic Church, the police and the government led to a priest suspected of involvement in the attack being moved to the Irish Republic. No action was ever taken against Father James Chesney, who died in 1980.

Detectives in 1972 believed that Father Chesney was director of operations for the south Derry IRA and was involved in the planning of the Claudy attack.

However, after discussions between the police, the Northern Ireland Office and the Catholic Church it was decided not to pursue Fr Chesney and he was moved to a parish across the border in County Donegal.

In the light of the recent child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic church, one has to ask serious questions about the effect of ‘divine authority’ on personal morality. As I’ve written here before:

Institutions mystify ideologies and this can both sustain and excuse behaviour which would otherwise be immediately taken as unacceptable. Zizek made this point about Stalinist Russia: people carried out terrible actions precisely because they were involved in an absolute ideology: once the absolute was removed their cover was taken and they had to take responsibility for what they had actually done as individuals.

The triple tragedy of these events in Northern Ireland appears to be that not just one, but three institutions with ‘hard’ ideologies colluded to prevent a man being brought to justice. If our more devolved ‘big society’ is about anything, it must be that the absolute is removed in proper ways, so that police are accountable, government actions are transparent, and religious leaders practice what they preach.


4 responses to “Police, Government, Church: Violence and Cover-Ups in Northern Ireland”

  1. I agree shocking cover up.

    I heard a report today saying that it was the insitutions involved thought that it were the lesser on two evils. In 1972 if a Catholic Priest had been arrested then the fear was that it would have resulted in all out civil war – a risk that they were not prepared to take…but try telling that to the families of those murdered.

    btw – wasn’t it an act of piracy! 😉

  2. Interesting question as to whether his (supposed) actions were a legitimate act of political struggle. I’d contend that they weren’t as they led to so many innocent deaths – and that this is not what pirates were about. Somalian pirates have done very very little in the way of outright violence, and the violence of ancient pirates has to be understood in the context of hugely violent times and navies. Hmmm…!

  3. rodney neill

    I always worry when people start to talk about the infliction of death on another human being as a ‘legitimate act of political strggle’….

  4. Quite agree. Even if they could be seen in this light, it’s the weight of institutions that appears to validate death in this way. When it boils down to it, murder is murder.