Popular priests believed to have been behind the tyranny, even Ira was ashamed of

A charismatic country cleric with a penchant for poker and sports cars, Father James Chesney was a priest who allegedly got away with murder.

The Police Ombudsman’s report describes how the RUC believed he was the Director of Operations for the IRA in South Derry and was directly and indirectly involved with the 1972 Claudy bombings in which nine people were killed.

Near the DesertMartin, a curate at Kalian, he was never brought in for questioning.

Chesney’s father John, a Protestant, worked in the faithful Upperlands in Co Derry, but converted to Catholicism after meeting his future wife, Mary Ann.

No one remembers seeing Chesney with his parents, but he was regularly in the company of his wealthy aunt and uncle, Willie and Betty Nunn. The late Evan Cooper, a former civil rights leader and founder of the SDLP, recalled: “They arrived at my house in a bright red Mercedes. She was dripping with fur and waving a tall cigarette holder. The Nun had no children. Father Chesney was like a son to him.”

Cooper spoke of the priest “on the side of the country roads in his sports car”.

He described him as “sophisticated, astonishingly handsome, an extremely magnetic and charming man … was Derry’s answer to Father Chesney Bonnie and Clyde”.

Nunn was a staunch Republican who raised money for the Green Cross, the IRA Prisoners Fund. A former civil rights activist who attended some of their fundraising dinners said: “They were fancy events in a nice hotel, not the usual inmates’ gatherings at Shebanes.

“The food will be arranged in thali so that the colors match the tricolour. Peas on the left, potatoes and chicken in the middle, and carrots on the right. Father Chesney was always talked about at these dinners… he was highly respected.”

A former senior IRA person in Derry told me that Priest was a member: “Like many others, he joined after a wave of anger over how civil rights marchers were treated.

“He was very impressed with the introduction of the internment.”

Ex-provisional attended a meeting at Bellaghy Parish Hall in which Chesney was present: “The meeting was so that the IRA in the City of Derry and Co could have greater coordination of their activities in Derry.

“Meetings were held regularly in the parish halls at Dungwen and Belaghi.

“The church may be tricked into thinking this was a civil rights-type meeting rather than an IRA, or it may deceive itself into believing it.”

The former IRA member described Chesney as “a person who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty” and said that while he didn’t swear by new IRA members, he was present at the meetings where it took place.

The Republican noted that Chesney regularly held charity dances or £1,000 bingo sessions: “Often, the proceeds would be simply laundered by men in balaclavas. Other times he would organize these large social gatherings as cover so that Other meetings can take place without the RUC or the British knowing.

On July 31, 1972, three bombs were dropped at the petrol station, the post office and the Beaufort Hotel in Cloudy.

The objective of the IRA was to drive British troops away from the city of Derry.

Thousands of soldiers entered the bogside that day in Operation Motorman, an attempt to take control of no-go areas.

The bombers had planned to give a phone warning from Dungeven, but the telephone exchange – blown up in an earlier IRA attack – was not repaired, so the bombs exploded without warning.

A former Special Branch detective said he was 15 minutes away from arresting Chesney and raiding the parochial house where he believed the weapons had been deposited, but from a senior level “priest alone”. Ordered to leave”.

An assistant chief constable wrote to the NIO asking “what action can be taken to make the dangerous priest harmless”.

One official replied that Secretary of State Willie Whitlaw was discussing the matter with Cardinal Conway who “knew the priest was a very bad man”.

The Cardinal referred to Chesney’s transfer to Donegal, but RUC Chief Constable Graham Shillington said he would prefer a “transfer to Tipperary”.

A heavy smoker, Chesney had heart bypass surgery in the same year as Claudy Bomb.

He was moved to Malin Head, Donegal, where he was a curate for three years, before becoming a pastor at a nursing home for the elderly in Fahan.

He once attempted to book The Boomtown Rats for a community gig. He was instrumental in fundraising to build a massive community center in Burnfoot, where a plaque was later erected to honor his memory.

He was a keen sailor and a member of the Lough Swilly Yacht Club.

Chesney died of cancer in 1980 at the age of 46. He was buried with his mother and father in Maghera, Ko Derry. The gravestone asks visitors to pray for his soul.

Claudy was a senior in the IRA’s Derry Brigade at the time of the bombing, the late Martin McGuinness.

In 2002 he denied ever meeting Chesney. However, in 2010 he admitted that he had done it while the priest was dying.

“I was told he was a Republican sympathizer, would I go to see him and visit him in Co Donegal,” he said.

“I did that. There was no mention of Cloudy Bomb. During that time, he just talked about his support for a united Ireland.

The IRA never acknowledged the atrocities that involved more than a dozen of its members. The focus on Chesney should not obscure the fact that the responsibility for the slaughter extends far beyond that.