Rightly did the Police Ombudsman apologise to victims and victims’ families when he released his threadbare Claudy Bombings’ report whose admittedly ‘narrow remit’ effectively dwelt on only one alleged and named participant in the Claudy Bombings of July 31, 1972 – the priest James Chesney – thereby effectively cloaking the many other persons – all of them [bar one] members of the so-called ‘South Derry Brigade’ of the Provisional IRA – whose services were required to commit the Human Rights’ atrocity we have come to call The Claudy Bombings, to murder men, women and children with the aim of creating a blood-soaked ‘United Ireland’.
It took an entire crew to make, transport and plant three car bombs and then to get away – one man didn’t do this by himself.
So who did?
The BBC Spotlight program in 2010 successfully doorstepped and secretly filmed a chief suspect they referred to as Man “A” – the footage is still available on YouTube in three parts.
I will identify Man “A” and examine this bomb atrocity from the perspective of an IRA bomber who ‘operated’ not only 10 miles from Claudy for 5 years in Derry/Londonderry and surrounding border areas, but also in London at the behest of IRA GHQ leaders Martin McGuinness and Kevin Mallon.
I worked with incendiary devices, bombs, car bombs, booby-traps, landmines and letter-bombs on and off for 5 years and I know what it took to mount bombing operations of various kinds.
I served 14 years in prison – 10 years in England and 4 years back in Northern Ireland – and I had many conversations with other IRA bombers during those long years.
I was the first IRA volunteer to resign from the IRA while in prison, to call on the IRA to reject violence and to write letters of apology to my victims in 1978.
At the time of my arrest during the ceasefire in May 1975, when I was 20 yrs old, I had been the Derry Brigade E.O. (explosives’ officer) for about a year.
I will apply my knowledge and experience to the South Derry Brigade IRA’s disastrous Claudy bombing operation – so disastrous they decided to deny it and brazen it out to this day.
Before we get into it let’s get one thing clear – if you think my comments about the priest Chesney are in any way aimed to exculpate him or any other priest, you obviously haven’t read my blog where, among many other posts, you may peruse “Catholic Priests and the IRA”, “The IRA, the Catholic Church & Big Lies”, “Catholic Church Erred in Allowing State Funeral for Martin McGuinness”, “Fr. Gerry Reynolds – Ethical Peacemaker?”, “Bishop Noel Treanor and the Belfast Brigade of the IRA” not forgetting one of the best, “Bishop Edward Daly vs The IRA”.
I have no respect for priests, bishops or archbishops glorifying murder and terror – and I have regularly excoriated Archbishop Eamon Martin and Bishop Donal McKeown for normalizing and glorifying the newly popularized IRA movement, not least by their decision to give funeral honours applicable to a Head of State to IRA leader and mass murderer Martin McGuinness.
How shameful! What a sell-out of innocent victims!
Let’s get into it…
How to Plant 3 Car Bombs in Claudy
Ideally, to plant 3 car bombs in Claudy necessitated at least two persons – sometimes three – in each car.
The front seats needed to look ‘normal’ with a driver and passenger – preferably a female in the front to easier get through any unexpected checkpoints that might arise on the way to the bomb target(s) and also on the way out of the target area.
In the back seat there would sometimes have been the bomb maker or bomb primer – especially if they were carrying a device to be planted on site – he would exit the car, plant the bomb and get back in and be driven away.
The front passenger seat occupant often carried a weapon.
South Derry Brigade IRA used this 3-in-a-car team when attempting to plant a bomb on December 18, 1971, only 7 months before it planted the three Claudy car bombs – and on this occasion, all three of the young IRA volunteers died when the bomb exploded prematurely.
The lad in the back seat had the bomb on his lap – the passenger seat occupant had a loaded revolver, seconds before they blew themselves to bits.
Already it would appear that South Derry Brigade IRA car bombers were young men who were entirely disposable – not higher-up IRA Officers.
However, with car bombs that are going to be left at the target, you suddenly need double the number of cars – the car bombs you are leaving behind plus the cars to ferry away the bomb teams.
You may also need ‘lookout’ or ‘scout’ cars in advance to try to ensure that the route to the bomb target(s) is clear – this was all the more necessary on the South Derry IRA’s single road “over the mountain” on the way to bomb Claudy.
It’s possible that the getaway cars might have been used as scout cars on the way to the target, so requiring fewer cars in total.
So, it would not be unreasonable to estimate that apart from the 3 car bombs, there were at least 3 getaway cars and possibly up to 2 ‘scout’ cars.
The scout cars would either have driven ahead of the bomb cars and – if the front car ran into an unexpected checkpoint – the second scout car could effect a U-turn and signal to the oncoming car bombers that they too should turn around and get away.
This was the era before mobile phones and when portable radios might get you arrested.
South Derry IRA volunteers could have populated and used up to 8 cars on the Claudy atrocity, those stolen and those legitimate.
Two of the bomb cars had been previously stolen in The Loup and one in Dungiven and they had to be driven to the secret bomb factory to be made ready.
Counting the car thieves, the car drivers, the bomb makers and planters, the female adornments and the overarching Brigade OC and Adjutant who gave the orders, not forgetting the Quartermasters who provided the various types of explosives, detonators, clocks, batteries and guns, and the Finance Officers who paid for the petrol and expenses and the Intelligence Officer(s) who supplied information, the local persons who were prepared to offer false alibis to ALL those involved, you are looking at in the region of 30 or more South Derry Brigade IRA persons who participated in a mass murder atrocity in Claudy of their fellow men, women and children.
South Derry Brigade IRA had bombed Claudy in February and again in May without difficulty and without, apparently, using a prominent priest’s services.
The bombers had delivered the bombs and escaped without any problems.
On the morning of July 31, on the way to plant the Claudy bombs we are examining, why would the South Derry Brigade not have treated this operation in the same manner as the two previous bomb attacks?
In advance, what marked this bomb outing as any different to the almost monthly car bombs the South Derry Brigade had been planting around the county?
It was – for the regular E.O.s on the job – just another day at the front…
So, why would they not have used their usual IRA volunteers of the disposable kind once again?
If the South Derry Brigade received a belated urgent order to carry out a bombing operation without the usual preparations and checks, they might have only used a skeleton crew and as few as 5 cars – but there would still have been approx. 20 persons involved overall.
Why then produce an Ombudsman’s report on one person only – Chesney?
Who were all these other murderers in South Derry?
And why not name Man ”A” to help local witnesses recall and provide information that might even yet lead to the identification of those who committed mass murder?
Chesney as Bomber?
Remember that when the IRA planted car bombs at targets in daylight in front of unsuspecting shoppers, it was vital that the bomb planters should not be recognised when getting out of the bomb car(s) and walking away – they should be indistinguishable and preferably unknown in the area they were secretly attacking.
The last thing an IRA bomb unit wanted was somebody coming up and saying, “Whaddabout ye Jamesie?” as they were trying to get offside unnoticed.
In many cases, for specific jobs, IRA persons dyed their hair, wore makeup and glasses, changed their hair/clothing in an effort to look inconspicuous or even brought in male or female volunteers they considered unknown in the target locality.
Chesney was a 6ft tall, well made monster of a man with thick sideburns right down to his jawline. He was a very well-known priest in South Derry saying public Masses, officiating at weddings, baptisms and funerals, attending GAA matches, running public Bingo fundraising evenings and being photographed in the local newspapers presenting sporting trophies.
He drove a rare eye-catching James Bond style sports’ car around the county and was highly recognisable.
He was a chain smoker who underwent heart-bypass surgery in 1972 – not a man whose physical condition would have inspired confidence.
He was dead 8 years later at the age of 46.
Why would such a well-known natural born attention seeker be chosen to plant a car bomb in the busy main street of Claudy on a busy Monday morning – where he might be instantly recognised by many people getting out of a car he didn’t own – and trying to walk quickly away without talking anyone?
Why would the South Derry Brigade of the IRA risk its only and best priest propagandist/recruiting sergeant when there were much safer, dumber cannon-fodder teenagers available to park the bomb cars, teenagers whose loss by death or capture would not damage the South Derry Brigade one bit?
Is it credible that Brigade Staff or people higher up in the IRA actually planted front line bombs?
Bomb planters were like the three young lads blown to bits in Maghera – they were anything from 15 years of age to usually about 20 years old.
They were disposable cannon fodder.
Starting in 1970, here is a short list of 20 IRA members or relatives (children) killed in 25 months in premature explosions which resulted in few IRA volunteers – and almost no Brigade or Battalion Officers – wanting to have anything to do with making or transporting explosives (apart from the appointed Brigade or Battalion E.O.s whose specific role it was):
In the Spotlight video when Martin McGuinness was filmed while a car bomb was being prepared in Quarry Street in the Brandywell area that was subsequently planted in Shipquay Street where it later exploded, it is clear that McGuinness only supervised the bomb going into the car – he did not handle it himself.
He did not get into the car when it was ready, nor he did drive the car to its target destination.
The likes of Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Pat Doherty, Brian Keenan, Kevin Mallon, Francie Brolly and Big Wheel Chesney did not usually [there were exceptions] get involved in front-line bombings, murders, executions and disappearances – this kind of work was left to the lower disposable orders.
It is unthinkable that a Big Wheel like Chesney would ever get involved in any front-line type operations and put himself as risk – especially since there was no need for him to do so – the supply of teenage cannon fodder was plentiful following Bloody Sunday 6 months before.
Described variously by so-called security sources as OC of South Derry, as Director of Operations of South Derry, as Quartermaster of South Derry – FFS – why not add butcher, baker and candlestick maker as well?
Why bother recruiting low-level IRA Company volunteers at all if the Brigade and Battalion Staff officers were going to clean the latrines, inverting the usual pyramid?
Who gets away with churning out this nonsense?
This is not how the IRA operated – that one person, least of all an attention seeker, would have this many positions…
In fact, the Ombudsman’s report clearly stated what Chesney’s role was – he was the pretend upstanding citizen who provided the bomb attack leader with an alibi on the day.
So, if Chesney was to provide the cast iron alibi on the day, he himself would have to easily prove that he was elsewhere, back at the parish house – fed and watered by the housekeeper, saying his daily public masses, hearing confessions, officiating at a wedding or baptism or funeral, witnessed by visitors, signing wedding documents, answering the phone – carrying out some or all the duties that qualified him to give the bomb leader an impregnable alibi…
And that is what all the security sources say he did – he supplied Man “A”’s alibi by staying at home and being obvious about it and then later claiming Man “A” and his wife were both with him.
Two final comments on Chesney: he was so busy at specific times with his public priestly duties that were specified on parish timetables – saying Masses and hearing confessions – and so likely to be caught up by extra unpredictable duties – attending to the sick in hospitals or on their death beds or whatever – that he could not fulfill the most important IRA qualification – being available 24/7 with no questions asked.
A posse of young men could provide this availability 24/7, all the better if they were unemployed.
Finally, as a bomber in the area during 5 years – who was running training camps in the area of Malin Head and elsewhere in Donegal where Chesney was later based – I never heard of him.
In 1971 I was sent out to the Feeny area to show persons how to make incendiary devices and how to prepare alarm clocks to use with bombs – it wasn’t exactly rocket science.
The Derryman who drove me out in his car with a posse of kids in the back to make it look innocent is still alive and compos mentis at the time of writing this. There was no priest at the destination.
I knew virtually all of the other bombers in the area – more about this later…
The Hoax Letter
The letter that first highlighted Chesney was declared by the Ombudsman’s report (and everybody else) after investigations to be a well-designed but very obvious hoax.
Don’t knock it – it achieved its purpose to focus attention on Chesney’s limited role in matters and brought Chesney’s unforgiveable and undeniable association with the IRA to public attention.
While it further highlighted how the State and Catholic church authorities were together prepared to screw innocent victims, it succeeded by the law of unintended consequences in totally cloaking the other 30 or so South Derry participants in mass murder who were quite content that Chesney was taking all the heat while they were going about their lives untroubled to this day…
Was Chesney Immune From Arrest?
I don’t know where the Ombudsman and the rest of you were in 1971 and 1972 – I was at home and at St. Columb’s College addicted to news and politics and my secret IRA membership which began at age 15 when my friend Paul O’Connor, current Director of the Pat Finucane Centre, inveigled me to join the Provisional IRA along with him in September 1970.
A month before Christmas in November 1971, a huge news story broke on television news, radio news and in the press – the capture of two Crumlin Road Gaol escapees dressed as priests in a car near Omagh driven by an actual priest and monk of Portglenone’s Cistercian monastery…
The priest and monk were immediately arrested and charged and subject to regular court appearances and remands right up to their trial in May 72 – only two months before the Claudy atrocity – and were named as Fr. Thomas O’Neill and Brother Patrick Joseph Skehan.
Not only were they arrested in a blaze of publicity, their arrest triggered a huge British army search of Portglenone Abbey lasting three days and involving over 200 soldiers.
Here were a Catholic priest and a religious brother caught with two IRA escapees dressed as priests in their car and no need for tiptoeing around their arrest, charging and trial in May of 1972 when they were adjudged guilty of obstructing justice and fined.
The story ran in the news from December 1971 through to May of 1972 when they were tried and found guilty, and then to September of 1972 (two months after the Claudy atrocity) when their fines were due to be paid – this because they threatened to refuse to pay them.
Fr. Sean McManus – later the Irish National Caucus supremo in the United States – was summarily arrested in Fermanagh when he interfered with the arrest of a stone-thrower.
McManus was brought before a magistrate and fined, affording him his life’s dream – to be arrested “for the cause”.
Many other Catholic priests were arrested and later fined for refusing to complete census forms.
Unofficial chaplain to the Belfast Brigade of the IRA, Fr. Des “Even civil war would be better than this” Wilson, was arrested by paratroopers.
Fr. Patrick Fell was arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sentence to 12 years imprisonment for participation in an IRA bombing unit in Coventry.
Is it credible to claim that Chesney was immune from arrest in or before the summer of 1972 while all these other priests and religious were being arrested wholesale in a blaze of publicity without any difficulties?
Man “A” Unmasked
The Ombudsman’s report referred to a chief bombing suspect as Man “A” – with so many precedents in Britain and Northern Ireland for naming wanted persons in connection with serious crimes, the crime of mass murder surely warranted naming Man “A” whose name is so well known already in IRA/Sinn Féin circles since the early 1970s – a man whose alleged offence – the Claudy Bombings – required that he should not be gifted a Tony Blair OTR letter owing to the danger that his return to Desertmartin or to Dungannon might resurrect calls for the restitution of truth to the Claudy families – truth that might damage Sinn Féin electorally.
[In fact, a senior security source has confirmed to me that Man ‘A’ was indeed gifted an OTR letter – this news I received on 18/07/2021]
While most bombers were teenagers and disposable, it sometimes fell to a Brigade EO to go along and steady nerves and see that operations were carried out.
Man “A” went along in one of the bomb cars with others and, after stopping at a quarry just outside Claudy to prime the bombs, parked his bomb vehicle in Claudy.
I believe Man “A” was the South Derry Brigade Explosives’ Officer, assisted by other more junior E.O.s as we shall see.
Man “A” went to an adjoining street where another person had driven Man “A”’s rather obvious bright orange Volkswagen ‘squareback’ to be used as a getaway car.
This was Man “A”’s big mistake – using his particularly noticeable personal car as one of the three getaway vehicles.
While Man “A” said in the Spotlight video that it could not have been the only car of its type in Northern Ireland, he later agreed it was the only one of its type and colour in the area.
Man “A” and the other bombers – male and female – left Claudy in the various getaway cars in various directions – it was never good to use the same single road out over the mountain in case there might have been a checkpoint on the road by then. You don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
After the three bombs had exploded in Claudy, witnesses remembered that they had seen this bright orange Volkswagen parked beside a phone box in Feeny.
Other witnesses said they saw it in Dungiven main street when the occupants tried to have two different shopkeepers phone warnings too late to police about their already exploding Claudy bombs.
Man “A” was quickly identified and arrested later.
He admitted in the Spotlight footage that when he was arrested he was held for ‘a few days’ – an unusually long time for someone who had offered up an impregnable alibi supported by a local priest.
When his alibi was quickly assumed to be false, he was questioned by British Army interrogators and he “broke” during that interrogation.
The then 32 years old Raymond Francis McElhennon – Man “A” – agreed to bring soldiers and police to the bomb factory where the Claudy bombs had been assembled by him and at least 2 other EOs.
This is how the Swatragh bomb factory was so quickly found in the desolate parish of Craigavole where a BMC Mini car was parked which had been stolen at the same time as the other cars used in the bombings.
Remember this part as we go forward – a leading South Derry Brigade IRA volunteer led police and soldiers to a bomb factory containing primed bombs and a number of weapons.
Raymond Francis McElhennon was a considerable catch for police and his British Army interrogators and there was by now sufficient evidence to charge him with the Claudy bombings, but why charge him immediately?
Why not “turn” Raymond Francis McElhennon and put him back out on the street since he had given up an entire bomb factory with a pile of weapons and ammunition?
Might he not give a lot more?
He could still be charged later if required.
This was the over-eager Army Intelligence idea that allowed Raymond Francis McElhennon to be released without charge and to unexpectedly skedaddle across the border into the haven of the Irish Republic and from there to that other haven for wanted IRA volunteers – the good old United States of America where the IRA movement could disappear its wanted volunteers and fund them in perpetuity if required.
[According to Spotlight and to press reports, Raymond’s partner was questioned twice by detectives, presumably in an attempt to have her contradict Raymond’s alibi that he was with Chesney at the time of the bombings.]
Provisional IRA HQ had by now decided that the Claudy atrocity – coming only 10 days after the IRA’s Bloody Friday bombings’ atrocity in Belfast – was worth denying outright since a number of local volunteers had already crossed the border, not least among them shortly afterwards Raymond Francis McElhennon.
This exodus of potentially arrestable volunteers might also provide some ringfencing of prominent Provisional republicans such as Francie Brolly and Fr. James Chesney whose precise knowledge of and/or involvement in the execution and/or cover up of the atrocity could not then be easily proven.
As for Pants on Fire Liar Francie Brolly, to be a member of Sinn Féin then was to be a member of the IRA, according to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness:
When Francie was arrested along with Raymond McElhennon’s partner in November 2005 by police re-investigating the Claudy bombings, they also arrested a well known BBC GAA correspondent, Seamus Mullan.
They also allegedly arrested a Sean O’Hagan from Portglenone.
After 33 years of self-imposed émigré status, McElhennon returned to the Irish Republic to Kilkenny and it appears that the IRA – and in particular the South Derry Brigade – could not tolerate the prospect of having him back in Desertmartin even with a Tony Blair OTR letter because of the possibility of linking the Brigade of Deniers to the long-buried Claudy atrocity.
Better to remain in denial – they said – than to have to own up to mass murder of neighbours and to the subsequent cover-up of that atrocity after the fact.
Who wants to damage electoral prospects unnecessarily?
So Raymond drives up to The Four Seasons Hotel in Monaghan town and visits with family – this is as close to the border as Raymond dares to go.
And so the Provos and Shinners denied the Claudy bombing, as they denied the Birmingham bombing, as they denied the Abercorn restaurant bombing and the Anderson Street bombing – for a fuller list of the IRA’s outrageous lies see this article: The IRA’s Legacy of Lies
More Claudy Bombers
That other old self-confessed IRA gunman from the 1970s, Raymond McCartney, who stands accused of informing on his fellow IRA members after his first arrest – see here – claimed to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that within a matter of weeks of his joining the IRA as a very junior volunteer after Bloody Sunday he knew the entire command staff of the Derry Brigade of the IRA – but was refusing to tell what he knew to the Inquiry.
The relevant point about McCartney’s claim is that within a short time of joining the IRA as a humble volunteer – in a city of 70,000 persons spread out along and across the River Foyle – he got to know very accurately the identities of those in command over him.
I believe this was entirely possible in 1972.
Before the alleged cell-structure IRA, the IRA of the early 1970s in the form of Brigades/Battalions/Companies – an old British Army structure – was a glutinous whole.
Within this lumpen mass of IRA, certain groups of IRA volunteers were required to work closely together whatever their rank – the Brigade, Battalion and Company Intelligence Officers were required to cooperate closely so they all knew each other very well.
Similarly, the Brigade, Battalion and Company Quartermasters had to share secrets and work cooperatively – they usually all knew each other very well.
Above all, for safety and training purposes, the Brigade, Battalion and Company Explosives’ Officers – or EOs – worked very closely together to try to upgrade skills, ensure safety and prevent premature bomb explosions. It was also a matter of morale when the life expectancy of bomb makers was not that great.
The critical point here is that one IRA E.O. knew all the other active IRA E.O.s – let me prove this point using the Derry Brigade of the IRA in the period 1970-1973 in a city whose population was – according to the 1971 census variously understood referring to different limits – between 70,000 and 80,000 souls.
And if it is easily proven that in a city the size of Derry/Londonderry the relatively few Explosives’ Officers all knew each other very well, how much more did they all know each other and cooperate on “jobs” in the South Derry Brigade IRA area where the population of Dungiven in 1971 was a mere 1,739, Swatragh was 428, Desertmartin only 250 and Claudy 620.
Derry Brigade E.O.s 1970-73
One of the first Explosives’ Officers in the Derry Brigade from 1970 was Sean Seamus O’Hara, better known as “Scatter”. He used to light a coal fire in front of me in the mornings using broken sticks of gelignite as firelighters – “Don’t worry, Shane, gelly can’t explode without a detonator…”
‘Scatter’ was quickly superseded by a self-proclaimed prolific bomber and boaster, Liam Coyle, who was tried in December 1974 after claiming that he had personally made between 150 and 200 bombs going back some 2 years.
Liam’s relief at finally being arrested and getting away from the stress of being an E.O. told in his telling the RUC all about himself.
Among his many charges, Liam had a letter bomb conviction.
Around the same time and a little later came that well-known republican and acolyte of Martin McGuinness, Terry Crossan.
Terry was actually arrested along with McGuinness – but of course slippery McGuinness was released – whereas Terry got charged with explosion and letter bomb offences.
Possibly threatened with removal to England for his letter bomb charge, Terry shocked the Derry Brigade by suddenly upping and recognising the court and pleading guilty to all charges, thereby getting a reduced sentence.
Don’t knock it – you were right, Terry – what was it all for? – we should all have done it and come out to become pub landlords, Lough Foyle Commissioners and Sinn Féin councillors.
Terry reminisces – leaving out the precise details of his charges – on Page 13 here
It wouldn’t be fair to exclude from memory another Derry Brigade E.O. who was neither a boaster nor arrested with somebody infamous – Mickey Deery was first of all arrested in Donegal with bomb parts and then about three years later he was re-arrested in Derry.
This quick ramble down Derry Brigade IRA’s arrested, charged, convicted and imprisoned E.O.s from the erly 1970s was intended merely to highlight that it is not impossible to identify the leading bomb-makers in a city of some 70,000 people using pubicly available records – without access to the statements they made to police or to the intelligence information secretly gathered about them.
Let’s now apply this method to the South Derry Brigade of the IRA – the job of identifying that Brigade’s E.O.s – bombers – where the job is made somewhat easier by virtue of the rural area’s exceedingly small population in 1971 and 1972, according to figures taken from the 1971 Census.
Malachy Bernard O’Kane, Bomber, Murderer, Informer
On the 12th of March, 1973 – 8 months after the Claudy bombings – local farmer boyo Malachy Bernard O’Kane appeared in court charged with the murders of three soldiers in a landmine explosion on June 24, 1972 – only 37 days before the Claudy bombings.
It was abundantly clear to everyone, therefore, that Malachy was a highly active South Derry Brigade IRA E.O. (explosives’ officer) during the period just before, during and after the Claudy atrocity.
Upon being sentenced to life with a minimum recommendation that he should serve no less than 25 years, the Judge commented:
“I would have considered a longer period appropriate if you had not assisted police in their investigations into this case AND OTHER MATTERS.”
But when Malachy returned to court a month later for further sentencing for yet more explosives’ charges he had admitted, it became clear that Malachy had taken police and soldiers to milk churns where he had hidden IRA weapons. – just as his former superior Raymond McElhennon had brought police and soldiers to the Claudy bomb factory.
The penalty at this time for informing on the whereabouts of concealed IRA weapons was torture and summary execution – take a moment to consider what the IRA did to a woman and mother who allegedly gave away to police the whereabouts of a single rifle – and this only 4 weeks before the IRA ceasefire in 1994 – her name was Caroline Moreland:
Notice that the priest in the video said the IRA had mutilated, tortured and then summarily executed Caroline Moreland.
There is no doubt in my mind that Malachy Bernard O’Kane was one of the South Derry Brigade’s E.O.s on the Claudy bombing job – all the more certain because only 2 weeks before the Claudy bombing, the South Derry Brigade lost its other E.O. – Brendan Anthony Toner – caught red-handed holding the firing mechanism of a landmine – who had to thank British soldiers for not applying to him the IRA’s own “shoot to kill” policy for captured RUC, UDR or soldiers – shooting him dead, in his case in the act of trying to murder them.
And the rule that one E.O. knew all other E.O.s applied here all the more.
Malachy O’Kane’s Sudden Informing
In a conscienceless bomber who had only recently blown three soldiers to bits, what brought on the sudden desire to cooperate with British Security Forces, to lead them to IRA weapons, to be quickly seeking to be publicly judged guilty of IRA actions NOT INCLUDING THE CLAUDY BOMBINGS?
And in an even more bizarre twist, what fear and terror motivated Malachy O’Kane to put his own mother and two brothers in jeopardy, in court and facing jail sentences in a fantastically dumb attempt to effect his escape from prison – oh yes, he did this – and got his two brothers sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment and his mother sentenced to three years, suspended?
What overriding fear and terror motivated such behaviour which his fellow prisoners told me was unprecedented:
I have no doubt that South Derry Brigade IRA E.O. Malachy O’Kane was one of the Claudy bombers on the morning of what must have seemed like just another regular car bombing – whose terrible outcome haunted O’Kane sufficiently to have him anxious to be judged guilty of anything else by cooperating with British Security Forces.
I am sure he required and received the help of his friend who helped him previously to bomb Dungiven Post Office – Noel Magill.
In prison, and still fearing that he might once more be brought before the courts to face charges for the Claudy bombing, Malachy engaged in a desperate attempt to escape this prospect even to the extent of putting his mother and two brothers in prison.
The Claudy Bombings’ Bomb Factory
The large bomb factory was discovered in an empty house at Craigavole, Swatragh, 20 miles from Claudy.
This large and important bomb factory had evidently been in use for a considerable period of time to have accrued such an amount of ‘gear’.
It offered space to hide, prepare and arm stolen bomb cars.
It allowed for the preparation, mixing and priming of large amounts of fertilizer explosives.
Craigavole was a desolate area with relatively few people – it didn’t get a mention in the 1971 Census, but its near neighbour did, Swatragh – with a population of 428.
With only a few families living in the area, who was the IRA volunteer who discovered the abandoned house in which the IRA subsequently set up this central South Derry Brigade IRA bomb factory that brought such horror to Claudy?
Who from Craigavole is known to have been in the IRA at the time?
Two weeks after the Claudy atrocity an entire IRA Active Service Unit was captured, led by Robert Joseph Bradley, always known by his fellows in prison as Roger Bradley.
The Unit had been active in Kilrea using explosives and guns.
Just 14 days before the Claudy atrocity, the unit had bombed Kilrea itself with a massive car bomb.
Roger was from Craigavole and was undoubtedly the founder of the bomb factory there, was its caretaker and guard and bore responsibility for keeping it safe and free of interference by local persons.
He and his unit – named in the press – were unquestionably involved in the preparation, transport and planting of the Claudy bombs, not forgetting provision of the getaway cars.
What was suddenly going on with all these South Derry Brigade IRA volunteers queuing up to cooperate with the RUC and Brits, pleading guilty to charges and even leading The Enemy to IRA explosives’ and arms’ dumps?
What was the desperate hurry to be quickly adjudged guilty of offences other than the Claudy bombings?
After his release from prison, Roger severed all links with the IRA – in my opinion because of his horror at his participation in the Claudy bombings – and had to fend for himself.
He found work with the Housing Executive and on April 4 1990 was working in Rathcoole where he had been spotted by members of the Ulster Volunteer Force who had been targeting him since his Kilrea attacks.
The UVF shot Roger Bradley dead during his lunch break.
His IRA links severed, the IRA newspaper An Phoblacht made reference to him merely as a Catholic victim, which was a long way from the truth.
See The Belfast Telegraph account of Bradley’s shooting here.
Daniel Martin Cassidy met a similar fate – he was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in Kilrea while sitting in his car on the morning of April 2, 1992.
In Danny’s case, the IRA allowed the false claim to go about that he was ‘an innocent Catholic’ victim – the Catholic church and other complainants did not check their facts and supported this big lie.
It was not until the publication in Dublin in 2002 of an IRA book of remembrance of its dead volunteers that the IRA admitted that Danny was an active IRA volunteer when he was shot dead.
For a Guardian report on publication of the IRA book, see here.
How can you be sure the IRA is lying? Generally speaking, every time it issues a statement.
What Went Wrong in Claudy?
The South Derry Brigade of the IRA had successfully planted bombs and car bombs for many months without cock-ups since the December own goal in Maghera when it lost 3 young volunteers.
What went wrong in Claudy?
There is only one possibility – the urgent order from Derry Brigade IRA Adjutant and newly appointed IRA GHQ representative, Martin McGuinness, requiring bomb attacks as close to Derry City as possible on the morning of Operation Motorman, had come too late to allow for the usual checks and balances.
It was the usual practice to check for working telephones a day or so in advance of such bomb attacks.
On this occasion, the assumption that the phones would be working following previous IRA attacks on local telephone exchanges proved to be wrong, catastrophically wrong.
What did the IRA do in response to the atrocity it committed?
It ran away.
It issued denials that were lies.
It got IRA volunteers across the border and away.
It hopes to effect today the new IRA mantra for Northern Ireland – “Move On”.
The PSNI is a cold house for any who might seek to investigate IRA atrocities – there is no career enhancing value in seeking to investigate IRA atrocities.
This is the bitterest fruit of the Belfast Agreement.
There are plenty of people in the South Derry Brigade IRA area and elsewhere who have information about the Claudy bombing – they are just not minded to offer it up.
Why should they when church and state, voters and G.A.A. are jointly engaged in normalizing and even glorifying murder and IRA murderers?
They say it’s time to “move on” and to put Human Rights and Human Wrongs away – Truth may also be put away.
This is the foundation on which we are to build our shared future – on an agreed cover up…
Those Who Fled
Families of the Claudy victims believe that a number of people fled the jurisdiction after the atrocity and the following names – apart from Raymond McElhennon – have been around for many years:
John Mullan, brother of Seamus Mullan, believed to have fled to Cork city in the Republic of Ireland.
Sean O’Neill, 16 years of age at the time of the bombings, believed to have fled to New York where he has been associated with the GAA for many years.
Sean was supposed to have been arrested by the FBI and held for questioning by PSNI officers in 2010.
For an article about Martin McGuinness’ M62 Coach bombing, see here.