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Owen Paterson refuses to condemn Willie Whitelaw for deciding not to investigate Catholic priest who may have been IRA bomber

By Tim Montgomerie

The Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman has today issued a report which concludes that the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Catholic Church, the security services and the Conservative government of the time conspired to cover up a Catholic priest's suspected role in the murder of nine people in July 1972. The priest - Fr James Chesney - died in 1980 but rather than face judgment on this side of eternity he was moved south-of-the-border. It is suspected that he was a Quartermaster for the IRA.

Screen shot 2010-08-24 at 14.27.28 Just speaking on BBC TV News the Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said it was clearly wrong that justice was never done but he refused to criticise his predecessor of the time, Willie Whitelaw. He said that the security situation at the time was very serious and action against the Catholic priest might have made the violent sectarianism even worse.

Mr Paterson said he was profoundly sorry for the families affected by the bombings but he rejected a public inquiry. With most of the key people dead - including Mr Whitelaw and also the Catholic archbishop who was part of the decision - he said that little extra was likely to be learnt.

> On the Today programme last Friday Owen Paterson said that the Government would not speak to the dissident terrorist groups currently stoking violence in Northern Ireland. Listen again to what he said via this link.


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