30 November 2005


Daily Ireland

Highly-respected 60-year-old SF assembly member among four people still being questioned by the PSNI last night allegedly in connection with a 1972 bombing

Eamonn Houston

A Sinn Féin assembly member was among four people still being questioned by the PSNI last night in connection with a 1972 bombing in which nine people were killed.
Sinn Féin said the arrest of Francie Brolly as part of the investigation into the Claudy bombing was politically motivated.
The 60-year-old East Derry assembly member was arrested in Dungiven, Co Derry, with another man during a PSNI swoop yesterday morning.
A 50-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman were also arrested in Portglenone in Co Antrim and Dungannon in Co Tyrone.
Three car bombs exploded in Claudy on July 31, 1972. Nine people were killed, including a nine-year-old girl.
Around 50 Sinn Féin protesters gathered at Dungiven PSNI station yesterday afternoon to demand the release of the four.
The protest was led by Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin, who described Mr Brolly as “a highly respected representative”.
Mr McLaughlin told protesters that he suspected the involvement of Special Branch in the operation.
Mr Brolly’s wife Anne, a Sinn Féin councillor and former mayor of Limavady, has publicly backed calls for a judicial inquiry into the Claudy bombing.
“I felt what happened in Claudy was a grievous wrong,” Mrs Brolly said in 2003.
Mr Brolly and the three other people arrested were being held under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. They can be held for questioning for two days.
In September 2002, the PSNI said it was reviewing the Claudy case after alleging the involvement of the Co Derry priest James Chesney in “terrorism” in the area. The priest died in 1980.
The Catholic Church disputed the claims, which arose from an anonymous letter allegedly sent by a priest in England to a newspaper. The letter claimed that Fr Chesney had informally confessed his involvement in the bombing to the letter writer. The Derry diocese questioned the authenticity of the letter.
The PSNI alleged a cover-up had been hatched between the British government and the then Catholic primate Cardinal William Conway to keep Fr Chesney’s involvement secret when rumours began to circulate that he was linked to the bombing.
Cardinal Conway moved the priest across the Border to Malin Head in Co Donegal, where he died eight years later.
Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness last night demanded the release of Mr Brolly and called into question the motives of the PSNI.
The Mid-Ulster MP said: “This morning, heavily armed PSNI members arrested East Derry assembly member Francie Brolly from his home in Dungiven.
“This is the latest and among the most blatant examples of political policing seen here in recent times.
“As has become the norm with this type of political policing, selected media outlets were briefed about the identities of those arrested,” he said.
Mr McGuinness described Mr Brolly as a key player in the peace process.
“His arrest is completely motivated by an anti-peace process and anti-Sinn Féin agenda operating at the heart of the Special Branch,” said the former Stormont education minister.
“Sinn Féin are demanding the immediate release of Francie Brolly, and we will be raising this issue with both the British and Irish governments.”
Francie and Anne Brolly are well known in Irish traditional music circles and have recorded a number of albums.
Mr Brolly also wrote the republican favourite The H-Block Song, which pays tribute to IRA prisoners who took part in blanket protests in the Maze prison during the Troubles.
Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Ian Paisley Jr said yesterday that anyone found guilty of the Claudy bombing should not be included in any amnesty for outstanding paramilitary crimes under on-the-run legislation, due for process through the British parliament.

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