Northern Irish bishops challenge 'IRA priest' allegations

 The Catholic Church in Northern Ireland issued a strong rebuttal yesterday, following allegations in a leading Protestant Belfast newspaper, the News Letter, that a priest was involved in one of the IRA's worst atrocities. The paper quoted at length from an anonymous letter, claiming to come from a priest based in England, alleging that a priest who is now dead, helped organise the 1972 bombing in Claudy, near Derry in which nine people were killed. The letter also alleges that a senior police officer and a senior Catholic clergyman helped the priest get a new posting in County Donegal. Fr Kevin McElhennon, spokesperson for the Derry Diocese said in a statement that it was "disappointing" a leading newspaper had maligned the name of a dead priest, and had devoted its lead article and editorial to a story based on an anonymous letter of "questionable credibility" containing "obvious inaccuracies." He said: "If the author does exist and if he/she can present credible evidence, he/she should do so to immediately to the Northern Ireland Police Service. "The Claudy bombing was one of the most dreadful atrocities of the past 30 years. As a diocese we offer our sympathy to all the victims and their families who have suffered and continue to suffer. "The Catholic Church in Ireland, and especially in Northern Ireland, has consistently and vigorously condemned violence. It continues to do so. It must be stated clearly that the Church has never colluded in violence nor with the perpetrators of violence." source: Irish Bishops Conference

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