This is the full text of my questioning of Martin Mc Guinness about Fr James Chesney.
“I know there are a lot of questions about what happened at Claudy. People have raised a lot of questions about Fr Chesney.
“I never met with Fr Chesney at the time of the bombings of Claudy. I never knew Fr Chesney. He was 17/18 years older than myself. In fact I never heard of Fr Chesney until many many years after the Claudy bombings when ever his name started to come into the media.”
EM: In the Bloody Sunday inquiry it was acknowledged by you that you were the second in charge of the IRA in your city at that time. Are you categorically saying at no point did you ever meet this man Fr Chesney and at no point had you any familiarity, knowledge or otherwise in the ether or in the air at any point of his alleged connection with the IRA?
“I think it is very important to stress what you just said this alleged connection.
“At the time of Bloody Sunday the Derry city brigade of the IRA was made up of the Bogside, the Brandywell, the Creggan, Gobnascale and the Shantallow area.
“So I think everybody knows, including the Ombudsman’s report that has come out, no suggestion has been made that the Derry City brigade of the IRA were involved in any way in what happened at Claudy.”
EM: So let’s clean this up and clarify. Are you categorically saying at no point did you ever meet Fr Chesney, at no point around the time of Claudy had you any familiarity with the name of Fr Chesney allegedly linked, membership whatever of the IRA?
“I knew absolutely nothing about Fr Chesney whatsoever before during or for many years after the Claudy bombing.
“I will go on to say that as the years progressed I did become familiar with his name. Whenever he was dying with a very serious illness I was asked would I go to meet with him in Donegal.”
EM: Why were you asked?
“I was asked because I was a senior republican by that stage that he had asked actually would I come to see him.”
EM: Isn’t that remarkable that he should ask to see you?
“I think you should let me finish what I am saying and then you can put whatever questions you want to put to me.
“I did go to see him. I knew absolutely nothing about any connection with Claudy or even at that stage any allegations against him.
I wasn’t aware of it. There was no discussion during the course of our very short conversation which lasted maybe twenty five minutes. It never came up. What was clear as a result of the con versation was that he was very supportive of the Republican cause.
It came as a huge surprise to me that these allegations were going to be levelled against him.
” I do believe that Bishop Daly hit the nail on the head whenever he said that people should be very cautious and careful where these allegations emanated from.”
[This article originally appeared on Slugger O’Toole]