Sinn Fein man arrested over 1972 bombing

A prominent Sinn Fein politician has been arrested by police investigating an IRA bomb attack which claimed the lives of six adults and three children in Co Londonderry in 1972.

The Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness instantly protested the innocence of Francie Brolly, a Northern Ireland Assembly member, who was one of four people being interrogated yesterday about the lethal attack in the village of Claudy.

The incident, in which car bombs exploded, produced a huge public controversy three years ago when police said they believed a Catholic priest had been one of the IRA bombing team. It emerged that the role of Father James Chesney had been known to the authorities and the Church. But it appeared that a decision to cover up the affair was arranged between the then Northern Ireland Secretary, William Whitelaw, and Cardinal William Conway.

The minister, the cardinal and the priest have all since died, but the revelation caused police to reopen the case. Seamus Mullan, a freelance sports journalist and BBC contributor, was also arrested yesterday, along with a third man and a 58-year-old-woman.

Republicans have never admitted responsibility, mainly because the bombings exacted such an appalling civilian death toll by attacking a peaceful village which contained nothing that could be described as a "military target". Warnings about the car bombs were reportedly made, but received too late.

The arrests were welcomed by the parents of nine-year-old Kathryn Eakin, the youngest victim. Her mother, Merle Eakin, said: "It is early days yet and we have to see what comes of it. It is obviously a relief after all these years, but we will have to wait and see."

Mr Brolly was elected to the Belfast Assembly and unsuccessfully stood for a Westminster seat. A retired teacher from a staunch republican family, he has been active not just in politics but also in Irish music, culture and Gaelic games. He was interned without trial during the 1970s, and wrote one of the foremost republican prison anthems, "The H-block Song". He and his wife, Anne, are widely known as a singing duo.

She is also active in republican politics, having served as mayor of the local council. Two years ago she seconded a motion from a Unionist member of the council for a judicial inquiry into the bombing. On that occasion, she said: "I felt that what happened in Claudy was a grievous wrong. If we can get at the truth and bring succour to the families in Claudy, then I certainly wanted to support the motion."

Demanding Mr Brolly's release, Mr McGuinness said: "This is a blatant example of political policing and we will be taking it up with both governments."

The Democratic Unionist Assembly member Ian Paisley Jr raised the question of whether anyone found guilty of the bombing would be jailed, since controversial new legislation could provide for convictions without imprisonment.

Meanwhile, relatives of those killed in the 1998 Omagh bombing said they had received a promise from Tony Blair that those responsible would not benefit from an amnesty. Speaking after meeting the Prime Minister yesterday, Victor Barker, whose 12-year-old son, James, died in Omagh, said Mr Blair gave an "unequivocal" assurance.

One man is currently facing charges in connection with the Omagh attack. His trial is expected to take place next year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee