The news of the Claudy cover-up is bad news for the fragile power-sharing arrangement, and will anger law-abiding democrats, exacerbate religious tensions and fuel bigotry. There will be some spill-over to Scotland that will not help the already contentious visit of the Pope. There is also a dangerous resonance with the Catholic Church’s child-abuse cover-up.
But truth will out …
I was in Northern Ireland briefly in 1969 at the Goodyear Craigavon plant. and the atmosphere in the factory and in the town of Lurgan where I stayed was one of uneasy tension and anticipation of worse to come. My company had planned a long, and perhaps permanent assignment for me, but I decided that I could not bring my young family into a country that was clearly deeply divided and on the brink of major civil unrest, so I decided to unilaterally abort and come back to Scotland, a career-threatening move in an multi-national company that was totally committed to the mobility of its managers.
I can therefore understand, if not condone the decision by the British Government, the Catholic Church and the RUC not to pursue the investigation of the Catholic priest involved. In 1972, the province was a tinderbox, the death toll was mounting and civil war was a real possibility. The decision was entirely in line with the United Kingdom’s traditional expedient and values-free behaviour in relation to its colonies – realpolitik - but I cannot believe that the RUC were other than unwilling participants in the cover-up – their most basic instinct would have been to pursue the investigation with vigour, driven I hope in part by concepts of justice, but also by the sectarian nature of the force at that time.
What appals me is not the Church’s willingness to go along with the state’s decision not to investigate or prosecute, but the fact that it sent a suspected mass murderer, perhaps in multiple breach of the 6th Commandment to another post to continue being a priest, presumably hearing confessions, saying mass, giving communion, etc. Identical practice was followed in the recent child abuse scandals that threatened to engulf the Church.