Relatives of the Claudy bombing victims are to serve legal writs on the Catholic Church, NIO and PSNI in their pursuit of the truth about the atrocity.
Nine civilians – aged between eight and 65 – died when three bombs ripped through the Londonderry village on July 31, 1972.
No one has ever been convicted in relation to the attack and the PSNI last week told the families that an investigation had been suspended until new evidence came to light.
Following Friday’s meeting with senior PSNI officers, a spokesman for some of the Claudy families said: “To say there was shock within the room when the PSNI revealed their intention to suspend the investigation would be a gross understatement.”
Yesterday, a victims’ group said the announcement left them with no option but to take legal action.
The writs have been issued and, once served, will compel the recipients to disclose all relevant information held in relation to the case.
In 2010, a Police Ombudsman’s report on the atrocity found that certain actions by the Derry Diocese, the RUC and the state – centred around Catholic priest Father James Chesney – “compromised the investigation of the Claudy bombing; failed those who were murdered and injured; and undermined the police officers who were investigating the atrocity”.
Fr Chesney was suspected of involvement in the bombing and the victims’ families say many questions remain unanswered. He died in 1980.
However, the report found “no evidence that police had information which, if acted upon, could have helped them to prevent the bombings”.
Speaking yesterday, a spokesman for Justice for Innocent Victims of Terrorism (JIVT) said: “The case is extremely complex and is multi-layered. This has resulted in civil writs being issued by a number of the families against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Derry, the NIO and the PSNI who now need to provide answers to some difficult questions concerning acts and/or omissions.
“This has been motivated by the pursuit of justice and the lack of progress in the criminal investigation.”
The spokesman added: “The Claudy bombings were committed by the Provisional IRA without discrimination to one’s race, religion or political view.
“The PIRA are not an abstract entity but a terrorist organisation made up of men and women, individuals who had murder on their minds on 31 July, 1972. JIVT Ltd would appeal to anyone – including those who participated at whatever level in the commission and perpetration of this terrorist act – to pass this information to the PSNI.”
Gordon Miller, the son of David Miller who was killed in the bombing, said the events of 1972 remain fresh in his mind to this day.
“They say time heals but it really only dulls the pain,” he said.
“For three bombs to be placed by republican terrorists in such a small village as Claudy was total carnage.
“The bombing of Claudy was well orchestrated, not by a few, but by many, and there are those who hold information to this day regarding those involved in that cowardly act.
“I feel the only option left is to go down this road in an effort to root out these evil people and to hold accountable those statutory agencies who hold any information on the terrorists who were involved in any way with the devastation caused in Claudy.”
David Temple lost his brother William in the bombing.
He said: “Forty-one years have passed and to date no-one has ever been held to account for the murder of my brother and the others who were murdered in this atrocity.
“As a family over the 41 years we have never received updates as to how the terrorists were being pursued within the police investigation.”
Mr Temple said his family was appealing for anyone with information to come forward, and added: “This action is attempting to hold the terrorists to account and, in addition to this, the statutory agencies who hold information on the terrorists.”
Ulster Unionist councillor Mary Hamilton was injured in the Claudy bomb.
She said: “They are hoping, maybe, that we get fed up and forget about it, but to this day I carry the injuries that I had.
“I have shrapnel in both my legs and I suffer every day with it. It makes me think, here we are ten miles down the road, Bloody Sunday got so much money spent on them and the people of Claudy are just forgotten about.”
Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International NI said: “I’d say the families have been repeatedly let down by the authorities in their quest for truth and justice,” and added that it was “sadly typical of how hundreds and hundreds of other families have been let down by inadequate processes to investigate the past in Northern Ireland, and [shows] why we need a new over-arching mechanism to do the job.”
TUV leader Jim Allister warmly welcomed the legal proceedings.
“It is very clear from the findings of the Police Ombudsman’s report that there was a deliberate cover-up involving the state and the Roman Catholic Church, with forensic opportunities to pursue Father Chesney consciously ignored,” he said.
“Political expediency was put before justice and this still seems to be the mindset as the PSNI abandons its investigation.
“It is the duty of the police to investigate and if they choose not to, even if under political direction, then, they most certainly should be sued by the victims.
“Likewise any government and church complicit in facilitating the transfer of the priestly perpetrator, instead of bringing him to justice, has an obvious case to answer.
“So, I wish the victims success in their litigation and commend them and JIVT for this initiative.”