A report into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has concluded there was ‘no overarching state conspiracy’, even though there were ‘shocking’ levels of state collusion.
Sir Desmond de Silva’s review of the 1989 murder by Loyalist paramilitaries found that collusion by the state went beyond a failure to prevent the crime.
But the family of the murdered man have slammed the report as a whitewash. Renewing her call for a full public inquiry into her husband’s death, Geraldine Finucane said that the British government had suppressed the truth.
Geraldine said, ‘Yet another British government has engineered a suppression of the truth behind the murder of my husband, Pat Finucane.
‘At every turn it is clear that this report has done exactly what was required—to give the benefit of the doubt to the state, its cabinet and ministers, to the army, to the intelligence services and to itself.
‘At every turn, dead witnesses have been blamed and defunct agencies found wanting. Serving personnel and active state departments appear to have been excused.
‘The dirt has been swept under the carpet without any serious attempt to lift the lid on what really happened to Pat and so many others.
‘This report is a sham, this report is a whitewash, this report is a confidence trick dressed up as independent scrutiny and given invisible clothes of reliability. But most of all, most hurtful and insulting of all, this report is not the truth.’
Pat Finucane represented many leading Republicans, including hunger striker Bobby Sands. Pat was not a member of the IRA, but the police and army hated him because he exposed the sectarianism and thuggery of the police and other institutions in Northern Ireland.
Just before his murder he had forced the RUC police to release a prisoner who had suffered from a perforated eardrum while being interrogated.
He had also just won a long-running case to force RUC officers to testify about their ‘shoot to kill’ policy in the early 1980s.
Then in January 1989 Conservative MP Douglas Hogg told the House of Commons that certain solicitors in Northern Ireland were “unduly sympathetic” to the IRA. Around the same time an RUC officer was reported to have told a client, “You will not be having Mr Finucane as a solicitor much longer.”
Three weeks later Pat was dead. A loyalist gang, using information from British intelligence, smashed its way into his north Belfast home before killing him in front of his family.
De Silva’s report examined the role of two British agents in the murder and found that another man involved was later also recruited as an agent even though he was suspected in the murder of Pat. De Silva said no minister was aware of the plot to kill the solicitor.
In his report De Silva said, ‘The real importance in my view is that a series of positive actions by employees of the state actively furthered and facilitated his murder and that, in the aftermath of the murder, there was a relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice.
‘My review of the evidence relating to Patrick Finucane’s case has left me in no doubt that agents of the state were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder.
‘However, despite the different strands of involvement by elements of the State, I am satisfied that they were not linked to an over-arching State conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane.’
Three men who worked for the intelligence services: Brian Nelson, who supplied information to the Force Research Unit (FRU), a secret unit of the British army; Ken Barrett, who later admitted shooting Finucane; and William Stobie.
Stobie was an RUC informer who was shot dead when he was about to testify in a court about the case.
De Silva found that there was ‘significant doubt’ whether Pat Finucane would have been murdered by the UDA, the largest Loyalist paramilitary group, had it not been for the involvement by elements of the state.
De Silva found that in 1985, 85 percent of the UDA’s intelligence originated with sources within the security forces.
From the late 1970s, various British governments backed the FRU as it supplied names, addresses and photographs of Catholic targets to Loyalist paramilitaries.
The key person supplying the information was British army agent Brian Nelson, who infiltrated the UDA. At least 29 members of the UDA in north and west Belfast were informers for one or more security force agencies at the time Pat was shot dead.
After more than two decades there is still no justice for the Finucane family.
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