21 January 2006

Hogg confronted over MI5 killing

Daily Ireland


Former Conservative Home office minister Douglas Hogg has admitted he was privately briefed by RUC Special Branch on multiple occasions in the run up to the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
Douglas Hogg QC made the startling comments during a trip to Belfast this week to act as legal representative at the inquest into the death a British intelligence soldier, shot during a training exercise at Ballykinlar army base.
Members of anti-collusion group An Fhírinne and the murdered solicitor’s son John yesterday confronted the Tory MP about his comments as the inquest into the death of 42-year-old Warrant Officer Harry White came to a close.
Just weeks before the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane the Conservative MP told the House of Commons that some solicitors in the North were “unduly sympathetic” to the cause of the IRA.
He later went on to become a member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet.
His comments in the House of Commons were investigated by John Stevens during his report into alleged collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.
In reference to his questioning by the Stevens team, Douglas Hogg revealed this week that he had had so many meetings about Pat Finucane it would have been “impossible for me to remember them all”.
Mr Stevens later concluded that Mr Hogg’s comments had “not been justified” when the then minister made them during a Commons debate on anti-terrorism legislation on January 17, 1989.
Pat Finucane was gunned down by loyalists in his north Belfast home on February 12, 1989. Douglas Hogg, who was a Home Office junior minister at the time, later said he had made the comments after a briefing by RUC members.
During a break in the inquest proceedings this week, he admitted that he had been unable to recall the dates and times of the secret RUC briefings when asked by John Stevens because the meetings had been so frequent.
The former minister added that he had had to refer back to his parliamentary diaries to confirm the details of his meetings with RUC Special Branch.
The Tory MP was this week acting as Queen’s Counsel for the family of the late sergeant Harry White, who was fatally wounded during a live-fire exercise at Ballykinler army base.
As coroner David Hunter yesterday concluded his judgment on Mr White’s death, protesters holding pictures of Pat Finucane confronted Douglas Hogg.
The MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham looked shocked and stunned as the protesters called out: “What about justice for Pat Finucane?” and “Do you still stand by your comments?” from the public gallery of the Old Town Hall courthouse in Belfast.
Court officials led Mr Hogg out a back door of the courthouse.
Speaking outside the court, Pat Finucane’s son John said it was time for the Conservative MP to come clean about his private meetings with RUC Special Branch in the run up to the Belfast solicitor’s murder.
“We have never been given answers by Douglas Hogg about his briefings with the RUC,” said John Finucane.
“He has never apologised or even recognised the impact that his comments had and the distress they caused my family.
“I think it says a lot about his lack of remorse that he is willing to come to Belfast and practise law in the very place where a solicitor was killed following his inflammatory comments.”

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