21 January 2006

Hogg is challenged on Finucane stance

Belfast Telegraph

Protest group demands answer

By Andrea Clements
21 January 2006

A former Tory minister has been heckled in a Belfast courtroom by an anti-collusion group demanding to know whether he stands over controversial comments he made before the death of Pat Finucane.

Douglas Hogg, QC, was in Northern Ireland yesterday to represent the widow of a soldier, Michael White, at his inquest when members of AnFhirinne (Irish for Truth) held up placards of the murdered solicitor and asked the barrister to outline his stance.

The group says it is wrong that the former Home Office minister sought justice for the White family after stating in the House of Commons in January 1989 during a debate over the prevention of Terrorism Act that some lawyers in Northern Ireland were unduly sympathetic to the IRA.

Mr Finucane was shot dead the following month.

Members of the campaign group AnFhirinne shouted: "Do you remember a statement in the House of Commons about some solicitors being unduly sympathetic (to the IRA)?

"Do you still stand by those remarks, Mr Hogg?"

But the MP, who was a Home Office minister in 1989, made no reply as he left by a rear door.

Former Scotland Yard chief Sir John Stevens, who investigated allegations that the security forces collaborated with Ulster Defence Association killers, found that Mr Hogg had been compromised by RUC officers who briefed him before his statement.

But relatives of Mr Finucane, who insist police were involved in the plot, remain incensed by what was said.

His son John, a trainee solicitor, said that he was appalled at Mr Hogg's court visit to Belfast.

"He has treated my family with complete disdain and he has never offered an apology.

"My father was an officer of court in this jurisdiction and I find it galling that Mr Hogg was over here practising.

"Hopefully he will have to face a full and an independent public inquiry where he will have to account for what was said."

AnFhirinne spokesman Robert McClenaghan said his group's protest, which had not started until official legal proceedings had been completed, had been peaceful.

"We were highlighting in particular the death of Pat Finucane and hundreds of cases of collusion at the highest British government level."

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