13 February 2006

17 years on family continues its search for truth

Daily Ireland

Cory probed the high-profile murder of Pat Finucane, targeted simply because of his politics and clients, and found sinister forces at the heart of the British system


Image Hosted by ImageShack.usYesterday marked the 17th anniversary of Pat Finucane’s murder. Judge Peter Cory’s independent review of the murder was published in April 2004. Based on his findings, Judge Cory recommended a full public inquiry into the affair. The British government promised to implement any recommendations made by Judge Cory but has since reneged on its commitment. It has claimed that a public inquiry cannot be held for reasons of “national security”. Below we publish verbatim edited extracts from Judge Cory’s 2004 report.

The Murder
Events at Patrick
Finucane’s home
1.15: On the evening of 12 February 1989, Patrick Finucane, his wife Geraldine and their three children were having dinner in the kitchen. Around 7.25pm Geraldine heard a noise coming from the front door. Her husband jumped up from the table and she jumped up behind him. He opened the kitchen door and, as they both looked down the hall, she saw one figure walking towards them. The intruder was masked and she believed that he held a gun in his left hand, although she was not sure about this. The man was dressed in black and he seemed to be wearing black gauntlets which covered his arms. He had a green combat jacket which was tied at the waist. She didn’t see anyone else.
She moved behind her husband to hit the alarm button, which was located behind the kitchen door. As she did that, she could see her husband closing the kitchen door. Then the shooting started and it was very fast at first.
She landed up against the dining-room door, her hands over her head. She said there were more shots, very slow and deliberate.
When the shots stopped, her husband was lying on the floor on his back and the man had left. She went to the hall but there was no one there. She had been shot in the ankle, probably as a result of a ricocheting bullet. Despite her wound and the trauma of this horrifying event, she had the presence of mind to call for the police.

1.16: The autopsy report confirmed that Patrick Finucane was a 39-year-old male. He had been shot six times in the head, three times in the neck and three times in the torso. Any of the wounds to the head, the neck, or the torso would have been fatal.

The association of lawyers with their clients who were PIRA members.
1.256: Documents reveal the extent to which Special Branch believed that solicitors representing members of PIRA were, themselves, either members of the organisation or “republican sympathisers”. […] It may be significant that SB chose to maintain a personal file on Patrick Finucane, who appears to have been a law-abiding citizen. The file contained various documents, including source reports, news clippings and correspondence.
What is most striking is that Patrick Finucane is repeatedly identified as a “republican sympathiser”; “an extreme republican sympathiser [who] represents PIRA members who face terrorist charges”; and an individual who “comes from a staunchly republican family”.
These descriptions permeate the file, and are seen on documents dating back to 1979. The file records various activities that were legitimately undertaken by Patrick Finucane in his capacity as a citizen, a lawyer and a supporter of human rights. He is implicitly criticised for taking a “keen interest in the welfare of PIRA prisoners” during the hunger strikes, and for being a member of organisations such as the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

1.257: The attitude of Special Branch toward the work of solicitors in general, and Patrick Finucane in particular, is also evident in the briefing given to MP Douglas Hogg. This led to his comments in the House of Commons on 17 January 1989. He then spoke opposing a proposed amendment to a bill which would allow solicitors access to information concerning terrorist investigations in certain limited circumstances. During the debates, Mr Hogg, relying upon the briefing he had received from SB, asserted: “I have to state as a fact, but with great regret, that there are in Northern Ireland a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA…”

1.258: In statements made some years later, Mr Hogg indicated that his comments in the House had been based on advice received from senior police officials, including a briefing by the Special Branch in November 1988.
This briefing was attended by the chief constable and deputy chief constable of the RUC, as well as other senior officers.
According to Mr Hogg, the message conveyed was that there were a half dozen or so solicitors who were “effectively in the pockets of terrorists” and that such solicitors were “defending the organisation rather than the individual”.
1.259: When Mr Hogg asked for a concrete example, Special Branch sent him documents identifying Patrick Finucane. […]
Obstructions placed in the path of the Stevens inquiries: Whether they reveal an attitude and course of conduct that should be taken into account in determining whether they were acts of collusions.
1.269: I have reviewed a document which would appear to lend strong support to the allegation that RUC SB and FRU [Force Research Unit] consciously set out to withhold pertinent information from the Stevens inquiries. It sets out the minutes of various meetings attended by senior officials, including the former GOC NI (general officer commanding, Northern Ireland). This document confirms that the GOC NI had discussed the Stevens inquiry with the chief constable of the RUC before the inquiry team even arrived in the province. The document states that: “The CC [chief constable] had decided that the Stevens inquiry would have no access to intelligence documents or information, nor the units supplying them” […]

1.270: The wilful concealment of pertinent evidence, and the failure to co-operate with the Stevens inquiry, can be seen as further evidence of the unfortunate attitude that then persisted within RUC SB and FRU — namely, that they were not bound by the law and were above and beyond its reach.
These documents reveal that government agencies (the army and RUC) were prepared to participate jointly in collusive acts in order to protect their perceived interests. Ultimately the relevance and significance of this matter should be left for the consideration of those who may be called upon to preside at a public inquiry.
Summary of collusive acts.
i. FRU
1.283: The following matters are relevant in considering whether FRU engaged in collusive acts:

a. Did FRU have advance knowledge that Patrick Finucane was being targeted by the UDA [Ulster Defence Association]?

1.284: The documents clearly raise questions as to whether or not FRU knew, in advance, that the UDA was planning to target and kill Patrick Finucane. There are conflicts in the documentary evidence that can only be resolved at a public hearing. […]

1.285: If [Brian] Nelson is correct in stating that he told his handlers that Patrick Finucane was a target, and no steps were taken by FRU to either warn Patrick Finucane or otherwise intervene, then that would be capable of constituting a collusive act. This follows, as it would mean that FRU had turned a blind eye to the threat against Patrick Finucane, notwithstanding that the information came from someone that they considered to be an outstanding agent. Only a public inquiry can determine whether this occurred. The evidence I have seen warrants the holding of a public inquiry on this issue.

b. Passing of information to Nelson by handlers

1.286: The CFs [contact forms] and TCFs [telephone contact forms] – the records kept in the usual and ordinary course of the business of FRU – leave little doubt that, on occasion, handlers provided information to Nelson that facilitated his targeting activities. While there is no indication that handlers provided information that specifically pertained to Patrick Finucane, this breach of policy is significant, as it demonstrates a general pattern of behaviour on the part of Nelson’s handlers that could be considered collusive. They were aware that Nelson was a central player within the UDA and that he had considerable influence in directing targeting operations.
They were also aware that Nelson often played a direct and active role in reconnaissance missions. The provision of information to Nelson in these circumstances may be seen as evidence of collusive behaviour that had the potential to facilitate the deadly operations planned by the UDA.

c. Failure to restrain Nelson’s criminal activities
1.287: There can be no doubt that Nelson, by his own admission, committed criminal acts. He entered pleas of guilty to 20 terrorist-related crimes, including five separate instances of conspiracy to murder. Even more importantly, the CFs and TCFs reveal that the army handlers were aware, or at the very least, most certainly ought to have been aware, of the criminal acts of Nelson. Little or no effort was taken to prohibit or discourage Nelson from committing criminal acts. It is apparent from some of the CFs that the handlers were more concerned with Nelson’s security, and avoiding police detection, than they were with stopping his criminal activity. The documents I have examined disclose that army handlers and their superiors turned a blind eye to the criminal acts of Nelson. In doing this, they established a pattern of behaviour that could be characterised as collusive.

d. Evidence given at
Nelson’s trial

1.288: The evidence given by the CO [commanding officer] FRU, (Soldier “J”) at Nelson’s trial could only be described as misleading. The statement that Nelson’s actions were responsible for saving close to 217 lives was based on a highly dubious numerical analysis that cannot be supported on any basis. The troubling evidence given at Nelson’s trial, coupled with FRU’s knowledge of his criminal activities, is part of the cumulative picture that should be examined in determining whether FRU acted collusively in the murder of Patrick Finucane.

e. FRU collusion

1.289: The documents either in themselves or taken cumulatively can be taken to indicate that FRU committed acts of collusion. Further, there is strong if, in some instances, conflicting documentary evidence that FRU committed collusive acts. Only a public inquiry can resolve the conflict.

ii. The security service
1.290: Much of the work of the security service is not relevant to my inquiry. However, the agent operations that the security service ran in Northern Ireland did give rise to conduct that appears to fall within the definition of collusion.

a. In 1981, the security service was aware that the UDA had plans to kill Patrick Finucane and that the threat was both very real and very imminent. After consultation with security service officers from the Joint Security Service/SIS [Secret Intelligence Service] section present, RUC SB decided to take no steps to intervene or halt the attack.

b. In 1985, the security service was aware that a leading loyalist paramilitary considered Patrick Finucane to be a priority target.

c. In December 1988, just seven weeks before the murder, the security service received information from an agent that there were plans afoot to kill various targets, and that the UDA had singled out Patrick Finucane for special attention. Once again, no action was taken to warn Patrick Finucane or to intervene in any way.

1.291: The apparent failure of the security service to suggest to RUC SB that action should be taken on these threats might, itself, be capable of constituting collusive action. At the very least, these matters add to the cumulative pattern of conduct demonstrated by the relevant government agencies and should be considered in the context of a public inquiry.

iii. RUC Special Branch
1.292: In my view, the following conduct of the RUC SB is directly relevant to the question of collusion:

a. Failure to act on known threats
In 1981, no action had been taken in connection with a direct threat against Patrick Finucane. Rather, the protection of agent security was seen as more important than saving the life of a person who faced a serious and imminent threat. Similarly through its agent William Stobie, RUC SB was aware that, just five days before the Finucane murder, a top UDA official had asked Stobie to provide a nine-millimetre Browning pistol for a “hit on a top PIRA man”. This information was not apparently pursued.

b. Failure to follow up on the Browning pistol
Just three days after the murder, Stobie reported that he had been asked by the same UDA official to pick up and hide a nine-millimetre Browning. No steps were taken to recover or trace this weapon, although there was every reason to believe that it was the firearm used to kill Patrick Finucane. The failure to act on information received in 1989, both before and after the Finucane murder, is indicative of collusion and should be the subject of inquiry at a public hearing.

c. The intelligence and threats books
As a general rule, the intelligence and threats books reveal that RUC SB failed to record or act upon intelligence information coming from FRU. Similarly, they indicate that SB rarely took any steps to document threats or prevent attacks by the UDA, whereas proactive steps were routinely taken in connection with PIRA and other republican threats. The failure to issue warnings to persons targeted by the UDA often led to tragic consequences. This is indicative of attitudes within RUC SB. It also constitutes a pattern of conduct that could be equated with collusive behaviour.

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