22 January 2004 Edition
Mass collusion picket planned for London
One hundred relatives of people killed by loyalists in collusion with British crown forces are to travel to London to stage a mass picket outside agencies directly involved in the state-sponsored killing of members of their family.
Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness announced the forthcoming picket at a Belfast press conference this week. The party is endorsing the families in their search for the truth and their campaign to expose the murderous activities of British state agencies over the last three decades.
The announcement came in a week that saw the family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane secure the right to pursue a judicial review to challenge the British Government's delay in publishing the Cory report into the killing.
Also published this week was a damning report by the Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan following a complaint by the family of Seán Brown, a 61-year-old Catholic shot dead by loyalists in 1997. O'Loan ruled that the killing had not been properly investigated by the then RUC.
"Confirmation by the Police Ombudsman that there was no serious attempt to find those responsible for the murder of Seán Brown," said McGuinness, "underlines the multi-layered nature of collusion."
Commenting on the Finucane family's court action, McGuinness said it highlighted the "lengths to which the British Government has gone to prevent proper examination of the killing of Pat Finucane is, in itself, confirmation of how much the British system has to hide".
A number of relatives, representing the families who will travel to England on Wednesday 4 February, were also present at the launch. These included Teresa Slane, whose husband Gerard was killed by the UDA in September 1988 using intelligence supplied by British agent Brian Nelson, and Laura Hamill, whose husband Patrick was shot dead by the UDA in September 1987, using intelligence supplied by the covert FRU British Army unit.
Also attending was Mark Sykes, whose brother-in-law was killed in the UDA attack on Graham's bookmakers on the Ormeau Road in February 1992 and who was critically injured himself by UDA gunmen, using weapons supplied by Special Branch and British Military Intelligence.
"Collusion, the control and direction of unionist death squads, was a British state policy endorsed at the highest political level of the British Government," said McGuinness.
Investigating collusion, the head of the London Metropolitan police, John Stevens, confirmed that British state agents have been involved in collusion, including involvement in murder, McGuinness told the media.
"British Intelligence recruited and placed large numbers of agents within unionist paramilitaries. And through their agents, the British ensured unionist paramilitaries were armed with modern weapons," said McGuinness.
In December 1987, over 300 weapons were brought into the North of Ireland, with the full participation and knowledge of British Intelligence and distributed among the unionist death squads.
British Intelligence updated and organised loyalist intelligence documents to ensure that targeting by unionist death squads was, to quote a British Intelligence report, "more professional".
"The British state created an efficient sectarian murder machine and set it loose on the northern nationalist community. Hundreds of people were killed and many more were injured and maimed in a vicious campaign of state-sponsored murder," said McGuinness.
The Sinn Féin leader went on to point out that, to date, no member of Special Branch or British Military Intelligence has been indicted for these crimes.
"No political leader has been held accountable for this policy. Indeed, the policy of collusion has never been reversed. It remains intact. The British agencies that executed this policy, remain in place today," said McGuinness.
On 4 February, a large delegation consisting of 100 relatives of the victims of this policy of state sponsored murder will be in London to protest. The group will be picketing those directly responsible for the operation of collusion in Ireland, including the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), MI5 and the Tory party.
Responding to questions, McGuinness revealed that he and Gerry Adams had held a number of "intense and detailed" discussions with the British Prime Minister on the issue of collusion.
"I believe Tony Blair does understand the huge significance of collusion, of state involvement in the murder of citizens within its own jurisdiction," he said. "He has told us that he has never and will never be involved in any of these activities but the fact remains, the British agencies involved are still in place.
"The British Government is refusing to disclose the truth about collusion; it has never disavowed collusion as a policy and has failed to dismantle the mechanism by which collusion is delivered. It's time to tell the truth about collusion, admit that it was wrong and make sure it can never happen again."
Finucanes seek judicial review
Meanwhile, the Finucane family has been granted the right to seek a judicial review challenging the British Government's refusal to publish the Cory report. Geraldine Finucane, the widow of the murdered Belfast solicitor, sought a judicial challenge to compel British Secretary of State Paul Murphy to publish Cory's report into allegations of collusion.
The British Prime Minister was shamed last week when the Canadian judge decided to bypass British intransigence and contact the families involved personally to tell them he had recommended public inquiries.
"Judge Cory's decision to contact us personally was quite extraordinary," said son Michael Finucane. "His underlying reason was that he wasn't prepared to have his impartiality and independence besmirched further by the dishonourable actions of the British government."
During the Weston Park talks, the British Government made a commitment to publish the findings and to implement the reports recommendations. The British Government also broke an undertaking to release the reports before Christmas last year.
The British Government's failure to meet its commitments has been described by the Finucane family as "a cynical breach of faith". The family has already won a case against the British Government in the European courts.
During a preliminary hearing at Belfast High Court, the British Government was accused of adding to the grief of the Finucane family by their delay in publishing the Cory report. A lawyer acting on behalf of the family said that the delay had undermined public confidence in the administration of justice.
Barrister Séamus Treacy said the British Government's decision was in stark contrast to the Irish government's decision to publish Judge Cory's reports. The barrister said it was also in stark contrast to the decision by Cory himself, who contacted the families of those affected by the reports to inform them that he had recommended public inquiries. It was unfair to make the families wait any longer, he said.
A lawyer acting on behalf of the British Government, Declan Morgan, said the delay was simply a matter of the timeframe. The Irish Government had only two reports to consider, while the British faced four. Presiding Judge Weatherup said that an arguable case had been made and adjourned the case until March.