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8 April 2004 Edition

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Anger as public inquiries are denied

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

Bureaucracy and half-baked excuses have prevented the setting up of public tribunals into two of the worst cases of British collusion in Ireland in the last 30 years.

An ongoing criminal investigation in the Six Counties was used as an excuse to dodge an inquiry into the killing of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane. The presumption that evidence relevant to the 1974 Dublin/Monaghan bombings could only be found in the North or Britain was the reason cited for not holding a public inquiry into the atrocities in the 26 Counties.

Nobody, having read either the Cory Report or the Oireachtas Subcommittee's report into the 1974 bombings, could possibly believe that there are not legitimate reasons for setting up immediate inquiries into both cases.

Responding to the news that inquiries were to be held into three of the four cases he presented to the British government — relating to the killings of Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright —Canadian Judge Peter Cory said that Finucane was "one of those rare occasions when a public inquiry would be more beneficial to a community than prosecutions".

In a particularly scathing attack on the British Government's decision, Cory said that there were sound reasons for holding a Finucane inquiry "hand in hand" with criminal proceedings.

Under the North's Diplock Court system, there would be a non-jury murder trial. A judge, he said, would not be influenced by an inquiry and vice versa.

"I would have thought that, in light of the manner in which terrorist trials are held, that is to say with a judge alone, they could proceed at the same time at the very least."

He added that it was vital for an inquiry to proceed before any more witnesses die.

The man behind the British excuses, loyalist Ken Barrett, is due to stand trial in September for Pat Finucane's murder. Barrett was transferred from Maghaberry Prison in Antrim to an English jail on the day the Cory Report was published. The NIO claimed the transfer was processed on compassionate grounds and it was purely coincidental that it took place last Thursday.

Sinn Féin has pushed for public inquiries to be set up into both the Finucane and the Dublin/Monaghan bombings. In a meeting with Paul Murphy on Wednesday morning, Gerry Adams made it clear that there should be "an immediate, independent international inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.

"I have to say that instead of facing up to that issue he retreated into the double speak of Weston Park," Adams said of the British direct ruler afterwards. "We also put it to him that the broad effect within nationalism and republicanism of the refusal of this government to face up to issues that occurred in the time of other governments, is contaminating the view of Mr Blair's attitude on these issues."

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has slammed the Oireachtas Subcommittee report that called for a Cory-style investigation before a public inquiry in Britain or the Six Counties, Ó Caoláin said: "In Judge Barron's report the committee had more than enough evidence to call, in its own right, for a public inquiry covering both jurisdictions.

"The report removes much of the onus for action from the shoulders of the Irish Government. Nothing short of a full public inquiry carried out on a cross-jurisdictional basis is acceptable."

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