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6 May 1999 Edition

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Collusion: The truth will out

By Fern Lane

The 11-page document, revealed by The Independent on 4 May, which was sent by the Irish government to the Northern Ireland Office last month and which detailed its suspicions that crown forces in the Six Counties colluded with loyalists to carry out the murders of nationalists, including Pat Finucane,

may be long overdue but is nevertheless likely to meet the same wall of resistance from both the RUC and those who control it's activities within the British government as all previous reports from bodies as important as the United Nations and Amnesty International.

In the document, the Irish government says it has identified patterns of behaviour ``which tend to confirm widespread suspicions that elements in the security forces were used, at the expense of the rule of law, to prosecute a campaign against those deemed enemies of the state and to conceal what that entailed and who was culpable''.

Thus, Geraldine Finucane's refusal to co-operate with the new Stevens investigation into the murder of her husband is well-founded, given that Stevens has already investigated collusion and, according to Ronnie Flanagan, exonerated the RUC. Any report compiled by Stevens will have to go through Ronnie Flanagan before it can be presented to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Geraldine Finucane also made the salient point that a police investigation, rather than an independent inquiry, is no more than a diversionary tactic dreamed up in the face of mounting pressure on the government to submit to an independent inquiry into the killing of both Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson.

A criminal investigation suggests that the whole issue of collusion is an unproven one, when of course it is not. There is already a mountain of documentumentation on the matter, including, amongst others, detailed submissions by Amnesty International, the United Nations - which said there was ``prima facie evidence of collusion'' - British and Irish Human Rights Watch, the trial of Brian Nelson, and the televised admission by loyalists themselves that they received information on nationalist and republican targets from the security forces. To initiate another police investigation into whether collusion might have occurred is, in the face of this evidence, a ludicrous waste of time.

Colin Port, the British police officer called in by the RUC after the murder of Rosemary Nelson, also forms part of the pattern of deflecting pressure for a public inquiry into collusion through the use of a British police investigation. His claim last week that her murder is a ``human tragedy'' like any other murder and essentially devoid of any political motivation beyond a sectarian hatred of her by rogue loyalists is disingenuous and he knows it. More revealing is his admission that his `Collusion Unit' is made up of RUC officers who, he says, no doubt with unintentional irony, ``know the systems that operate here''.

After a meeting with Mo Mowlam on Wednesday, 5 May, whowever, a chink of light was visible in the comments of Geraldine Finucane. She said that the Secretary of State had told her that the fact that the latest Stevens investigation had started did not rule out a full independent inquiry.

Further, Ken Maginnis did us all a favour with his cowardly and incorrect comment that Pat Finucane was ``inextricably'' linked to the IRA because it reveals to the world the ideological and psychological milieu against which collusion has for so long been allowed to flourish unpunished. His allegation was slanderous not because to be associated with the IRA is ignominious or shameful - it is not - but rather because he knows full well that it is factually incorrect and because it was uttered with profoundly malicious intent, seeking to tarnish Finucane's fine reputation, to somehow justify his killing and that of Rosemary Nelson. It was also spoken in the full knowledge that such attitudes endanger the lives of other lawyers who defend those he believes should not be defended.

What is required is not that the British government hides behind the skirts of more police `investigation' into already well-established facts, but an acknowledgement that collusion was, and is, as Bairbre de BrĂșn says, ``systematic and endemic'', followed by an public inquiry to expose the mechanics of collusion and to bring to justice those responsible for authorising and implementing it. The Metropolitan Police tried for a long time to promote the Bad Apple theory but, because of pressure from the community it claimed to serve, it ultimately failed. So will the RUC.
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