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27 May 1999 Edition

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Finucane inquiry: Stevens and government disagree

by Pádraig MacDabhaid

Evidence has come to the fore that the British government has only reopened the investigation into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in order to stall demands for an independent, public inquiry.

Belfast human rights group the Committee on the Administration of Justice has highlighted different accounts of the previous involvement of John Stevens in investigating the murder of Pat Finucane.

CAJ points out that in a letter to John Finucane, Pat's son, on 29 January 1998, Tony Blair wrote that John Stevens fully investigated, ``the circumstances surrounding your father's murder following allegations of Brian Nelson's involvement''.

A claim which Stevens himself supported in a letter to Jane Winter of the British-Irish Rights Watch.

``With regard to the murder of Patrick Finucane, I can confirm that this matter was fully investigated during the initial and subsequent inquiry and the results included in both reports,'' wrote Stevens.

However, in a letter to Madden and Finucane solicitors, Stevens now says: ``At no time was I given the authority by either the Chief Constable of the RUC or the director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the murder of Patrick Finucane''.

The CAJ also highlights the reply given by the British Armed Forces minister, Doug Henderson, in the English House of Commons to Labour MP Kevin McNamara when he said: ``The murder of Patrick Finucane was investigated both by the RUC and subsequently by the investigation team led by John Stevens''.

Ironically, Scotland Yard supports the view that the previous Stevens inquiries were not full-blown investigations into the Finucane killing.

``The picture is quite simple really. You need to go back and look at the terms of reference for these previous investigations. What you will see is his role was to look at allegations of collusion, especially in relation to Brian Nelson, and while that was linked to the murder of Pat Finucane he did not at that time investigate the murder and that is what he is doing now with a full team,'' reads a Scotland Yard statement.

A spokesperson for the CAJ said: ``Before the investigation can command public confidence, it is incumbent upon Stevens to clarify once and for all if he did indeed investigate the murder of Patrick Finucane in the past.''

It would appear that the British are trying to delay the possibility of an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane by continuing to claim that they are investigating a murder which they already have investigated and already know who carried it out.

Meanwhile, the UDA has threatened to ``withdraw its support'' for the Good Friday Agreement if any of their members are arrested by the new Stevens inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder. John White of the UDP has said that the UDA is angry at the reopening of the 1989 murder case.
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