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27 June 2002 Edition

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Finucane "will rock the foundations of the British state"

The British government is resisting a full public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane because it could "rock the foundations of the British state", the son of the murdered Belfast solicitor told a press conference this week. 30-year-old Michael Finucane was accompanied by his sister Katherine (25) and brother John (22).

"We, the three children of Pat Finucane, are here to make absolutely clear that a public inquiry is the only way all the questions of the murder of Pat Finucane can be properly addressed and answers sought," said Michael Finucane.

"The Panorama program that has given rise to intense interest and debate about the Finucane case centred as much on the role of British Military Intelligence and the RUC as it did on the effects that various murders had on the families of those people killed, particularly the immediate family, the wives and children of the murder victim," said the Dublin-based solicitor.

"I think it is a tribute to every family who appeared in that programme, not just our own, that they are still willing and able to stand up and argue for inquiries into their cases and to seek answers," he said. The responsibility for answering those questions lies "at the door of No 10 Downing Street and Prime Minister Tony Blair".

Blair has insisted, he said, that the appropriate way to deal with the questions arising out of the Finucane case and the broader question of collusion in general was to pursue the option of having John Stevens reinvestigate the case.

"That is not adequate, nor is it adequate to encroach upon the international credibility and integrity of jurors such as Judge Cory. This is an issue for the British government. They are ultimately responsible," said Michael Finucane.

The Finucane family told Tony Blair two years ago that although they accepted that his administration did not cause all the events that led to the deaths of Pat Finucane and many others, he could provide the solution. "Mr Blair is now part of the problem because he is delaying the search for the truth," said Michael Finucane.

Asked about the pending publication of the current Stevens' inquiry, Michael Finucane pointed out that the two previous reports by John Stevens had not been published in full.

"The suspicions of the Stevens team carrying out the investigation in the late '80s and early '90s were all forthrightly aired in the Panorama programme and those suspicions have not gone away.

"But I don't believe the Stevens investigation that is currently drawing to a conclusion can properly investigate everything because it is only a police investigation."

Responding to a question regarding the British Prime Minister's fears, Michael Finucane said Tony Blair should be very worried about where the evidence leads:

"I think he is worried and I think he realises that this could rock the foundations of the British state, that has so long prided itself upon being the epitome of law and order. Here, right in its own back yard, it is being charged with the most serious of crimes a government could be charged with."

"There are obvious questions that need answers which have never been given to my family or anyone else. Why was Pat Finucane targeted? Why was he never warned that he was a target?

"And are the military intelligence documents we presented to the British and Irish governments three years ago genuine? If they are genuine, then the British government had a policy of assassinating its own citizens."

Responding to a question about loyalist gunman Ken Barrett and part of the loyalist gang who killed Pat Finucane, Michael Finucane said there were many, many people who have questions to answer about his father's killing.

Michael pointed out that all the information about Barrett aired by the television documentary had been "in the hands of the authorities for over a decade".

Barrett was a paid state agent and the parallels of his case with the collapsed prosecution of Special Branch agent William Stobie "are all too evident". He went on to say that a public inquiry rather than a criminal prosecution provided the proper arena to establish the truth.

"This is not about events on the ground but about how the chain of command and the political chain of command operated and an inquiry must follow this right up to the source wherever that source may be."

Asked if he believed state collusion went right to Downing Street, Michael Finucane said that in the absence of anything else to convince him otherwise, "yes, I do". He went on to say that he thought the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher should be called before an independent inquiry.

Questioned about Thatcher's role, Michael Finucane said as British Prime Minister of the day she "is implicated in all of this and obviously has a strong connection to all this. What that connection is should be established".

Asked if Tony Blair knows the answers to the questions sought, Michael Finucane said he thought the British Prime Minister was "unwilling to look".

Michael Finucane dismissed the notion that collusion could be attributed to 'renegades'. He said there was a distinct possibility that collusion was state sanctioned and that his father's murder was a result of a conspiracy that involved those "at the very top of the pyramid of power."

When Tony Blair established a public inquiry into Bloody Sunday he cited as his reason the need for the state to be assured that its actions were right especially where its own forces were involved, he said.

"If there is one thing no one is going to dispute with me, it is that the state's own forces were clearly involved in the Pat Finucane killing and other killings," said Michael Finucane. "So why is there no public inquiry?

"I think what Tony Blair needs to realise is that this is not going away. It is a case that has proceeded at a very forthright pace for 13 years and will continue to do so and he needs to realise a very simple truth.

"If he deals with this case in a proper manner then he can give everyone a chance to move on from it. If he wants the future he preaches so often to us, then he needs to have the strength of his convictions."


Collusion at the heart of British occupation

BY LAURA FRIEL


    
Collusion is not the act of renegades or a few bad apples. It has been an integral element in the armoury of the British military, financed and endorsed by successive British governments and was under political as much as military control
It was an emotionally charged occasion. Beneath the crystal chandeliers in the oak panelled Grand Ball Room in one of Belfast's most prestigious hotel venues, some of the North's most marginalised and silenced people gathered to meet the press and present a detailed account of the British state's collusion in the deaths of their relatives.

Calling for a fully independent international public inquiry, the families of 200 people killed by loyalists dismissed the notion that Crown force collusion in the deaths of so many could be explained away as the actions of 'renegade' individuals.

"The history of collusion demonstrates the institutionalised nature of collusion as a policy objective on the part of successive British governments," said Relatives for Justice spokesperson Mark Thompson. "Crown force collusion was not only allowed to take place, it was also supported at the highest levels of government.

"Relatives for Justice, represented here today by many of the families affected by collusion, demands that the gravity of this situation should not be dealt with by internal police investigations, nor by investigative television documentaries drip feeding information," said Thompson.

The collusion controversy could only be addressed, he said, "by a full independent international judicial inquiry into the arming, controlling and directing of loyalist death squads by the British government".

Calling for the current and previous two reports by John Stevens to be made public, Thompson said he was confident that the findings would add weight to the relatives' case.

Dismissing the notion that collusion arose from 'rogue' or 'renegade' agents or units, RFJ argues that as a counter insurgency option, collusion had been employed in the interests of British occupation "from the very beginning".

British Army Brigadier Frank Kitson was posted to the North of Ireland in 1970. Prior to his posting in Ireland, Kitson had been a military intelligence officer in Kenya in the early 1950s, a company commander in Malaya in 1957 and second in command of a battalion in Cyprus in the early 1960s.

In each of these conflicts, Kitson had been deeply involved in counter insurgency actions and in his manual, "Army Land Operations", he openly advocated British Army collusion with "friendly guerrilla forces" against a "common enemy" as an effective strategy "to defeat subversion and insurgency".

"Kitson's role here led to the setting up of the Military Reaction Force, mostly made up of serving members of the British Army, who infiltrated loyalist paramilitaries and recruited agents," says the RFJ. "The MRF was directly responsible for numerous actions which included abduction and torture, shootings and bombings."

The RFJ document identifies the MRF as a forerunner of the Force Research Unit established by Brigadier Gordon Kerr in the late 1980s. Through agents like Brian Nelson, the FRU rearmed, reorganised and redirected loyalist death squads.

In 1987, Brian Nelson travelled to South Africa and met representatives of the arms manufacturer Armscore, in order to procure weapons for the loyalists. "Nelson had the full authority of the FRU for this trip and its purpose," says RFJ.

The weapons known to have been procured and imported by Nelson during his tenure as a British agent included 200 AK47 automatic rifles, 90 Browning 9mm pistols, 500 fragmentation grenades, 30,000 rounds of ammunition and 12 RPG7 rocket launchers. These weapons have led directly to the deaths of at least 102 people.

In addition, it is estimated that almost 3,000 Crown force 'security' files were handed to loyalists between 1986 and 2001. "The distribution of these weapons and files has allowed loyalists a capacity to kill in an unprecedented and unparalleled way," said Thompson, "and those weapons and files are still being used today."

Drawing upon Kerr's own statements, made during the trail of FRU agent Brian Nelson, RFJ identifies the chain of command. As the unit's commanding officer, Kerr gave evidence under the pseudonym of Colonel 'J'.

According to the document, the FRU is answerable to the Task Coordinating Group (TCG), which is comprised of the Heads of Special Branch, the RUC/PSNI Chief Constable and various British intelligence services. The TCG has responsibility for deploying the SAS and other covert operatives.

In turn, the TCG is answerable to the Joint Security Committee (JSC) in London. The JSC is comprised of senior political figures and military attaches and is directly accountable to the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

The JIC is comprised of members of the British Cabinet and senior military figures and is directly answerable to the British Prime Minister. During the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher chaired the JIC.

"Collusion has existed as long as the conflict itself," said Mark Thompson. "It is not the act of renegades or a few bad apples. It has been an integral element in the armoury of the British military, financed and endorsed by successive British governments and was under political as much as military control."

By highlighting the pattern of loyalist-attributed killings and its relationship to the shifts and turns of political initiatives by successive British governments, RFJ argues that through collusion, British Crown forces could turn loyalist violence on and off and did so to meet the imperatives of their political masters.

For example, in the mid to late 1970s, to enable the British government's Ulsterisation strategy to succeed, loyalist violence had to be de-escalated. In 1976, killing attributed to loyalists numbered 114. The following year the figure dropped to 19 and remained low for several years.

And again, negotiations between the London and Dublin governments leading to the Anglo Irish Agreement in the mid 1980s were augmented by a de-escalation of loyalist violence.

In 1994, an Amnesty International report into Crown force collusion criticised the British government. A European Court ruling in 2001 also criticised the mechanisms used by the British state to 'investigate' the cases of people killed as a result of alleged collusion.

Amnesty said: "Amnesty International has not been convinced that the government has taken adequate steps to halt collusion, to investigate thoroughly and make known the full truth about political killings of suspected government opponents to bring to justice the perpetrators and dismantle 'pro state' organisations dedicated to political violence or to otherwise deter such killings."

Citing Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which obliges a state to protect the right to life "whenever and wherever it is or may be at risk within its own jurisdiction", the European Court was critical of "not only the failure of the British government to adhere to this", but it added that "the British government has actively plotted assassinations and directed loyalists to take the lives of its own citizens".

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