22 February 2007 Edition
Collusion - the elephant in the room
Action, not discussion, is what is needed now. That was the blunt message Geraldine Finucane presented to a “fringe” event organised to coincide with a major international policing conference in Belfast this week.
Accompanied by representatives of other victims of collusion, Geraldine pointed out that the Finucane family had been granted an inquiry into the murder of her husband, Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane. “But we are currently in the invidious position of being unable to take up that opportunity because of newly-imposed restrictions by the British Government,” said Geraldine.
“The Inquiries Act of 2005 changed the law to allow the British Government to exercise ultimate power over any tribunal. The Act has removed all independence from any tribunal. To accept such restrictions would be a disservice to the memory of Pat and all others killed as a result of this hateful policy of collusion.
“The international policing conference taking place next door does not have collusion as part of its discussion agenda. Why is that? The current Chief Constable is very dismissive of the issue. He keeps telling us to move forward and forget the past. Everyone wants to move forward, but if we don’t want to be stuck in the past, we have to deal with it. To move on, we need to know what went on,” said Geraldine.
Also attending the conference were Raymond McCord Snr and journalist Susan McKay. McCord highlighted the failure of unionist politicians to acknowledge collusion, while McKay said that the “few bad apples” notion of collusion had been totally discredited.
Alan Brecknell, whose father was murdered in a loyalist gun and bomb attack in South Armagh in 1975, said that questions need to be answered: “How much was known, when was it known and at what level,” said Alan.
Brecknell outlined a number of official documents unearthed through the Freedom of Information Act which demonstrate that collusion issues were known by the British Government as early as the 1970s.
One document drawn up for the British Cabinet outlined subversive actions of the UDR. The UDR was the largest British Army regiment and was in the frontline in the North of Ireland.
“An MOD memo on the role of the UDR pointed out the regiment was the largest source of weaponry and the only source of modern weaponry arming unionist paramilitaries. The document also admitted up to 15% of the UDR were also active members of those paramilitaries,” said Alan.
During a 1975 meeting, the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson informed the opposition leader Margaret Thatcher that elements within the RUC were passing intelligence information to the UVF.
“Hugh Orde has repeatedly said he wants to police the future, but policing the future requires an honest reckoning with the past,” said Alan.
Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, Belfast’s Waterfront Hall was surrounded by lobbyists who were there to raise the issue of collusion with delegates attending an international policing conference.
The event was organised by the PSNI and the Six County policing board and saw representatives of the police forces in Britain, the 26 Counties and the US, as well as PSNI chief Hugh Orde.
And in an unprecedented move, senior Sinn Féin figures Gerry Kelly, the party’s spokesperson on policing, and Raymond McCartney also attended.
The conference provided an occasion for groups of Belfast citizens to demonstrate their outrage at the cover-up of collusion between British agencies and loyalist paramilitaries.
Robert McClenaghan, a representative from campaigning group An Fhírinne, took a leading role in the picket and spoke with conference attendee Denis Bradley (former vice-chair of the Six County policing board) about the issue.
Rather than face up to its responsibilities in the policy of state murder and collusion, the British Government has been involved in an active campaign of denial. Until the truth is revealed, collusion cannot be consigned to the history books.
Tuesday’s picket acts as a stern reminder to the British Government that these issues have not and will not be forgotten until there is full disclosure.
Remove Article 19 - Kelly
Speaking after he attended both the policing conference in the Waterfront and the collusion conference in the Hilton, Gerry Kelly said:
“This morning I attended the conference entitled ‘Policing the Future’ in the Waterfront Hall. Given the title of this conference, I was disturbed to find that no space on the agenda had been given over to discussing collusion. It was for this reason that I intervened in the proceedings to speak about the issue. I also invited people present in the hall to take the opportunity to attend the conference in the nearby Hilton Hotel, organised by the families of those killed through collusion. I am happy that a substantial number of those present did make their way to the other event.
“Geraldine Finucane, when she addressed the large crowd present, made the point that to be able to move on we need to know what went on. That is advice which the British Government need to heed. If the British Government are serious about dealing with the past, then the first thing that needs to happen is for them to remove Article 19 of the Inquiries Act and allow the inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane to proceed in the terms demanded by Judge Cory. This is a simple test which will demonstrate clearly how serious those within the British system actually are about delivering for victims.”