2 March 2015 Edition
Pat Finucane, Belfast human rights lawyer – The assassination that won’t go away
‘Given the commitments made in the British-Irish Weston Park Agreement in 2001, anything less than a public inquiry is both dishonest and dishonourable’ – Amnesty International
AS DOZENS of people gathered for the event on Thursday 12 February organised to mark the killing of Belfast human rights lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989, they began to take their seats at approximately the same time 26 years ago that a loyalist death squad smashed into the Finucane home on Fortwilliam Drive and shot the solicitor dead as the family sat down to dinner.
It is an irony that if the British thought that by assassinating Finucane they would silence him, over a quarter of a century later his death still haunts them.
The event was organised by the Finucane family and Relatives for Justice under the title of ‘Collusion: From Downing Street to Fortwilliam Drive’.
While BBC Panorama investigative reporter John Ware, whose exposés of Britain’s ‘dirty war’ in Ireland shocked British public opinion, was billed as the main speaker, other speakers gripped the audience’s attention on such a poignant occasion.
Professor Mark McGovern from Edge Hill University, near Liverpool, called for a full public inquiry into collusion between the British state and unionist paramilitary groups.
“Collusion continued after the period investigated by the de Silva review into the killing of Pat Finucane,” Professor McGovern said. “This illustrates the continued need not only for a full public inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane but a full investigation into the pattern of collusion in many other conflict-related killings.”
Peter Madden, Pat Finucane’s law firm partner and the family’s lawyer, delivered a critique of the British Government’s de Silva report (2012) that pointed up so many flaws as to make an independent inquiry the only avenue the Finucane family can pursue in their quest for the facts.
Madden accused de Silva of exonerating the British Army’s Force Research Unit, which was responsible handling agents, for any part in the killing of the lawyer when de Silva concluded that the FRU “did not know the UDA was targeting Pat Finucane”.
De Silva not only ignored the claims made in his diaries by Brian Nelson (the British Army FRU agent at the heart of the UDA intelligence operation), he also ignored the conclusions arrived at by Canadian Judge Peter Cory who investigated the Finucane killing and concluded the British Army knew of the plot to kill the solicitor.
Madden pointed out that Nelson, in his own journal, gives an account of how he passed on all his information to his FRU handlers “including the targeting of Finucane”.
Most of the controversy over the de Silva report lies in how the independent report promised by the previous British Government under Prime Minister Tony Blair was replaced with a review of the documentation ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Madden pointed out that there are over a million pages of documents and criticised the English QC over his claim that the documents he examined were authentic. As such we ended up with a “fundamentally flawed process”, Madden said: “We are not permitted to read these documents in full let alone challenge the contents.”
• Peter Madden delivers a withering critique of the British Government's report into the murder and points out its many flaws
Speaking in the British parliament on 12 October 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron said “the really important thing is to open up and tell the truth”.
Anyone reading Peter Madden’s critique of the de Silva report would conclude that the truth of the assassination of Pat Finucane is further away than ever.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International Programme Director for the Six Counties, said separately that Westminster’s failure to hold an independent public inquiry into the circumstances of Pat Finucane’s death “risks fatally undermining public confidence in Britain’s commitment to deal honestly with the past in Northern Ireland”.
He added that “extensive and compelling evidence has emerged which shows that security personnel colluded with loyalist paramilitary groups” in the killing, saying:
“In the Stormont House Agreement, the UK and other parties signed up for a human rights compliant process to deal with 30 years of killings in Northern Ireland. It is vital for public confidence in that process for Britain to honour its previous commitment to an independent public inquiry.
“At this point everyone accepts that this was a brutal murder of a lawyer, carried out in partnership with the UK state.
“Yet the continued refusal to air this case in public and get at the truth of allegations risks fatally undermining public confidence in Britain’s commitment to deal with the past in Northern Ireland. Given the commitments made in the British-Irish Weston Park Agreement in 2001, anything less than a public inquiry is both dishonest and dishonourable.”