An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

25 March 1999 Edition

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Independent inquiry

``It will be up to the Chief Constable what he tells me and then a number of us will decide what to tell everyone else.'' In April 1990 the then NIO Secretary of State Peter Brooke said it all when he responded to a question about the possible publication of the Stevens' inquiry into crown force collusion. And in this respect at least the British minister's words were true, the Stevens inquiry was never published and almost 10 years later remains shrouded in official secrecy. Calls for a fully independent public inquiry following the murder of human rights solicitor Rosemary Nelson continue to gain widespread support both within Ireland and further abroad. The response of RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan has fallen far short of demands of public opinion within nationalist Ireland and the international community of lawyers and human rights agencies. Inviting British policeman David Phillips, the chief constable for Kent and a FBI forensic expert to assist an investigation by the RUC has done nothing to ally the fears of a community who suspect another fiasco along the lines of the Stalker, Sampson and Stevens Inquiries.

Indeed there are question marks already hanging over Phillips. As Sinn Féin's Dara O'Hagan pointed out, ``The actions of Ronnie Flanagan in appointing Phillips to oversee the RUC investigation in no way makes this inquiry independent or indeed acceptable. There are question marks over the way Phillips' Kent Constabulary conducted the inquiry into the Metropolitan Police investigation into the Stephen Lawrence murder. At one point the Kent police `commended' their Metropolitan colleagues. Conclusions which the recent MacPherson report `roundly disagreed'.''

Flanagan's response has been dismissed as a PR exercise to give the appearance of independence to an inquiry without the substance. The publication of a report by the Independent Commission for Police Complaints, who were forced to pull the plug on the RUC investigation into allegations of harassment by Rosemary Nelson, strengthens the resolve for an independent inquiry, free from RUC interference, into the Lurgan solicitor's death. In the words of Rosemary Nelson's husband Paul, if the RUC has already proven itself incapable of investigating death threats against Rosemary ``how can my family expect to have confidence in the RUC's ability or indeed their willingness to probe into her murder''.

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