Pat Finucane’s name is now synonymous with the dirty war during what David Cameron earlier told the House of Commons was an “extremely dark and violent time in Northern Ireland’s history”.
He was a Belfast civil rights lawyer, shot 14 times in front of his wife and children as he sat down to Sunday dinner on February 12th, 1989 by a loyalist death squad.
His brutal murder was shocking and repellent; but the fact the British state planned his murder, supplied the weapons used and covered it up is even more shocking.
This is the unambiguous finding of Desmond De Silva QC, who was asked by the prime minister to provide a “full public account” of the murky circumstances surrounding Finucane’s murder. While finding no “overarching” conspiracy, he finds that were five specific areas of collusion:
1. Leaks of information from security forces to loyalist paramilitaries – which reached such a degree that they amounted to 85 per cent of the Ulster Defence Association’s intelligence;
2. A failure of the authorities to act on intelligence Finucane was a target – although army intelligence and the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s Special Branch knew Finucane was being targeted, the RUC “took no action whatsoever”;
3. Agents of the British state were involved in Finucane’s murder, including members of the army’s shadowy Force Research Unit (FRU);
4. A failure to investigate and arrest the West Belfast UDA over a period of time;
5. ”Senior army officers deliberately lied to criminal investigators” and obstructed their enquiries, and ministers were misled in a “relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice”.
That collusion between elements of the British security apparatus in Northern Ireland with a loyalist death squad in carrying out the murder has been long established.
Both Sir John Stevens and Canadian judge Sir Peter Cory concluded there had been collusion in earlier investigations. Indeed, the prime minister onceded as much when he met with Pat Finucane’s widow, Geraldine, in Downing Street last year as he announced the De Silva review.
She walked out of that meeting, calling Cameron “a dishonourable man” for reneging on the assurances the family had received that he was set to announce a judicial inquiry.
Desmond De Silva’s report is thorough and disturbing; that it could have ever happened in our country, as the prime minister rightly pointed out, is shocking. So much so, that matters cannot rest here.
When the lines blur between how states should behave and how they should not, then the moral high ground is forfeited. Just like the victims of Bloody Sunday, atrocities committed by state forces are carried out in our name. Not to root out those responsible is, by omission, to validate their actions which, in this case, emulate those of the paramilitaries they were ostensibly charged with stopping.
For this reason we are all entitled to know what was done in our name.
Only a judicial inquiry will finally tell us that.
• Finucane family’s campaign for justice set to challenge Cameron in court – 7th December, 2011
• Cameron’s refusal to open full inquiry into Finucane murder stokes row with Dublin – 18th November, 2011
• Irish government prepares formal complaint over Finucane murder review – 18th October, 2011