Northern Ireland Assembly: Private Members’ Business: Pat Finucane (7 November 2011)
I beg to move
That this Assembly notes the British Government’s acceptance that there was collusion by the army, the RUC and the Security Service in the murder of Pat Finucane; recognises that accepting collusion is not sufficient in itself and that the public now need to know the extent and nature of that collusion; and calls on the British Government to honour the binding commitment, made by the then British and Irish Governments in the Weston Park agreement, by establishing a judicial inquiry, as recommended by Judge Cory in 2004, with the power to compel witnesses to give evidence under oath.
I will start by saying that the book ‘Lost Lives’ concludes that 3,720 people were killed during the course of the Troubles. Pat Finucane was murdered on 12 February 1989, and some ask, and rightly ask, why his murder should be seen as any different to the murders of the other 3,719 people.
The egregious nature of Pat Finucane’s murder is not because of the wanton cruelty of shooting dead a young man in front of his three children and his wife on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Outrageous though that atrocity was, it does not make his murder significantly different to that of others. What makes his murder exceptional is that it highlights the extent to which the UDA were encouraged, assisted and directed by elements within the army, the RUC and the security services. What his murder highlights is the verifiable fact that collusion with the UDA, a loyalist paramilitary organisation, was part and parcel of British Government security policy in Northern Ireland.
In the House of Commons on Wednesday 12 October, the Secretary of State, on behalf of the British Government, stated:
“The Government accept the clear conclusions of Lord Stevens and Judge Cory that there was collusion”
in Pat Finucane’s murder. He reiterated the Prime Minister’s apology to Mrs Finucane and her family on behalf of the British Government. The official apology is to be acknowledged and welcomed, but more needs to be done in exploring and determining the extent and nature of that collusion between the British state and loyalist paramilitaries. Was it purely tactical and, therefore, limited, or was it embedded? Was it strategic? Was it part and parcel of the military security complex, and was it policy? If so, was there political approval and political direction behind such a policy?
In his overview report in 2003, Lord Stevens concluded that there was collusion and, furthermore, that the murder “could have been prevented”. The report states that the original investigation of the murder:
“should have resulted in the early arrest and detection of his killers.”
In 2004, Judge Cory, a distinguished Canadian jurist, found that there was:
““strong evidence that collusive acts were committed by the Army, the RUC, and the Security Service.”
Despite those authoritative conclusions and the long but effective campaigning of the Finucane family and, indeed, by my party and others, nationally and internationally, the current British Government have rejected a public inquiry. They have opted for an independent review to be conducted by the no doubt distinguished lawyer Sir Desmond de Silva QC to produce a full public account of any state involvement in the murder.
I am sure that Sir Desmond is an honourable man and an independent-minded jurist. However, his review will simply be Cory 2. It is no substitute for a full, independent judicial inquiry into this notorious murder. As Mark Durkan MP said, it is a “twilight-zone review” that will be unable to compel witnesses. To me, the decision by the Prime Minister to order a review is a serious betrayal of trust with the Finucane family, particularly his widow, Geraldine. It was exceptionally cynical and cruel to invite the family over only to offer them this review. They were angry, and I share that anger.
I am perplexed by the Government’s actions, as they had engaged in detailed negotiations for at least a year over a form of inquiry similar to that carried out into the death of the Iraqi Baha Mousa. Indeed, it was the British Government who suggested that that form of inquiry might have been acceptable to the Finucane family. The fact is that the British Government reneged on an informal commitment to an inquiry. One must ask: why did they do so at the last minute? Was it, perhaps, because sinister forces that had previously permitted collusion within the security services coerced the Government at the last minute into rejecting or reneging on a full public inquiry? That question remains to be answered, and I think that the Secretary of State was, rightly, embarrassed.
Leaving aside the legitimate concerns of the Finucane family, the British Government’s decision is also a breach of Weston Park, where they entered into an international agreement to deal with this issue. The methodology that was established was that a judge, such as Judge Cory, would look into these matters and if there were sufficient evidence to suggest collusion, there would be a public inquiry.