Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pat Finucane – a remarkable, extraordinary and courageous Irishman

Geraldine Finucane


Clara Reilly of Relatives for Justice


On Wednesday the de Silva review into the papers linked to the killing in 1989 of Belfast human rights lawyer Pat Finucane will be published.
Today a mural to Pat Finucane was unveiled in west Belfast by Pat's wife Geraldine. Pat was killed by a unionist death squad in collusion with British state forces. I was asked to speak.
"I want to thank Geraldine, John, Michael and Katherine and the entire Finucane family for the invitation to speak today at the unveiling of this plaque to a very remarkable and courageous Irishman.

Some people measure heroes and bravery by their ability to be warriors in the physical conflict of war. But there are also those whose courage is of a different kind, of an extraordinary kind.

Pat was such a person. He believed in the law. More so than the elites in the parliament in London and elsewhere who make and bend and break the law at will.

He came from a working class background. He and I went to the same school, St. Finian’s on the Falls Road.

Pat went on to be a good, conscientious solicitor who worked long difficult hours, under trying conditions, representing his clients.

He was a lawyer working within a unionist and Orange dominated legal and judicial process that had been corrupted by years of British manipulation and an arsenal of new and ever more repressive laws.

All of these were designed to maximise the power of the state and reduce the rights of citizens. Pat worked tirelessly against this injustice. He constantly challenged the abuses of the state by seeking to use the law positively.

But this devotion to human rights, Pat’s diligence and his success, also made him a figure of hate within the RUC and the British system. They plotted against him.

On February 12th 1989 two masked gunmen forced their way into the family home in North Belfast. Pat was shot repeatedly. Geraldine was wounded in the attack.

And the RUC and the British they thought that was it. They thought they had silenced a good man, a brave man. That they could continue unimpeded in their use of agents and death squads. But they reckoned without Geraldine.

The Finucane family have been responsible for one of the most effective and protracted justice campaigns ever mounted by a family against the might of the British system and its apologists.

I believe that Pat would be enormously proud of Geraldine and his family and their tenacity in the face of efforts by the British government to silence them. He would also be immensely proud of how Geraldine reared their two fine sons and their beautiful daughter.

The reason the British have worked so hard to avoid a public inquiry is because this case goes to the heart of British state collusion with unionist death squads.

The Pat Finucane case, through its disclosure of the connections between the British government, its military and intelligence agencies, the RUC and unionist deaths squads, exposes the use of those death squads at the highest level of government; its involvement in the mass murder of citizens, and in the smuggling of weapons to facilitate this.

Collusion was not just the occasional use of spies or agents by the British operating within the IRA or loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Collusion was a matter of institutional practise by successive British governments.

It involved the establishing of unionist paramilitary groups; the systematic infiltration by the British of all unionist death squads at the highest levels; controlling and directing these groups; arming; training; and providing them with information on people to be killed.

It also involved protecting them and when occasionally they were caught arranging for deals to minimise any court decisions.

The architect of this policy explained it best.

Brigadier (later General) Frank Kitson took command of the 39th Brigade, which covered the Belfast area in 1970. Kitson was the British Army’s foremost expert on counter-insurgency.

He argued that all governmental structures, the judiciary, the law, the police and the media had to become part of a co-ordinated strategy and that all government policies, whether social, economic, cultural, infrastructural, had to be moulded to suit the aim of defeating the enemy and suppressing citizens and our rights.

Kitson wrote: ‘The fundamental concept is the working of the triumvirate, civil, military and police, as a joint and integrated organisation from the highest to the lowest level of policy making, planning and administration.’

But more significantly in light of the killing of Pat Finucane and countless others, Kitson explained the use of death squads and the corruption of justice: ‘Everything done by a government and its agents in combating insurgency must be legitimate.

But this does not mean that the government must work within exactly the same set of laws during an emergency as existed beforehand.

The law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal, in which case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public.’

This doesn’t mean that all loyalists are dupes. They have their own agenda, much of it anti-Catholic and based upon sectarian hatred or fears. But the war aims of both were similar and so it made for an easy alliance.

British agencies helped establish the UDA and re-organise the UVF.

New secret organisations like the Military Reaction or Reconnaissance Force (MRF) were established to foment sectarian violence and in 1982 the Force Research Unit was set up within the British Army Intelligence Corps.

One of the first people to be recruited by FRU was loyalist Brian Nelson. He was a former British soldier who had joined the UDA in 1972 and was convicted in 1974 of the kidnapping and torture of a partially sighted Catholic man Gerald Higgins. Nelson served just over 3 years in prison for this.

He was recruited by FRU in 1983 and was told to rejoin the UDA. Two years later he was appointed the UDA’s Intelligence Officer in its West Belfast Brigade. Essentially his job was to gather intelligence information on potential republican targets.

Later he became the UDA Senior Intelligence Officer for the entire organisation. His associates in FRU helped him to update his intelligence files.

In 1985 he was involved in the negotiation of arms from the South African apartheid regime. In return for money, and missile parts obtained from the huge military production plant at Shorts in East Belfast, the apartheid regime facilitated a massive arms shipment.

FRU was kept informed of all of this. The British Secret Service was across the detail. And in late 1987/early 88 an arms shipment arrived here consisting of 200 AK47 automatic rifles, 90 Browning pistols, 500 fragmentation grenades, ammunition and 12 RPG rocket launchers. The shipment was divided up between the UDA, UVF and Ulster Resistance.

The impact of this weapons shipment can be found in the statistics of sectarian attacks and killings which occurred in subsequent years.

In the three years prior to receiving this weapons shipment the unionist death squads had killed 34 people. In the three years after the shipment they killed 224 and wounded countless scores more.

The dramatic rise in the number of Sinn Féin activists and family members being killed can be traced directly to this fact and to the information FRU and the Special Branch were passing on to their agents within the loyalist death squads.

In the following years three Sinn Féin Councillors, 11 party activists, and 7 family members, including brothers, sons, spouse and partners were killed. Many others were seriously wounded.

Republican homes and Sinn Fein offices became the frequent targets of attack by loyalist death squads.

The role of Brian Nelson and in particular of Brigadier Gordon Kerr (Colonel J ) who ran the Force Research Unit, are particularly important in all of this.

Pat’s death came less than four weeks after Conservative government Minister Douglas Hogg MP, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in a Committee Stage debate on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill on 17 January 1989 said:

"I have to state as a fact, but with great regret, that there are in Northern Ireland a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA.”

And after Pat’s death as more and more information emerged we learned that Tommy Lyttle, the leader of the UDA group that carried out the killing was a Special Branch agent;

Ken Barrett, the man who was convicted of killing Pat Finucane was a Special Branch agent; William Stobie, the UDA man who supplied the gun used was a Special Branch agent; and Brian Nelson who provided the information was working for FRU.

The family demanded a full public inquiry. The British resisted.

At Weston Park in 2001, 12 years after Pat was killed, the British government, in an effort to avoid an inquiry into the killing of Pat agreed with the Irish government to invite Judge Peter Cory to determine the need for inquires in a number of cases. The aim was to long finger the Finucane families demand.

In April 2003 John Stevens in his third report confirmed that he had evidence that there was collusion in the killing of Pat Finucane.

There was also a cover-up, consistent and deeply subversive and the destruction of evidence by the British system.

In 2004 Judge Cory concluded that there should be an inquiry into Pat’s killing.

The British moved to pass a new law – the Inquiries Act - giving Ministers the power to block evidence.

Judge Cory accused the British of moving the goalposts. He said: ‘It’s like playing hockey and instead of six to each team you have one team with eight and one with four. See how your doing for ten minutes and then in the middle of everything you move the goalposts and you change the rules of the game.’

Lord Saville who chaired the Bloody Sunday inquiry criticised the British government’s decision. He warned that giving a government Minister the power to block evidence would make ‘a very serious inroad into the independence of any inquiry and is likely to damage or destroy public confidence in the inquiry and its findings…

As a judge, I must tell you that I would not be prepared to be appointed as a member of an inquiry that was subject to a provision of this kind.’

Last year the family met David Cameron after months of protracted discussions in the expectation that he was about to provide for the type of inquiry they were demanding.

Instead he told them that he was ordering a review of the papers in the case by Desmond de Silva QC. This was a repudiation of the agreement between the British and Irish governments. The Irish government should have prevented this.

The family were understandably furious by David Cameron’s action.

·       This was not the public inquiry promised at Weston Park.

·       It was and is not independent and transparent.

·       It is the British Tory government investigating the British Tory government.

·       The family have been kept in the dark since de Silva commenced his review.

The day after David Cameron rejected the families demand the British Secretary of State, speaking in the British Parliament, accepted the Stevens report of 8 years earlier that Pat Finucane was killed as a result of collusion.

But what they remain desperate to avoid is for the depth of that collusion to become public or that it was cleared at the highest political levels, including Downing Street.

The role of the Irish government in all of this has not been helpful, strategic or as consistent as it could be.

The British government are in breach of an agreement with the Irish government. The Taoiseach has repeatedly said that he wants the British to fulfil their Weston Park Commitment but he has done little about it although I have raised this with him regularly in the Dáil.

However, apart from an occasional conversation with David Cameron on the margins of meetings there has been no consistent, planned strategy by the Irish government to mobilise international and diplomatic support for this.

This is not good enough. Whatever the outcome of the de Silva review all of us have a duty to fully support the Finucane family’s response to it. The family demand for a full, transparent and accountable public inquiry is a reasonable demand.

We wish Geraldine and her children well in these difficult times. You know you can rely on Pat’s siblings and his close colleagues, Peter and others, who have walked with you through all the challenges on your journey in search of justice for Pat.

You should also know that all those citizens in this country and in Britain and the USA and around the world who have supported them over the last 23 years of campaigning will continue to do so.

That’s the least we can do.


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