Rosemary Nelson was a human rights lawyer. She stood up for what she believed in and she sought to use the law – even one as corrupted as that of the north during the years of conflict – as a means of defending citizens from abuse and discrimination and as a way of achieving justice.
Rosemary was killed in a car bomb attack by a unionist death squad on March 15th 1999.
The family believe, and the nationalist people of Lurgan and Portadown believe, that she was the victim of collusion. They are right.
Collusion took many forms in the north. Often it was formal and institutionalised. Sometimes it was informal, sectarian and the response of an individual or group of individuals within one or more of the British state’s security system – the RUC; RUC Special Branch; the Ulster Defence Regiment; British Military Intelligence; the Force Reconnaissance Unit; the Security Services and others.
Sometimes it was a British Minister – for example, Tory Minister Douglas Hogg - standing up in the British Parliament and accusing lawyers of working for the IRA and creating a context in which lawyers could be murdered. The first to die Pat Finucane was murdered within weeks of Hogg’s remarks.
Sometimes it was the provision by British intelligence agencies, directly through agents, of thousands of intelligence files, including names, addresses, car registrations and movements.
Sometimes individual members of the RUC and UDR participated in sectarian attacks. Scores of UDR soldiers were convicted over the years of involvement in sectarian murders; of providing British intelligence information for unionist death squads; and of stealing weapons for use in killing Catholics.
Sometimes those involved where members of the British Forces and killed under orders.
Sometimes it involved British Forces providing the weapons to carry out murder.
Sometimes it was the turning of a blind eye to actions which led to murder.
Sometimes it was creating a belief that all Catholics were the enemy.
Sometimes it was creating a climate in which an individual or a specific group of people were targeted by unionist death squads, as happened with Sinn Féin members, including family members.
Judge Peter Cory was asked by the British and Irish governments to carry out an investigation into six cases where it was alleged collusion might have occurred and to recommend whether inquiries were necessary.
He began by asking: “How should collusion be defined? Synonyms that are frequently given for the verb to collude include: to conspire; to connive; to collaborate; to plot; and to scheme. The verb connive is defined as to deliberately ignore; to overlook; to disregard; to pass over; to take no notice of; to turn a blind eye; to wink; to excuse; to condone; to look the other way; to let something ride; see for example the Oxford Compact Thesaurus Second Edition, 2001.
4.29 Similarly the Webster dictionary defines the verb collude in this way: to connive with another: conspire, plot.
4.30 It defines the verb connive
1. to pretend ignorance or unawareness of something one ought morally, or officially or legally to oppose; to fail to take action against a known wrongdoing or misbehaviour – usually used with connive at the violation of a law.
2. (a) to be indulgent, tolerant or secretly in favour or sympathy;”
By this measure and by the report of the Inquiry, Rosemary Nelson was a victim of Collusion.
The Nelson Inquiry itself admits that it could not “exclude the possibility of a rogue member or members of the RUC or army in some way assisting the murders to target Rosemary Nelson".
In addition the report admits also that Rosemary Nelson was the victim of serious and repeated threats and that the RUC "negligently failed to intervene to prevent their officers from uttering abuse and threats to defence solicitors, including Rosemary Nelson".
The report states that RUC members "publicly abused and assaulted Rosemary Nelson... having the effect of legitimising her as a target"; it acknowledges that members of the RUC Special Branch resented Mrs Nelson and were prepared to say so; and it added that there was "some leakage of intelligence which we believe found its way outside the RUC". This, the report states, "increased the danger to Rosemary Nelson's life”.
The report accuses the RUC of failing to properly analyse or evaluate intelligence information relating to Mrs Nelson; of not warning her and of not offering her advice on personal protection.
The report also accuses the NIO of not demanding answers from the RUC concerning Mrs Nelson and of ignoring concerns expressed to it about the danger she was in from other human rights agencies.
The Inquiry report says: "The combined effect of these omissions by the RUC and NIO was that the state failed to take reasonable and proportionate steps to safeguard the life of Rosemary Nelson”.
Peter Cory in defining Collusion also said that “members of the public must have confidence in the actions of government agencies whether they be the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), the Secretary of State or the police force. There cannot be public confidence in any government agency that is guilty of collusion or connivance with regard to serious crimes. Because of the necessity for public confidence in government agencies the definition of collusion must be reasonably broad when it is applied to such agencies.”
The reality is that Rosemary Nelson, like so many hundreds of others was a victim of collusion. The RUC not only failed to act to prevent threats to her life but contributed to these and created a context in which she became a target for loyalists.
The actions of the RUC, its Special Branch and the NIO directly contributed to the murder of Rosemary Nelson. That is collusion.
The inquiry reveals a pattern of behaviour that all of these agencies connived in her death. That is collusion.
Moreover, knowing that she was at serious risk the state and its security agencies, did nothing to prevent attack or help Mrs Nelson protect herself. That is collusion.