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Finucane: only a public enquiry will yield the full truth

The report of Sir Desmond de Silva contains important new information, but it is not the whole truth about Pat Finucane’s murder in 1989. That still requires the exhaustive, independent investigation of a fully equipped public inquiry.

Whilst Cameron certainly admitted to ‘shocking’ official ‘collusion’ by the British State in a terrible killing, it is still far from clear how far up the line of establishment responsibility this collusion went. De Silva notes that the Force Research Unit (FRU) handlers of Brian Nelson, the intelligence officer of the loyalist UDA, gave him information that was later used for targeted killings.

This process itself alone indicates the State’s involvement in openly facilitating the targeting of Provisional IRA members. Yet de Silva concludes that the FRU did not have foreknowledge of the conspiracy within the UDA to murder Finucane because Nelson probably did not inform his handlers about his involvement in it. But on de Silva’s own account he didn’t have to because they had themselves already nudged him in that direction.

The duplicity around this key issue behind the assassination is confirmed by de Silva’s own finding that the army (and Nelson was also an army agent) provided the government with misleading and inaccurate advice about the handling of Nelson. De Silva notes that “the RUC made contradictory and at times wholly misleading submissions to the DPP”. Until all such evidence is identified and made transparent, there will continue to be suspicions of a cover-up of some key elements behind the killing.

His own family believe that RUC special branch officers bore a grudge against Finucane because of his success as a lawyer in defending republicans in court, and then tipped off loyalist UDA into murdering him. De Silva’s report does explicitly indicate that ‘agents of the State’ were regularly involved in behind-the-scenes plots partly because of their success in penetrating terrorist outfits and could sometimes head off such plans for example to blow up Gerry Adams.

But they did not necessarily exert such pressure in every case, and the killing of Finucane (and no doubt many others too) was allowed to go ahead on the basis of deniability of any State involvement.

To that extent the culpability of State officials or the security services remains very much an open question. Was such collusion, though always hidden and eminently deniable, nevertheless deliberate and targeted or implicit and equivocal? The evidence suggests the former. What is certainly clear is that the State’s control of handlers was sufficiently loose and unaccountable as to leave the way open for precisely the kind of indirect State complicity in murder that took the life of Patrick Finucane.

One Comment

  1. Robert says:

    To many people are affected by this I do not think any government will want anyone looking into the problems in Ireland….

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