Pat Finucane: 25 years later the search for truth continues

Patrick FinucaneThe story of Pat Finucane has been told and retold many times. He was one of almost 4,000 citizens to die as a result of the war in the north. Pat was also one of hundreds, perhaps over a thousand, to die as a consequence of state sponsored collusion between British state forces and unionist death squads.

These deaths were not the result of ‘bad apples’ or ‘rogue elements’. Collusion was a matter of institutional British government policy. It was part and parcel of Britain’s political and military strategy in the six counties. A member of the UDA (Ulster Defence Association) or the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) or the LVF (Loyalist Volunteer Force) or some other loyalist grouping, may have been responsible for pulling the trigger or planting the bomb, but the weapon used, the training provided to use it, the intelligence needed to carry it out, and the encouragement given to do it, were in part or in total the responsibility of the British state.

Whether it was the 120 killings listed in the recent publication ‘Lethal Allies’ or the 224 who died after the weapons from the apartheid regime in South Africa arrived in 1987 with the connivance of British intelligence, or the many more killings that occurred, the policy of employing counter-gangs or surrogate gangs by the British state was directly responsible for countless deaths.

It was as Anne Cadwallader concluded in ‘Lethal Allies’ an ‘inescapable fact, established beyond doubt by these events’ that ‘successive British governments and their law enforcement agencies entered into a collusive counter-insurgency campaign with loyalist paramilitaries. It was thoroughly unethical – and it failed dismally. It was also illegal under international law.’

However the case of Pat Finucane has taken on international significance because of the circumstances surrounding his death in February 1989 and the courageous and unstinting campaign of Geraldine, his wife, and the Finucane family.

Next week it will be 25 years since two UDA gunmen burst into the Finucane home and shot Pat and wounded Geraldine in front of their three children. In the years afterward it emerged that the agent who provided the information for the killers, Brian Nelson, was a senior British Military Intelligence agent; the UDA leader who ordered the attack was an RUC Special Branch agent; the UDA quartermaster who provided the weapons was an RUC Special Branch agent and one of the two UDA men who carried out the shooting was an RUC Special Branch agent.

In the summer of 2001 the British and Irish governments agreed to appoint a judge of international standing to undertake a thorough investigation of allegations of collusion in the cases of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Bob Buchanan, Pat Finucane, Lord Justice and Lady Gibson, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright.

A retired Supreme Court of Canada judge, Peter Cory concluded that five inquiries should proceed. All have concluded except that of Pat Finucane. The British government refuses to hold an inquiry.

In 2011, in an effort to frustrate the demand for an inquiry and to limit the damage of any further examination of Pat’s killing, the British appointed a senior lawyer Desmond de Silva to review the papers in the case. In his report published in December 2012 de Silva concluded that members of the RUC encouraged the attack on Pat Finucane; passed information on Pat to those who killed him; and failed to prevent the murder.

One of many damning conclusions by de Silva states: ‘The real importance, in my view is that a series of positive actions by employees of the State actively furthered and facilitated his (Pat Finucane’s) murder and that, in the aftermath of the murder, there was a relentless attempt to defeat to defeat the ends of justice.’

However, in a decision that stretched credulity de Silva decided that despite clear evidence of involvement by the ‘the different strands’ of the state that there was no ‘over-arching state conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane.’

The British Prime Minister said he was ‘deeply sorry’ for what had happened. His government, through a statement by the British Secretary of State in Parliament a year earlier, had already apologised and acknowledged that collusion had taken place.

But all of this was a subterfuge – a political and PR strategy aimed at defusing the demand for an inquiry while defending the British state and specifically the British Prime Minister of the day Margaret Thatcher and her Ministers. Cameron pointed to de Silva’s claim that there was ‘no political conspiracy’ and that ‘ministers were misled’ and he ruled out a full public and independent inquiry.

Geraldine Finucane succinctly and accurately summed up the British government’s efforts to avoid an inquiry. She said: ‘At every turn, dead witnesses have been blamed and defunct agencies found wanting. Serving personnel and active state departments appear to have been excused. The dirt has been swept under the carpet without any serious attempt to lift the lid on what really happened to Pat and so many others.

This report is a sham, this report is a whitewash, this report is a confidence trick dressed up as independent scrutiny and given invisible clothes of reliability. But most of all, most hurtful and insulting of all, this report is not the truth.’

The Finucane family are determined to pursue truth and justice for Pat. They deserve our respect and our utmost support in their endeavours. The Irish government, as a co-equal partner to the British government needs to face up the Cameron government at every opportunity, publicly and privately and internationally, with its failure to honour its commitment on this matter.

Pat Finucane was devoted to human rights. As a lawyer, working under the most difficult of circumstances in a judicial and court system corrupted by extensive repressive laws, Pat worked diligently on behalf of those who were victim of British state violence. His goal was justice. His family deserve justice also.

Pat Finucane Events

This weekend a series of events organised by Relatives for Justice will be held to mark the 25th anniversary of Pat Finucane’s killing:

  • Sunday: February 9th between 7 and 7.30pm a Candlelit vigil at the junction Fortwilliam and Antrim Road.
  • Tuesday: February 11. At 1pm a rededication of Pat Finucane mural at former Andersonstown Barracks site.
  • Wednesday: February 12th. Between 1 and 1.30pm a vigil at the High Court in Belfast.
  • Wednesday: February 12th. Lecture in Queen’s University at 6pm.

This article first appeared at Léargas