British, Irish authorities 'aware of death threat'
Department of Foreign Affairs officials are to go through old Maryfield Secretariat files to check if there are records about the Charles Haughey government warning the Northern Ireland Office of threats to the lives of Belfast solicitors, including Pat Finucane, it was confirmed last night.
They are to conduct the trawl after author and journalist Ed Moloney said that the British and Irish governments would have been aware that the lives of solicitors Mr Finucane, Oliver Kelly and Paddy McGrory were under threat from the UDA before the February 1989 murder of the Belfast solicitor.
Moloney said this information contradicted a finding in Sir Desmond de Silva’s review into the killing of Mr Finucane that it was only the day after his murder the government informed the British of allegations that elements of the RUC were prompting loyalists to kill solicitors.
Moloney said that in December 1988 when he was northern editor of the Sunday Tribune he had lunch with the late Tommy “Tucker” Lyttle, then the west Belfast commander of the UDA. “During the lunch he told me that RUC detectives at Castlereagh interrogation centre had recently suggested to one of his colleagues during an interrogation session that the UDA ought to consider killing three ‘IRA lawyers’, Pat Finucane, Oliver Kelly and PJ McGrory,” said Moloney.
“Tommy Lyttle’s words were that the RUC man had said that the UDA was wasting its time killing Catholics when there were real targets like these lawyers available. Since Tommy Lyttle is now dead, I feel I am free to talk openly about this incident,” added Moloney.
“Of the three lawyers, I was closest to Paddy McGrory who I regarded as a friend as much as a very valuable legal contact. I decided to tell him of the threat, knowing that he would pass it on to the other two in a suitably discreet fashion,” he said.
“Paddy later told me that he had contacted the office of the then taoiseach, Charles Haughey, to tell him of the threat and that the Irish government in turn contacted the Northern Ireland Office to insist that security be stepped up at his home. This was done apparently under some protest from the NIO,” added Moloney.
Moloney, a former northern editor of The Irish Times, said that the Irish government was therefore aware of the UDA threat to Pat Finucane as well as the other lawyers some two months before the UDA struck, and that the British government was also aware.