Modicum of professionalism would have saved life
ANALYSIS:The report tells us a lot – but not how far up the line the collusion went, writes GERRY MORIARTY
The basic point that emerges from the 500 pages of the Patrick Finucane review and the attendant 330 pages of related documents and reports – some of them redacted – is that had the RUC, the British army and MI5 acted with even a modicum of professionalism, the Belfast solicitor might be alive today.
British prime minister David Cameron appeared adamant that, contrary to the wishes of the Finucane family and the Government, there will be no public inquiry into the 1989 murder of Finucane. But he acknowledged that the level of official collusion disclosed in the report was “shocking” and again apologised to the family.
As Cameron was speaking in the House of Commons, loyalists were preparing for another series of protests last night against limiting the occasions on which the British union flag flies over Belfast City Hall. In recent days several unionist politicians have majored on all the positive things that the flag stands for.
The Provisional IRA, other republican paramilitaries, the UVF and UDA have been rightly condemned for their cruel, sectarian and cynical actions over the period of the Troubles. But it is clear from this report that elements of the official British security agencies who serve under that flag acted in no less heartless a fashion.
The lawyer author of the report, Sir Desmond de Silva, wrote: “Overall, I am left in significant doubt as to whether Patrick Finucane would have been murdered by the UDA in February 1989 had it not been for the different strands of involvement of elements of the state.” He found no evidence of an “over-arching” British state conspiracy but plenty of evidence of how RUC special branch colluded with loyalist paramilitaries such as Ken Barrett, a member of the UDA gang that killed Finucane. He wrote of a “relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice” in the aftermath of Finucane’s murder.
In simple terms, what he demonstrated was that nothing was done to prevent Finucane being murdered and when he was killed, the only real action taken was to prevent good cops apprehending his killers.
He also cast further light on how former junior British home office minister Douglas Hogg was set up as a patsy by RUC special branch in “unwittingly” helping to smear Finucane, and how many elements of RUC special branch could not or would not make the distinction between lawyer and client. The report tells us a lot but it hardly recounts the full truth – as the Finucane family complains – and it doesn’t tell us how far up the line the collusion went.
It’s the past, of course, and Northern Ireland is in a much better place now – although on the streets the old sectarian tensions are being unwisely agitated. Unionists complained yesterday of too much focus on inquiries relating to the nationalist side of the house. This report clearly exposes that, on occasions, the agencies of the British state and its flag acted as shamefully and as mercilessly as the paramilitaries.