Governments 'knew' of Finucane risk
The British and Irish governments would have been aware that the lives of three leading solicitors including that of Pat Finucane were under threat from the UDA before the February 1989 murder of the Belfast solicitor, according to author and journalist Ed Moloney.
Mr 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 the murder of the solicitor that the Government informed the British government of allegations that elements of the RUC were inciting loyalists to kill solicitors.
Sir Desmond, in his report wrote, “Allegations that RUC officers had incited loyalists in this manner were first expressed privately by the ambassador of the government of Ireland to the cabinet secretary on February 13th, 1989, the day after Patrick Finucane's murder.”
Mr Moloney said, however, 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 P J McGrory,” said Mr 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 Mr Moloney.
He said as a journalist covering Northern Ireland he came across such information from time to time and while careful to protect sources he “never hesitated in such circumstances to pass on a warning in such a way that the source is not revealed and the threatened person is able to take the proper precautions”.
“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 Mr Moloney.
“What precautions, if any, were taken in regard to Oliver Kelly and Pat Finucane I do not know,” he said.
Mr Moloney, a former Northern editor of The Irish Times, concluded: “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 because of Mr Haughey’s intervention the British government was also aware of the threat long before Pat Finucane was killed.
Sir Desmond de Silva is therefore mistaken, or was misinformed. The British government was made aware by the Irish government of the UDA’s threat to lawyers long before February 12th, 1989.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today it was open to the Northern Irish authorities to take further action in relation to the murder.
Speaking this lunchtime ahead of a meeting of European leaders in Brussels, Mr Kenny said the Irish Government would co-operate with any such enquiry if required. He said the publication of the de Silva report, had brought new issues to light "which actually make it more important that this be followed through to a conclusion."
"I do believe a full public enquiry is still the way to go," he said. He pointed out that if a smiliar case was reported in Ireland, the case would be sent directly to the gardai and the Dpp. "That's not what happens under the Brisith system, but it is open to the authorities in Northern Ireland, where this murder occurred, to follow on now if they so wish from the de Silva report."