Collusion was British State policy

Fifteen years after the assassination of leading Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane, his widow Geraldine delivered her first public speech in Ireland about the ongoing scandal.

Delivering the annual PJ McGrory Memorial Lecture at St Mary’s College on Saturday afternoon, Geraldine told a capacity audience that Pat’s “name and memory are more alive now, long after his death, than they have ever been”.

Entitled ‘Long Road to the Truth’, Geraldine’s moving address charted the difficult course faced by the Finucane family to obtain the truth about Pat’s murder.

“My family and I will not stop travelling the road we have embarked upon until a fully independent, public judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane is established,” she said.

“It seems, however, that the closer we get to the establishment of that public inquiry, the further away it is.

“It is a strange situation to be in, where something you have worked for becomes more difficult to achieve the closer you get to it.

“I would compare the journey to being like climbing a mountain.

“The progress you make at the bottom of the mountain is quick because the ground is well-trodden and the climb is not so steep.

“But as you progress up the slope and you get further away from familiar ground, the going gets tougher and the terrain becomes much steeper.
“The air is thinner and easy paths are more difficult to find.

“When you close in on the summit, progress can slow to a near halt, as each step requires more and more effort.

“The journey toward the establishment of a public inquiry into Pat’s murder is the mountain we have had to climb.

“The difficulty of the terrain is the resistance from the State.

“Our summit, of course, is the truth,” said Geraldine.

Bravely rehearsing the facts about her husband’s murder, Geraldine pointed the finger at British Minister Douglas Hogg who “slurred the reputations of solicitors working”.

Security documentation was provided to the UDA through the British Army spy Brian Nelson so that loyalist assassins "could be more effective in targeting people for assassination".

Brian Nelson’s Commanding Officer, Brigadier Gordon Kerr, was in charge of a secret military unit called the Force Research Unit.

“Brigadier Kerr, under the pseudonym ‘Colonel J, gave evidence at Brian Nelson’s trial in order to help mitigate the sentence imposed upon him.

“This appearance by Kerr was approved at high levels within the British political and army establishments, just as the activities of the FRU were sanctioned and approved.

“After Kerr gave his evidence, he received a letter from General Sir John Wilsey, General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Northern Ireland: ‘I cannot let your most sensible and effective contribution on 29 January go without congratulating you most warmly. Not only did you more than honour your commitment to Nelson, but you also served the Army’s and I judge national interests, extremely well.’

“My family and I have not co-operated with Sir John Stevens, but I think part of his report is worth quoting here, if only because it is so forceful in its simplicity: ‘My enquiries have highlighted collusion, the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder. These serious acts and omissions have meant that people have been killed or seriously injured.’

“When Sir John Stevens quoted this statement aloud in Belfast on 17 April 2003, he set the case of Pat Finucane apart from all others and changed fundamentally something about the fabric of the place in which we live.

“This happened not just because of what he actually said, but also because of what his statement represented.

“In delivering even the briefest of summaries of his full report, the Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, the highest-ranking Police Officer in Britain was saying, in plain and unmistakable language, that collusion happened.

“That it was real.

“That it is real.

“Sir John Stevens – a British Police officer, their foremost police officer – confirmed that collusion with paramilitaries was institutionalised, that it was entrenched, that all of the rumours and accusations, claims and counter-claims made over the years were absolutely true. That it was part of British State policy in Ireland and may even have prolonged the conflict.

“The murder of Pat Finucane is not just about the killing of one man: it is a documented example of a British Government policy in action: state-sponsored murder,” declared Geraldine.

“When Judge Cory finished his work in October 2003, he delivered his reports to the British Government for publication, a commitment that had been made at Weston Park by both the British and Irish Governments.

“They both agreed that, ‘[t]he relevant Government will publish the final reports (but not the documents on which they are based) subject only to any necessary adjustments to ensure that the privacy and right to life of individuals is protected…’

“This did not happen.

“The reports presented to the British Government were not published for six months after they were submitted.”

Outlining the legal battle that she and her family had to mount in order to ensure publication of the Cory Report, Geraldine quoted the comments of senior NIO representative Joe Pilling who claimed that there are “complex legal and human rights considerations that must be resolved before publication to prevent the risk of a successful challenge that would stop publication.”

“When the reports were eventually published on 1 April this year, the version of the report by Judge Cory on Pat’s case was the most heavily censored of them all,” said Geraldine.

“On 1 April 2004, Paul Murphy MP, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, made a statement in the House of Commons to accompany the release of the four reports.

“In the case of my husband, no commitment to a public inquiry was given, nor has one been offered since.

“I am now engaged in another court case against the British Government to compel them to commence a public inquiry into the murder of my husband, as recommended by Judge Cory.

“I should not have to do this.

“The British Government made a commitment to implement the recommendations of Judge Cory and they are breaking that commitment by refusing to commence an inquiry.

“I have spent the last fifteen years fighting to expose the truth behind the murder of my husband.

“I believe that the truth will remain hidden until a fully independent public judicial inquiry is established to investigate all of the circumstances.

“If justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere, then the millions who have watched the attempts to deny justice to Pat Finucane and his family by the British Government will not allow themselves to be diminished without responding.

“The legacy of Pat Finucane will not be diminished for as long as one person demands the truth.

“It is this, the continuation of this work, this vocation, this ideal, that brings us together this afternoon in memory of Pat Finucane, under the memorial of Paddy McGrory,” Geraldine said.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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