Radio Free Eireann

Radio Free Eireann on Saturday, 14 February at 1:30-3 EST will have an exclusive US interview with Martin Ingram, a former British military intelligence officer who has been banned from BBC and ITN. He will describe how British intelligence infiltrated the top ranks of the IRA and colluded with Loyalist paramilitaries to murder innocent civilians including Patrick Finucane, a leading Belfast human rights lawyer. People can listen to the show on www.wbai.org Saturday afternoon at 1:30-3 EST.



Out of the West

Stormont could not have been closed down without help of media

I remember well the morning the PSNI raided the Stormont offices of Sinn Féin. In the office here we were watching it on TV and laughing. Not the kind of belly laugh you get when Bob McCartney reminds you that he’s a barrister, or when you see Sammy Wilson on a motorbike – more an incredulous and indignant are-we-really-seeing-this sort of whinny.

The really scary part about it is that while events have shown that every other journalist in Ireland should have been doing the same, most were in reality banging away at their keyboards and churning out the kind of fact-free, sensationalist claptrap that would have senior Special Branch members drooling over their morning toast.

As the whole case gradually and inevitably comes falling down, you have to wonder about the ability of newspapers here to comment authoritatively on anything that doesn’t involve Michael Barrymore or Jade from Big Brother.
To paraphrase Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, if that’s journalism then I’m a banana.

The busiest journalist in Ireland is my old pal Phil White, and even as the PSNI Land Rovers were making their way down the Stormont drive, acres of white were quickly being filled without the need even to pick up a phone.
If this was just makey-up stuff about C-list celebrities, then you mightn’t mind so much. But it’s quite literally a matter of life and death.

The British government called off a crunch meeting with Sinn Féin and ordered Gerry Adams to explain himself. David Trimble, with completely straight face, said the Stormont affair was “ten times bigger than Watergate”. With creaking inevitability, Stormont fell, the lights went out and we’ve only the cheap and flickering candle of the current review to show us the way forward.
It’s always nice to be proved right, and the Andersonstown News, virtually alone amongst Irish media outlets, was right in its total, immediate and contemptuous rejection of the Stormont charade.

But it’s hard to feel any sense of vindication at the exposure of the Stormont debacle. Because when you think about it, all it means is that the British state and/or its security agencies can do whatever the hell they please without the need to resort to subtlety or guile, and crucially, without the nuisance of an enquiring press to contend with.

In England, Tony Blair is in the eye of the WMD storm. Great swathes of the media there treat the Prime Minister and his government with ill-disguised contempt for no other reason than they themselves showed ill-disguised contempt for the press and the public when they made the case for war.

Now consider the Stormont affair, consider the coverage given to it by newspapers here, consider the intemperate rantings of politicians and editorial-writers alike. Do any of these media outlets that turned the Stormont raid into the catalyst for the collapse of the institutions, and possibly yet of the peace process, propose to do anything to put the wrong right?

Cue another cheerless laugh. Far from resolving to get to the bottom of things, or even to try and do their best to make sure it doesn’t happen again, they’ve forgotten about it and gone back to snapping randy vicars and sicko pervos – until the next time the British government or the PSNI asks for the lend of their front pages for a few days.


BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Finucanes to meet commissioner

Finucanes to meet commissioner

Pat Finucane was a high profile Belfast solicitor

The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane is to meet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens at the end of the month.

Sir John investigated the killing and concluded that there had been collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

Thursday is the 15th anniversary of the murder.

Mr Finucane was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries, the UDA, in front of his family at his home in Belfast in 1989.

The meeting between the Finucane family and Sir John Stevens will be in Belfast on 23 February. It will be the first time they have met.

It is understood the family has made clear to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner that the meeting "should not be taken as an offer of co-operation with the police investigation".

It is believed the meeting is to discuss family concerns that the continuing Stevens collusion investigation will be used to further delay the public inquiry that has been recommended by Judge Peter Cory.

Last month, his family was granted leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision not to publish a report into his killing.

In court, the government was accused of adding to the grief of the Finucane family by their delay in releasing Judge Peter Cory's report into the murder.

Mr Finucane's widow, Geraldine, was granted an application for the holding of a judicial review into the failure of the Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, to publish Judge Cory's reports, which he received last October.


On Thursday morning, the SDLP will hold a protest on the steps of Stormont calling for the publication of the report.

Judge Cory was appointed by the British and Irish Governments in 2001 to examine allegations of collusion surrounding some of the most controversial killings of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Last October, he delivered six reports to the London and Dublin administrations on eight killings.

These included the murder of Mr Finucane, the killing of Catholic man Robert Hamill in Portadown in 1997, the murder of Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright in the Maze Prison in 1997 and the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson in Lurgan in 1999.

The British Government says it is still considering the legal and security implications of publishing the judge's findings.

ON THIS DAY | 12 | 1989: Belfast lawyer Finucane murdered


Leading solicitor Pat Finucane has been shot dead at his home in north Belfast.

The killers burst in as he was eating his Sunday dinner with his wife and three children.

Two gunmen showered him with 14 bullets and shot his wife in the ankle.

Mrs Finucane is being treated in hospital for gunshot wounds to her legs.

The hijacked taxi the gunmen escaped in has been found in the Protestant Shankhill Road area.

Belfast lawyers have been deeply shocked by the murder of their high profile colleague.

The Northern Ireland Law Society reacted swiftly with "disbelief".

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) politicians have blamed junior Home Office minister Douglas Hogg for his remarks last month about some lawyers in northern Ireland being "unduly sympathetic" to the IRA.

'Wicked killing'

Mr Hogg issued a statement condemning the shooting hours after it happened.

"This is clearly, like so many others a tragic and wicked killing. As to its cause, that must be a matter for the RUC.

"I very much hope those people responsible will be arrested, and sentenced to extremely long terms of imprisonment," he said.

Northern Ireland Secretary Tom King said: "No civilised society can tolerate murder."

Most recently Pat Finucane had been involved in the defence cases for 23 men involved with the murder of two British soldiers during an IRA funeral last summer.

His most famous client was republican hunger striker Bobby Sands.


The Pat Finucane Centre Homepage


"The PFC is named in memory of Pat Finucane, a human rights lawyer from Belfast who was murdered in front of his wife and children on 12 February 1989 by the pro-British UDA. Pat had successfully challenged the British Government over several important human rights cases. One of those involved in his murder, Brian Nelson, was working for the Force Research Unit an undercover unit of British Military Intelligence."

**Visit the above link for many more links to articles concerning Pat Finucane.


**The 12th of February marks the 15th anniversary of the murder of Pat Finucane. I am posting articles both old and new on this heinous act, a brutal murder committed on a man devoted to upholding human rights and a murder committed in full view of this man's wife and children. Fifteen years later and there is still no justice.

and how the RUC could have stopped it

by Ed Moloney, Northern Editor, The Sunday Tribune (27.6.99 edition)

In 1990, Billy Stobie, the man who was last week charged with the murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane, told The Sunday Tribune of his involvement in the killing so that if he ever feared that his life was in danger, his story would be made public. That deal is now being honoured.

Billy Stobie is a short, bald gingerish man with a bit of a paunch. When I first met him nearly nine years ago he was lying on a couch in the living room of his small flat in the fiercely loyalist Forthriver estate at the top of Belfast’s Shankill Road. He was covered in a blanket and was shivering from a fever brought on by a bout of tonsillitis.

We spoke on that first occasion for about two and a half hours and met several times since, most recently in may last year during an unsuccessful attempt to get his extraordinary story about the killing of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane into the public domain. Deep down both of us knew that the story he would tell me would never go away.

Stobie was an ill man that day but he was also frightened. He had confided his story to another journalist who had then blurted it out to senior officers in the RUC press office, to a senior Special Branch officer and to colleagues at work.

The result was that Stobie has been arrested and given a tough time by detectives in Castlereagh interrogation centre, from which he emerged scared that his role as a police agent might be revealed to his paramilitary superiors. He feared that his life was in danger and he needed reliable insurance, someone who would make his story public if anything happened to him.

More than that, he claimed that the Special Branch had fitted him up by planting guns in his apartment in a bid, he believed, to force his silence over the Finucane killing. At the end of our first interview he was facing charges of possessing guns with intent and the prospect of a lengthy spell in jail. He would consider going public if the alternative was the Maze prison. That’s why we were talking.

That account that follows is based upon contemporaneous notes made of interviews in the autumn and winter of 1990 with Stobie and others, conversations and court hearings at the time.

Stobie joined the Ulster Defence Association when the loyalist group was at the height of its popularity in Protestant Belfast, in the early 1970s. Like many others in his situation he had no difficulty combining membership of a violent loyalist paramilitary group with a part-time commission in the Ulster Defence Regiment. Not until he was convicted and given a suspended sentence for arms offences in 1987 did the authorities insist he sever his connection with the UDR.

Stobie was a low level member of the UDA for most of his paramilitary career but by the time of the Pat Finucane killing he had risen to become the organisation’s quarter-master in the Glencairn district of north Belfast, home of some of the city’s toughest loyalist gunmen. As such, he was responsible for supplying the UDA’s local murder squads with weapons.

He enjoyed the job and delighted in thinking up new ways of hiding the UDA’s weapons caches from the prying eyes of the security forces. With a grin he once told me that his favourite trick was to break into neighbours’ apartments when they were away and hide guns in their attics. That way he could be sure he was the only one to know where they were hidden.

Stobie had another even darker secret. From late 1987 onwards he had been living a double life as an agent for the RUC Special Branch . Like so many other informers he had been blackmailed into working for the police after they learned of his involvement in a murder.

Stobie had been part of the UDA team that, on 9 November 1987, had shot dead a 19-year-old Co Fermanagh Protestant called Adam Lambert at a building site in the Highfield area of north Belfast, not far from Stobie’s home. The previous weekend the IRA slaughter at the cenotaph in Enniskillen had taken place and the UDA was looking for Catholics to kill in revenge. Someone said that Lambert with his strange country accent must be a Catholic and so he was chosen to die.

Stobie provided the gateway van used by the gunmen and the weapons which cut Lambert down. But afterwards one of the UDA team confessed everything to RUC detectives and told in detail the story of Stobie’s involvement. Stobie was arrested and put under pressure by the Special Branch to work for it. The RUC couldn’t prove the charge but, as he put it at the time, "the Branch were leaning very heavily on me."

When free, he managed to evade the attentions of the Special Branch for a time but it pestered him and eventually he agreed to give information. The factor that seemed to change his mind was the offer of money, £20 a week with bonuses for good information. His code name was ‘Sam’ and he was to contact his handlers by ringing a Belfast number, 450034. Last week, that number connected to a fax or computer line.

Stobie has recounted his version of the Pat Finucane killing, and the role played by the RUC Special Branch, at length at least three times since we first met in September 1990.

Never once has he claimed that he actually knew the name or identity of the UDA’s target, but he insists that he gave his Special Branch handlers enough information and in sufficient time for them to have prevented Pat Finucane’s death.

The fact that he has resisted the temptation to gild the lily by claiming he did know that Finucane was the target or that he had informed the Special Branch of this serves, if anything, to add credibility to the rest of his story. The major features of his story have remained consistent over the nine years of our association.

Pat Finucane was sitting down to dinner with his wife, Geraldine, and three children on Sunday evening, 12 February 1989, in their Antrim Road home. Geraldine remembers the shooting – "a bang followed by blood and horror" – as having taken place between 7:25 and 7:30pm. Two hooded gunmen were involved, one using an automatic rifle, the other carrying a 9mm Browning pistol. One bullet from the rifle was fired at Finucane but the killing was done magazine were emptied into his body.

The guns had come from one of Billy Stobie’s hidden caches of UDA weapons.

The story of Pat Finucane’s death began nearly a week before the horrific events at his home, when Stobie was summoned by his UDA commander and told to provide guns for an operation that was being planned. Stobie believes it was the Monday or Tuesday before the killing.

Notes made after the first interview with Stobie record the following account of what happened next: "He (Stobie) brought along a Heckler and Koch but the commander said that wasn’t good enough – an H & K only holds nine rounds – he wanted a Browning 9mm because it has 13 bullets. Assassins prefer more bullets because (of the) better chance of hitting (the) target.

"Commander told him: ‘This is for a special job, we’re going to hit a top Provie’. He phoned the SB (Special Branch) and told them all (of the) above – he said he didn’t tell them it was Finucane because he didn’t know, only that it was a top Provie. He said that the commander was well known to the cops and that they would have known that at most two teams under him would have been tasked with the killing – al would have been known to the cops – included well known characters like McK, S, GK, KL and WD."

Stobie’ point was that he has given the Special Branch enough information for the police to put the UDA commander and the potential assassins under surveillance. If this has happened, he believes, they could either have been arrested carrying weapons supplied by Stobie or the police would have been able to frustrate the operation and thus spare Finucane’s life.

Stobie delivered the guns to the UDA killers on the Sunday afternoon/evening of 12 February, the day of Pat Finucane’s death. The rendezvous was the Highfield Glasgow Rangers supporters club and the tell-tale signs were there that the ‘hit’ was imminent.

The notes record: ". . . he saw S, McK and K along with three others in the club 0- all are heavy drinkers but that evening they were only drinking Coke – this was a sure sign that something was on because they only drink Coke when they’re on the job."

He then saw three of them get into a van and realised they were beginning the operation. He headed to his Forthriver Road flat, stopping for a brief visit to his mother en route, and as soon as he reached home phoned his Special Branch handler to tell what he had just seen. He remembers this as happening between 7pm and 7:30pm.

Stobie subsequently complained to the Special Branch about their inaction. According to his account ". . . they dais they hadn’t time to get things organised and ‘anyway he (Finucane) was just and IRA man’."

It is a moot point as to whether Stobie’s Sunday evening phone call to his RUC handlers was made in time to have stopped the shooting of Pat Finucane – but only if that was the sole information the RUC had. The evidence from Stobie’s prior contact with the Special Branch on the Monday or Tuesday is that altogether the police did have, or should have had, enough information to have saved Finucane’s life.

According to Stobie’s account, the RUC Special Branch knew, thanks to his tip-offs, three vital elements in the days before Finucane was killed. These were: that a UDA ‘hit’ against a high-level target was planned, that the identity of the UDA commander in charge of the operation was known, and that there was full official awareness of the precise route through which the UDA gang was going to get the murder weapons.

Yet, according to Stobie, he was given no special instructions by his handlers to inform them of developments as they unfolded nor, as has happened in many IRA operations, did the Special Branch make any attempt to bug the weapons so they could track the killers’ every move.

More alarming are two more allegations from Stobie. He first was that even if his Sunday call was too late to stop the shooting from happening, it was not to late to apprehend the gunmen on their way back from the killing while fresh forensic, ballistics and weapons since evidence was still on them.

The second sensational allegation is the Special Branch, acting on Stobie’s information, mounted a covert operation several days after Finucane’s death during which it calmly watched the principal murder weapon being safely disposed of by the UDA commander in charge of the Finucane operation.

After the killings, the two murder weapons, the Heckler and Koch and the Browning, were delivered to a safe house in loyalist north Belfast. The house, ironically, was in the same street as the home of the UDA commander.

On the Tuesday after the killing, Stobie picked up the guns and on the following day he arranged to hand the Browning, the hottest of the two weapons, over to the UD commander, who then drove the gun over to another part of north Belfast, where it was stashed in a safe house.

In July that year, three young Shankill Road men, none of them involved in the Finucane killing, were charged with possessing two weapons, one of which was the Browning pistol used to end Pat Finucane’s life.

It may be that they were arrested and charged because the police knew precisely where the Browning had been secreted. According to Stobie, the information he gave Special Branch meant that the RUC was fully aware of the pistol’s journey across Belfast. His account of this episode, according to notes made nine years ago, reads: ". . . arranged for McK to pick up the Browning on Wednesday – met McK who had arrived in landrover at local shops, handed gun over and McK then did a car switch – he (Stobie) said he phoned SB(Special Branch) before McK arrived and after McK picked up gun – but cops did nothing except to set up a roadblock on Forthriver Road – made no apparent attempt to track or arrest McK. He believes they could have picked up the gun and arrested McK."

Afterwards, the UDA commander complained that throughout the journey a British Army helicopter appeared to shadow his car. In retrospect, Stobie suspected the RUC roadblock, a landrover straddled across the road, was there just to observe, not to act.

Stobie had no contact with the Special Branch for some six months after the Finucane killing. Then one day he was stopped at a roadblock and one of his Special Branch handlers appeared. The Special Branch wanted him to bring in all his hidden weapons for inspection. Stobie brought his guns, two Heckler and Kochs, two Brownings and two Uzis, to Knocknagoney RUC station, where they were kept for two weeks.

Some time after their return, in late October or early November 1989, Stobie was asked to supply two weapons for another UDA operation. But this time the gunmen returned to complain that the weapons had not worked. Stobie inspected the guns and realised that someone had filed down the firing pins. That someone, he realised, could only have been the Special Branch.

According to his account, the UDA commander-in-charge of the Finucane killing then asked him to bring the suspect guns round to his home so that the UDA could hold an internal investigation. Panic set in. The account went on, according to the notes, "He phoned the SB (Special Branch) in distress realising that if McK discovered the ineffective firing pins he was for it."

The Special Branch saved him on that occasion. It mounted an operation designed to make it appear that Stobie had been spotted by a uniformed patrol while on his way to the commander’s home and had no option but to throw the guns, hidden in a bag, over an entry wall.

He had been saved but only just. If he hadn’t known enough about weapons to discover the faulty firing pins, the chances are that he would have suffered a swift and brutal punishment at the hands of his UDA colleagues. There was little doubt in his mind that at the very least the Special Branch was trying to scare him.

When Stobie returned to his flat discovered the other part of the ruse mounted by Special Branch in full swing. Uniformed police officers were searching his apartment for guns. He was confident the would find nothing because there were no weapons in his home. He was always careful to avoid keeping his won guns; he much preferred using other people’s roof spaces.

To his shock and horror, the police found a Browning pistol and a home-made Sterling machine gun with bullets and magazines hidden in his attic. In a written statement sent by Stobie to The Sunday Tribune last week he alleges that this was an attempt to the RUC to frame him. "The guns found on the 7 November (1989) were definitely not mine and must have been planted by Special Branch", he wrote.

Stobie was arraigned on a serious charges of possessing the guns with intent but surprisingly, given that he was still on a suspended sentence from the 1987 gun conviction, he was given bail.

His trail began on 1 October 1990 but ended in bizarre circumstances on the same day. This reporter was in court that day and most of the proceedings were normal and routine, consisting mostly of evidence from police officers who had made the arms discovery in Stobie’s apartment. But suddenly the hearing was thrown into confusion. My notes read: "D/C Cormack then gave evidence of the interview with Stobie who was denying that he knew anything about guns, that house must have been broken into, etc. then started to read, ‘I then asked him: Isn’t that unlikely bearing in mind you have already been convicted. . .’ At that point (there were) objections from defence barrister, judge retires, court reconvenes and DPP agrees there has been a mistrial. Judge admonishes cop. Stobie gets bail again."

It is perfectly possible that there is an innocent explanation for the mistrial. But not according to Stobie. When he realised that the trial was going ahead and that the prosecution was going ahead and that the prosecution was not interested in a deal he decided to make a desperate play for his freedom.

Notes of a subsequent conversation with Stobie about the mistrial read: ". . . it was apparent from the fact that the full panolopy of witnesses were present that the prosecution was going ahead full steam – he went and sat in the toilet for 10 minutes to think things over – decided to tell his lawyers to tell the DPP’s (Director of Public Prosecutions) man that he would go public and say that he warned Special Branch that Finucane’s killing was going to happen. . ."

Whatever the impact of that threat, the legal proceedings against Stobie ran into immediate problems. Within minutes the policeman made that fatal error in the witness box and the judge had no option but to rule such prejudicial evidence as reason for a mistrial.

The hearing was rescheduled for 7 November 1990 but at the last minute, and without explanation, it was taken out of the list. Again on 4 December, the trail was opened but immediately adjourned. My notes record the DPP’s representative making the application for adjournment on the grounds that "further police inquires have to be made in relation to this case."

Finally, on 31 January 1991 the Crown made a dramatic move and announced that no further evidence would be offered against Stobie. A finding of not guilty, made on recommendation of the DPP, was entered by the judge.

Stobie has always maintained that the ‘not guilty’ verdict was an important part of the deal he had demanded from legal authorities. If the charges had been dropped at such a late stage in proceedings, suspicions could have been arouse amongst Stobie’s UDA colleagues and inevitable hard questions would be asked. The ‘not guilty’ verdict gave Stobie the perfect cover.

He had taken on the Special Branch and he had won.

That Billy Stobie is now in jail facing charges of murdering Pat Finucane is due in large measure to a 28 page statement made to the Stevens inquiry team by a Northern Ireland Office press officer and former Belfast journalist. It is believed the statement was made since March when John Stevens was reappointed to investigate the Finucane case.

Neil Mulholland, a regular presence alongside Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam on her jaunts through Northern Ireland, is the major prosecution witness against the former UDA quarter-master. If Stobie goes to trial, Mulholland will take the stand against him.

It was Neil Mulholland who introduced this journalist to the Stobie case back in 1990, when Mulholland was a reporter for the Belfast newspaper The Sunday Life, and it was he who very nearly compromised the UDA man’s safety, not to say his life, at the same time. By his own admission he betrayed his source’s confidence and gave RUC officers, including a senior Special Branch detective, a full account of what Stobie had said to him.

That action, severe breach of journalistic ethics, meant that the RUC had enough evidence, essentially the same evidence that Stevens has now, to charge the UDA man nearly nine years ago but chose not to. The question that supporters of the Pat Finucane case will now want answered is why the RUC could not do in 1990 what the Stevens inquiry has done in 1999.

My notes record that we met at my house on 24 September that year. Mulholland said he had a story his editor wouldn’t publish but I came to distrust this explanation. I was never able to work out the real reason why he had approached me but as time went on it became difficult to avoid the though that events had spun out of his control and he just wanted rid of Billy Stobie.

Stobie had contacted The Sunday Life and asked to speak to a reporter some time in the spring of 1990. The Sunday Life had been serialising a book about the undercover war against the IRA and Stobie said he wanted to talk to someone about a similar story. He was put through to Mulholland.

They met, strangely, outside Tennent Street RUC station on the Shankill, where Stobie had just signed his bail. Stobie told his story, and said that he wanted Mulholland to write the story only if something bad happened to him.

Mulholland admitted that he subsequently told colleagues about Stobie’s allegations. According to his account, one journalist warned him that as he was visiting the notorious loyalist killer Michael Stone regularly in prison and was writing a book about him, he might feel obliged to tell Stone all about it.

Mulholland went on to admit that he had also gone to the head of the RUC press office, Bill McGookin. He outlined the story in general and McGookin asked would he like to "meet someone" to talk about the allegation. Mulholland agreed and eventually he had the first of three meetings with a senior Special Branch officer. The officer falsely described himself as being in charge of the Finucane inquiry.

After the sessions Stobie was arrested and held at Castlereagh, where he was interviewed by the same Special Branch man then dealing with Mulholland. Within two hours, Stobie recalls, it was obvious that Mulholland had given a very detailed account of his dealings with Stobie to the RUC, including Stobie’s admissions that he had supplied the Finucane murder weapons.

The implications of all this for the policing and legal authorities appear to be very serious. It now seems that two of the vital cogs in the UDA’s murder machine on the night of Pat Finucane was killed were in the pay of agencies of the British state.

One was Brian nelson, the UDA’s intelligence chief and British double agent, who has alleged that he both provided the intelligence on Finucane for the UDA killers and kept his British Army handlers fully briefed. The other was Billy Stobie, the man who provided that guns used to kill the lawyer.

With embarrassing facts like these now out in the open it may become increasingly difficult for the British government to refuse the demands for a full inquiry onto the death of Finucane.

The other victim may be the RUC, tarnished once gain with scandal. Stobie’s lawyer, Joe Rice. May have put his finger on it when he told the court last week: "the murky web of deceit and lies in this murder" did not emanate form his client.

When I made contact with Stobie in 1990 we made a deal. I would not publish a word of his story without his permission. The risk that the UDA would shoot him if the story surfaced in an uncontrollable fashion was too great. In return he would tell me the full story so that if the day ever arrived it could be told in full. The deal has today been honoured.

© Sunday Tribune

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Thatcher’s day on stand will come – Finucane

On the eve of solicitor’s 15th anniversary, we talk to his wife Geraldine Finucane

The wife of murdered North Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has said the day that former Tory PM Maggie Thatcher takes the witness stand at a full public inquiry into his killing is drawing nearer.
And she says the international judge appointed by Tony Blair to look into the controversial murder has told her the British government must publish a true reflection of his findings.
As pressure mounts for the truth into the notorious and brutal murder of Pat Finucane, Geraldine Finucane told the North Belfast News that nothing less than an “expansive” inquiry was needed to unveil the murky and deadly involvement of the RUC Special Branch and the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) in murder.
And she said the political establishment as well as the British military must take the stand at an inquiry and be called to account for their actions.
“It has always been regarded that Margaret Thatcher was the top of the chain of command. An inquiry would establish that. All the people on that chain are accountable and it has always been our aim to get to the truth,” she said.
“She was a hands-on prime minister and liked to know everything first hand,” said Geraldine Finucane.
“She was involved in everything and where Northern Ireland was concerned – particularly with the death of her close friend Airey Neave and Lord Mountbatten – she liked to be briefed directly. She like this so she could be sure of things.”
Next Thursday marks the 15th anniversary of the February 1989 death of the 39-year-old solicitor. He was gunned down by the UFF in his home in Fortwilliam as he sat with his family eating dinner. A UDA gunman pumped 14 shots into Pat Finucane in a British army-led loyalist murder campaign which peaked in the late ‘80s and 1990s.
Just weeks prior to the murder Douglas Hogg, a junior minister in the Thatcher government, used parliamentary privilege to name solicitors whom he claimed were “sympathetic” to the IRA.
To this day Douglas Hogg still stands by his comments.
A huge number of nationalists – most of them civilians – on whom the FRU had prepared files and handed over to the death squads, were from North Belfast.
Relatives of those targeted were often the innocent victims of the loyalist gunmen when they came to call.
An army checkpoint set up on the Antrim Road on the night of the murder was withdrawn to let Pat Finucane’s killers through the security force cordon.
Geraldine Finucane said she wanted to know “exactly what policy was carried out” at every level.
That policy led to the British state murder of hundreds of its own citizens and allowed loyalist killers like South African gunrunner Brian Nelson to kill with impunity.
Geraldine Finucane said any inquiry would also expose the policy of the British government at that time.
As Judge Peter Corey adds his call to the long list of legal and human rights groups for a judicial probe into one of the most controversial murders of the conflict, the Finucane family say it all went right into the heart of Maggie Thatcher’s cabinet.
“From the minute Pat was killed there were obvious questions to be asked. The Douglas Hogg statement had been made prior to Pat’s death and we accepted this meant more than just what was being said (by the RUC to loyalists) during interrogation in Castlereagh. There was government involvement,” she said.
But she revealed that it was only gradually that the layers had been peeled off in the aftermath of her husband’s murder to reveal more details of a specific drive from the heart of the British cabinet led by Maggie Thatcher.
“Everything was slow in the beginning and it was quite a long period of time before anything happened. But that gave me time to get over Pat’s murder. It allowed us to have a routine and just to settle ourselves. Then Nelson was arrested and the (Stalker) investigation came about. The momentum only then started to gather.
“Then all the Non-Governmental Organisations and all the people involved were all up and running about collusion and the family just grew together. We as a family and the NGOs just grew as a family at an even pace. I always think after Rosemary Nelson was murdered, her family was just thrown into things at the deep end, but for us it became part of our lives.”
Many of the world's most prestigious NGOs including Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Human Rights and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights have issued reports on the circumstances around Pat Finucane’s murder.
And other respected NGOs, especially the Committee on The Administration of Justice (CAJ) in Belfast and British Irish Rights Watch in London, agreed also of the compelling need for an independent judicial inquiry.
Geraldine Finucane said she was convinced the day was coming for an inquiry, but fears that when one is eventually launched the British government will seek to have its range limited in order not to expose the heart of the truth. Another threat to the truth is the marathon and ongoing Stevens III inquiry.
“There is something massive that has been hidden and the people involved do not want it to come out. There are only two names out there in the public domain such as Gordan Kerr, the head of the FRU.
“There are lots of other people still in charge and running the FRU in the intelligence community, these people are still around. It’s in their interests for this not to come out at the minute.”
At the moment the British have been accused of stalling tactics over its decision not to publish the Corey report citing legalities and interests of national security.
That is despite the Irish government immediately publishing the Canadian judge’s findings into killings in the Republic which were blamed on Garda collusion with the IRA.
“Things have been going on for far too long and it’s still continuing and the British government still won’t allow a public inquiry,” said Geraldine Finucane.
“But I intend to push on. We are still intent on forcing the publication of the Corey report.”
But what if the British decide to edit out the key evidence in the Corey report citing national security as the excuse?
“Judge Corey has told me that if they publish and it is not representative of the report then he will tell us what was taken out. He said to me ‘I will say whether it is a reflection of what I wrote’. He has written the report avoiding all the sensitive areas.”
Geraldine Finucane said she was not surprised that Peter Corey has found grounds for a public inquiry.
“He is a very intelligent man of great expertise. He has worked in the Canadian Supreme Court. The evidence is what I knew about and other people, like the United Nations special rapporteur and the US Congress – they all called for an inquiry into the evidence as presented.
“I thought he (Corey) should find that. He is an independent man of integrity and he was not going to be got at by anybody. Although I didn’t feel the necessity for him to be appointed, he adds to the list of eminent people who have called for an inquiry.”

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon


The Spying Game

Charges dropped against three local men

In a dramatic development last Thursday, the central charges used to substantiate allegations of a so-called ‘Stormont spy-ring’ were dropped – without any explanation whatsoever – at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.
And the sitting Magistrate Des Perry heard that the power-sharing Assembly was collapsed by Special Branch in October 2002 through an “act of political subversion”.

The statement was made by local man Ciarán Kearney as he answered two charges of possessing information that could be useful to terrorists.

Mr Kearney appeared in the dock alongside Denis Donaldson and William Mackessy, both of whom were charged with similar offences.

All three accused – along with local woman Fiona Farrelly – had been arrested and detained following high-profile raids at their homes and at Sinn Féin’s offices in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, on October 4, 2002.

All charges against Ms Farrelly were dropped without explanation by the Department of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) on December 17 last year. As previously revealed by the Andersonstown News (left), last Thursday’s court hearing confirmed that just seven outstanding charges – out of the 14 originally levelled – are now being pursued by the Crown.

These charges include allegations of possessing information on persons or property relating to serving or former military and loyalist figures, as well as a retired judge.

Crucially, the central charges which had been used to substantiate allegations of a so-called ‘Stormont spy-ring’ have simply been dropped without any explanation by the DPP.

And no-one is now charged with possessing personal information about 1,400 prison officers.

The unfounded allegation that this information was discovered in the possession of the IRA has been used by the Prison Officers’ Association as a bargaining tool in a bid to secure extra so-called ‘protection money’ from the Northern Ireland Office.

Responding to the charges, Denis Donaldson and William Mackessy replied that they had nothing to say.

Ciarán Kearney, however, made a statement in which he blamed Special Branch for the collapse of the Assembly.

“I assert my innocence,” said Mr Kearney.

“I will vigorously defend myself against these allegations.
“Many of the charges put to me one-and-a-half years ago by Special Branch have now been withdrawn.

“Most of all, the allegation that I possessed documents of a secret, confidential and restricted nature originating from the Northern Ireland Office has been withdrawn without explanation.

“Consequently, the Special Branch fantasy of a Stormont ‘spy-ring’ is finally disproven.

“The clock cannot be turned back. My family has been victimised and the political process has been damaged.

“Special Branch carry the blame for that.
“Special Branch collapsed the power-sharing Executive and have endangered the Good Friday Agreement.

“They have not yet been made accountable for that act of political subversion,” said Mr Kearney.

Solicitor Andrew Russell of Madden and Finucane Solicitors – acting for Mr Donaldson and Mr Mackessy – told the court that his clients will both “be pleading not guilty”.

He said Mr Donaldson and Mr Mackessy “contend they have not been afforded due process of law”.

Mr Russell noted that the Preliminary Enquiry papers against the accused do not contain any information relating to Operation Torsion – the secret Special Branch operation which preceded the arrests in October 2002.

Mr Russell told the court that details about Operation Torsion have featured heavily in a book by the BBC’s Security Editor Brian Rowan.

There will now be separate proceedings regarding this matter, said Mr Russell.

With nationalists now referring to the case as ‘Bogusgate’ – rather than the discredited media tag ‘Stormontgate’ – the three accused were released on continuing bail and returned for trial to the Crown Court, on a date yet to be set.

An official observer from the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs was present in court throughout Thursday’s proceedings.

What is Operation Torsion?

The only detailed account of Operation Torsion is contained in a book by the BBC’s Security Editor Brian Rowan.

On December 17 last year, leading Belfast solicitor Peter Madden – acting for Denis Donaldson and William Mackessy – indicated that there is now a likelihood of Mr Rowan being called to testify at future proceedings over this account.

Although he first exposed the existence of Operation Torsion in BBC news reports on November 12, 2002, Mr Rowan printed a much more detailed version in his book, ‘An Armed Peace’, which was published last September.

According to Brian Rowan, the raids on October 4, 2002, took place only after Special Branch tapped phones, installed listening and tracking devices, engaged in widespread surveillance, relied upon the role of an agent, covertly broke into unidentified private premises, and even handled, removed and replaced evidence – supposedly central to the prosecutions.

But with half the original charges now dropped against the accused and with the allegation of a so-called ‘Stormont spy-ring’ in tatters, the information revealed by Brian Rowan about Special Branch’s activities has assumed great significance for ongoing legal proceedings. His version of Operation Torsion suggests that a plan was hatched by Special Branch after the Castlereagh burglary on St Patrick’s Day, 2002.

This incident happened exactly two weeks before Ronnie Flanagan – former Head of Special Branch – retired from his role as Chief Constable of the RUC. Flanagan immediately appointed Chief Superintendent Phil Wright (a professional protégé of former Special Branch No 2, Chief Superintendent Derek Martindale) as Senior Investigating Officer into the Castlereagh burglary.

Within days the so-called “security assessment” changed from focussing on the highly embarrassing ‘inside job’ theory, to focussing on blaming the IRA’s alleged ‘Director of Intelligence’.

Rowan refers to this figure as a “West Belfast man with a big republican reputation”. After this person was arrested amid massive media leaks, along with five others on March 30, 2002 – in what republicans called a ‘propaganda exercise’ and a ‘fishing expedition’ – the PSNI released him without charge. Rowan states that Operation Torsion was then conceived and managed by Belfast Special Branch Head, Chief Superintendent Billy Lowry, who allowed it to “breathe” in the hope that “the IRA director of intelligence … would walk into his surveillance net”.

Mr Rowan has alleged that key decisions in terms of their timing and actions during the course of Operation Torsion were political.

Many others have characterised the widespread and co-ordinated media leaks emanating from within Special Branch as equally political.

“Seven months before the public revelations of alleged IRA intelligence-gathering inside Castle Buildings, the Special Branch had been embarrassed by all that had happened inside Castlereagh.

“But Operation Torsion had allowed Lowry an opportunity to return the serve on the IRA and he did so, he claims, against the wishes of the British security services,” wrote Brian Rowan last September.

With confirmation last week that charges of “possessing documents of a secret, confidential or restricted nature originating from government offices” have now been dropped without explanation, the focus of nationalists and republicans is turning to an examination of the timing, motivation and methods associated with Operation Torsion.

The light is once again being shone in the dark corners of Special Branch, and this time, it appears, the ‘force within a force’ has only itself to blame.

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | The forgotten protesters

The forgotten protesters

It was barely reported that the IRA hunger strikes of the 1980s involved women. Now a new film is to tell their story

Marina Cantacuzino
Monday February 9, 2004
The Guardian

The 1980/81 hunger strikes were one of the most traumatic episodes in recent Anglo/Irish history. From the outset the then British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, made it clear that her government would "never concede political status to the hunger strikers". As a result, 10 men starved themselves to death.
It is, however, little known that in 1980 it was not just men who went on hunger strike. Three women at Armagh jail also starved themselves. It was their last-ditch attempt to draw the world's attention to the appalling conditions of Republican political prisoners at that time. The same women had also joined Armagh's much larger dirty protest where, having been refused permission to slop out, the women joined their male counterparts in smearing their excrement on the wall.

As a young teenager born and brought up in Belfast, film-maker Maeve Murphy remembers being puzzled by the British government's refusal to negotiate with the Republican prisoners, but had no idea that women were also involved in the protest until, a decade later, she came across a rare pamphlet written on the subject. "I was shocked not only that there were women on these protests," says Murphy, "but also at the horrific and inhumane conditions in which they were being kept. It was a chapter of history for Irish women that had been hidden away."

The women's strike was barely mentioned in the British press. The journalists at that time were all camped out in Belfast's Europa hotel where the story fixed on the male prisoners. "Male journalists tend to be more interested in men. War is, after all, about men," says Murphy. Politicians were unwilling to bring it up as "there was a feeling that the British didn't want women to die".

On Friday, Murphy's first feature film Silent Grace goes on release in the UK. At its premiere it was received with critical acclaim and tells the story of two women at Armagh jail during the women's dirty protest and hunger strike of 1980. Silent Grace attempts to shed light on the lives of women who believed they had a right to take up arms and defend themselves against the British "occupation".

Sinead Moore has not yet seen the film, but is proud to have taken part in the dirty protest of 1980. As a teenager in West Belfast in the early 1970s, she witnessed the British army enter Catholic neighbourhoods and saw how men and women were interned without trial. It fuelled a sense of communal solidarity among the young and swelled the ranks of the IRA.

Charged in 1976 with possession of two revolvers, she was sentenced to 10 years in jail. In Armagh she shared a cell with Mairead Farrell, one of the three female hunger strikers who, after her release, was shot dead along with two other members of the IRA by the British SAS in Gibraltar. Pictures of Farrell's Belfast funeral in 1988 were beamed across the world when loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone opened fire on mourners at Milltown Cemetery.

Farrell entered Armagh in April 1976, and was the first woman Republican prisoner to be sentenced under new regulations which refused Republican prisoners special category status. When Moore joined her nine months later, she too was categorised a common criminal. Refusal by the authorities to grant special category status, and the privileges that came with it, led first to a "no work" strike (refusal to do mandatory prison jobs) and then to the dirty protest of 1980.

During this time, women prisoners were also forcibly subjected to repeated strip searches as a form of intimidation and humiliation. Heightened brutality at Armagh saw warders conducting raids to seize berets and black skirts, during which women were often beaten, locked in empty cells and refused the use of toilet facilities. This is what provoked 30 women to join the men's dirty protest.

"First we engaged in a 'no work' protest but then the male screws started attacking us," recalls Moore. "We were thrown into our cells and not allowed exercise or to use the toilet or get washed. The windows and spy holes were boarded up and there was no light."

The dirty protest, which lasted for nearly a year at Armagh, saw pots overflowing with urine and excrement emptied out of the spy holes into the wing. Women did not wash or brush their teeth. The stench clung to the cells as the women's health deteriorated. Their hair was infested with lice, maggots crawled over their bodies, many suffered weight loss, and infections spread rapidly.

Moore, who still lives in West Belfast and now works for Sinn Fein, says that "despite living under such appalling conditions morale was fantastic. We were locked in our cells 23 hours a day away from other prisoners but after 9pm, when the screws left, we'd shout at each other out of the windows, do quizzes and play games; and some women gave language classes in Gaelic."

With the authorities refusing to bow to the women's demands, on December 1 1980, Farrell, Mary Doyle and Mairead Nugent went on hunger strike in united action with the men in the Long Kesh H blocks. Like the men, their demands included: the right to wear their own clothing; freedom of association with fellow prisoners and the right to normal visits and recreational facilities.

They continued until December 19, when it seemed their demands were being met, although the agreement was then retracted. Finally, the dirty protest was also called off in preparation for a second hunger strike in the H blocks on March 1 1981. Even though the IRA women in Armagh were passionately committed, there were only 32 of them at the time. Their health had deteriorated after the dirty protest and so it was felt they were in no physical condition to join the men's strike. So it went ahead with men only and with devastating consequences. Ten young men, including Bobby Sands, died.

The fact that few remember the women's involvement in the struggle is a matter of ignorance, says Marie Gavagan, who was sentenced in 1974 to 22 years at Armagh, though she was released in 1979. "We were after maximum publicity but the big story was at H block. It was media-driven and people were dying there."

Gavagan was no stranger to hunger strikes. In 1974 she starved with six other women in protest at the British government's proposals to bring back hanging. When the vote in parliament was lost, the women called off their strike after 21 days. "It was a huge decision for all of us," says Gavagan. "I was terribly worried about how my parents would feel, but I was very clear in my own mind that this was something I wanted to do because hanging is inhumane and can easily lead to a miscarriage of justice. It was always a last resort for us because it was a life or death issue - but no one was forced into it."

Today Gavagan runs a pub in County Wicklow and, like Moore, is fully behind the peace process and hopes no woman will ever again have to go through what they went through. "My three sons have grown up in a very different world. They don't know what it's like to witness violence every day. For us, growing up with troops at every corner was brutal. I was first arrested at 16 for trying to stop a 10-year-old boy being beaten up by a British soldier."

Gavagan became politicised in her teens while working in a cafe where RUC members refused to be served by a Catholic waitress. When she was charged for conspiracy to cause explosions she didn't put up a defence because she refused to recognise the British courts. In prison strong friendships were defined and formed. As Gavagan says, "it was us against the prison system. They would try and undermine us and demoralise us but it didn't work. We held on to our beliefs and if anything it strengthened us."

This is the substance of Silent Grace, which highlights the humanitarian and human-rights issues as opposed to the political circumstances that created them. As Murphy explains, "I wanted to humanise these women and show that in a situation of total deprivation, human beings endeavour to retain their dignity."

She expects some people in Britain to take a swipe. "In Ireland, people are naturally more able to see these women as women, whereas in England, the IRA were so demonised by the media that it is hard for people to see them as people caught up in a political movement they believed in. What I'm trying to say is that even if we hated what the IRA did in Oxford Street or Guildford, this still wasn't the way to treat them as prisoners."

· Silent Grace is released on Friday.



'No more warnings' message from RIRA

(Roddy McGregor, Irish News)

The Real IRA has issued a 'no more warnings' message to anyone who
enters or supplies British army bases in Northern Ireland.

Claiming responsibility for the booby-trap bomb discovered at
residential accommodation affiliated to Ballykelly's Shackleton
Barracks on Wednesday, the dissident group pledged to continue its

In a statement issued to a Derry newsroom, the group vowed to mount
further future attacks "at a time of our own choosing".

The organisation also said that "only good fortune" led to the
discovery of the bomb, contained in a lunchbox and attached to a
wheelie bin.

Police say the device was aimed to kill or maim anyone who moved the
bin including soldiers, woman, children and civilian refuse

A police spokesman last night said officers were taking the Real IRA
threat seriously.

"It concerns us that people are being denied their human rights
through intimidation, which remains the most cowardly of all
crimes," the spokesman said.

"We would urge the public to provide us with the evidence that we
require to place those responsible before the courts."

Detectives are also probing a possible link between Wednesday's
discovery and the Real IRA gang responsible for the murder of
Protestant civilian worker David Caldwell at Caw Territorial Army
Base in Derry's Waterside.

Mr Caldwell was fatally wounded after picking up a booby-trapped
lunchbox inside the Limavady Road base on August 1 2002.

A police spokesman said the device discovered on Wednesday
bore "strong similarities" to the bomb which killed Mr Caldwell.

In its admission of responsibility, the Real IRA said "armed
volunteers" had cut through two fences at the base before placing
the device.

"We take this opportunity to warn anybody entering or supplying
these bases that they do so at their own risk," it said.

"There will be no further warnings. We will strike at a time of our
own choosing."

An investigation into the security breach has already started.
Police and army security is also to be increased.

February 7, 2004

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | MoD forces Radio 4 to cancel 'Stakeknife' author interview

MoD forces Radio 4 to cancel 'Stakeknife' author interview

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday February 8, 2004
The Observer

The BBC confirmed last night that it was pulling the plug on a Today programme interview with a former British Army intelligence officer over fears of a Ministry of Defence injunction.
The decision prevents another major row breaking out between the MoD and the Radio 4 programme following the criticism of the BBC in the Hutton Report.

Martin Ingrams, a non-commissioned officer with the secretive Force Research Unit, had been scheduled to speak on the show tomorrow morning with John Humphrys about his new book Stakeknife - the inside story of one of the Army's most important agents working within the IRA.

Ingrams's publishers, O'Brien Press, claimed that the corporation informed them over the weekend they could not put the ex-soldier on air due to fears that Today would be in breach of the MoD injunction. The Ministry has issued several gagging orders preventing Ingrams talking about his role as an FRU handler of loyalist and republican agents in Northern Ireland.

The book will detail the role of 'Stakeknife' inside the IRA's internal security unit, the so-called Nutting Squad. The authors, Ingrams and Greg Harkin, allege that Stakeknife is the nom de plume of west Belfast republican Freddie Scappaticci.

The former republican internee has consistently denied the allegations, claiming they have endangered his life and that of his family. Last week he failed in Belfast High Court to obtain an injunction banning the publication of the book throughout the UK.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: 'Mr Ingrams's publishers have now informed us that he is prevented from giving this interview by the terms of an injunction. So the interview will not take place. We have to comply with the terms of the injunction.'

Ingrams has been the subject of several MoD injunctions aimed at preventing him from discussing in public the FRU's role in Northern Ireland's dirty war. The former soldier has been one of the key sources from inside the British military to claim there was collusion between the security forces and loyalist terrorists.

Ingrams, one of the Army's most infamous whistleblowers, has alleged the FRU and RUC Special Branch knew the Ulster Defence Association were about to assassinate the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 but did nothing to stop the murder.

The retired soldier has fled to the Irish Republic fearing prosecution in the UK for breaching the Official Secrets Act. In his new book, Ingrams will also reveal further details about Stakeknife's involvement in the IRA and how his British Army handlers allowed him to murder and torture other agents unmasked by the Provos' internal security squad.

Last night Ingrams and Harkin refused to discuss the book's contents due to a commercial deal with other Sunday newspapers.

Regardless of the MoD gagging order against Ingrams, O'Brien Press is understood to be putting the book into shops in England and Wales.

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