On the 12th of Februaray 1989 the respected Irish civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane was sitting down to a Sunday dinner in his north Belfast home with his wife Geraldine and their three young children. Pat was a northern Roman Catholic from a large working-class Nationalist family and Geraldine a northern Protestant from a middle-class Unionist background both of whom had met and fallen in love while attending Trinity College in Dublin. Suddenly there was a hammering at the front door of the house as two masked gunmen used a sledge-hammer to smash their way in. Both men were members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (or UFF), the largest British state-sponsored terrorist group in Ireland which operated under the legal cover of a militant Unionist group known as the UDA which the British government refused to declare illegal until 1992, two decades after it began a campaign of terrorism against the Irish people.
Pat and his wife rose from the table but as he stepped into the doorway of the kitchen a series of loud bangs rang out. The impact of two bullets striking his torso slammed the 39 year old father of three back into the room and he dropped helpless to the floor as Geraldine, also wounded, fell into an adjacent corner of the kitchen. As the screaming children, two boys and a girl, scrambled under the table to hide themselves the British terrorists rushed forward firing a total of twelve rounds into Pat’s face at almost point blank range from a Browning 9mm automatic pistol taken or supplied by the British Army, rendering his head virtually unrecognisable. The gunmen then ran from the house leaving the slain lawyer, his injured wife and traumatised children behind lying in a pool of blood and gun smoke.
Within hours of Pat Finucane’s death political and media circles in Belfast and Dublin were awash with rumours and accusations of British state involvement. The speedy declaration by the UFF that they had murdered the lawyer simply added to the rumour-mill, as the terror-gang’s role in Britain’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland was common knowledge. Soon the lengthy record of death threats against Pat by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the notorious paramilitary police force the British government later agreed to disband as part of the Peace Process, became known.
After years of high-profile scandals the pressure from human rights groups (including Amnesty International), the government of Ireland, the United States’ Congress and other International partners, forced the British state in 2001 to arrest and try a suspect for the killing, one William Stobie. This former British soldier was already known to be a UFF armourer and supplier of weapons but he was also revealed as an agent of the RUC liaising within the UFF on their behalf. His eventual trial for participating in Pat Finucane’s murder collapsed in chaos and embittered by the process he pledged to publicly name the RUC police officers behind the UFF terror campaign. Within months he was dead, shot down outside his home in December of 2011 before he could give any further details. Various British terrorist factions claimed credit for his assassination though many questioned the true identity of his killers.
In contrast a second man suspected of involvement in the killing, the infamous British terrorist Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair, managed to escape arrest for the murder despite evidence of his participation. Adair, a former skinhead and Neo-Nazi who boasted of deriving sexual pleasure from killing Irish men and women, fled to Britain in 2003 as his opposition to the Peace Process and push to control the lucrative drugs trade in the north-east of Ireland led to internecine warfare amongst the British terror gangs. There he became a close associate of a number of Far Right extremists, including leaders of the National Front, Combat 18 and the BNP. However before his exile a British government investigation by the London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens revealed that Adair had become close friends in the 1990s with the then head of British Army Intelligence in the North of Ireland. Through this relationship British Intelligence officers passed on dozens of files to the Unionist death squads, as well as weapons and financial “assistance”. For many years after fleeing Ireland, despite no employment or visible means of income, Adair and his family continued to live in relative affluence and safety in Britain.
A third suspect, Ken Barrett, was arrested and charged in 2004 for the murder of Pat, some fifteen years after the assassination. However the PR disaster for the British state deepened when it was revealed that Barrett was a former RUC police officer and another serving agent of the RUC in the UFF terror group. His previous open boasts to the media of having been directed and assisted by the paramilitary police in the murder only added to the British government’s woes. In 2006, after serving just two years of a 22 year sentence for Pat’s murder, Barrett was released from prison in the North of Ireland and immediately travelled to an unknown destination in Britain.
But now it seems that one of the darker episodes of Britain’s “Dirty War” is being brought a little further into the light after a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Britain forced the British government to initiate and publicise the findings of a new report by an internal investigative panel led by Sir Desmond de Silva, a former United Nations’ war crimes investigator.
Though, as will be seen, the report still manages to conceal more than it reveals.
The key conclusions include the following acknowledgements:
- There was a continuous supply of information from the British state to the British terrorist groups in the North of Ireland over a period of many years. In fact, concludes the report, by the mid-1980s up to 85% of all intelligence information gathered by the UFF / UDA alone was supplied to them by the RUC, British Army and the British Security Service (MI5).
- The British authorities took no action in relation to numerous intelligence reports which outlined a number of future terrorist attacks by the Unionist gangs, with the paramilitary police and Intelligence services ignoring or concealing such information.
- British agents employed or working on behalf of the RUC, British Army and MI5 played “key roles” and actively “furthered and facilitated” the murder of Pat Finucane and others.
- Following the murder there were no attempts by the RUC or British authorities for a long period of time to investigate or arrest known suspects belonging to the UFF / UDA for their participation in the assassination.
- Serving or former members of the RUC, British Army and MI5 Army persistently lied or attempted to deceive investigators. Several senior British Army officers provided highly misleading and inaccurate information.
“A review into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 has found that actions by employees of the British state “actively facilitated” the killing.
Mr Finucane was shot dead by loyalists [British terrorists] in front of his wife and children in February 1989.The report by Desmond de Silva concluded that there was no “adequate framework” for the police and security forces running agents in loyalist and republican gangs.
Mr de Silva said people whom the RUC Special Branch viewed as “thorns in the side” were not warned when threats were made against them.
It found that the British army and Special Branch had advance notice of a series of planned UDA [UFF] assassinations, but nothing was done.
Mr de Silva found that employees of the state and stage agents played “key roles” in Mr Finucane’s murder.
Mr de Silva said “agents of the state were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder”.
He wrote that while there was no “over-arching state conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane,” there was collusion in his killing in terms of the passage of information from members of the security forces to the UDA, the failure to act on threat intelligence, the participation of state agents in the murder and the subsequent failure to investigate and arrest key members of the West Belfast UDA.
The publication of a report provides “the fullest possible account of the murder of Mr Finucane and the extent of state collusion”, British Prime Minister David Cameron said.
He added: “It cannot be argued that these were rogue agents.”He said the degree of collusion exposed was “unacceptable” and said in a message to the family: “I am deeply sorry.” Last Sunday, RTÉ News published details of a 2003 inquiry which showed the RUC had recovered the murder weapon and gave it back to the British army to facilitate its destruction.”
“Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has told the Dáil that the Government will continue to call for a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
Mr Gilmore said that Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine has worked tirelessly on uncovering the truth in her husband’s murder.
The Tánaiste said British Prime Minister David Cameron had shown determination to get to the truth and that his apology to Mrs Finucane followed on from his apology in the wake of the Lord Saville Inquiry.
He gave credit to the acknowledgement by Mr Cameron of the systematic failures in the murder inquiry.
He said that an inquiry need not be open-ended but could be done in a timely fashion.
The Finucane family have said “the dirt has been swept under the carpet” and described today’s report as a sham and a whitewash.
The family said the worst thing about the Desmond de Silva report is that it is a “suppression of the truth”.
The family again called for a public inquiry, and said the case was the “most controversial”, demonstrated the most state collusion and was a case the British “state had most to hide”.
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott is to discuss the de Silva report with the Police Ombudsman and the Public Prosecution Service to see if more people should be held to account for the murder of the solicitor.
He said: “The murder should never have happened. There was a catalogue of failure which needs to be assessed to see if people should be held accountable.”
In a statement, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the de Silva report and David Cameron’s statement acknowledge the “shocking extent of state collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane and the efforts to subvert and frustrate subsequent investigations into that murder”.
He welcomed Mr Cameron’s “clear condemnation of the nature and scale of collusion, and his firm public apology to Geraldine Finucane and her family for all they have endured”.
He continued: “I note that the Prime Minister has indicated that various authorities in Britain and in Northern Ireland are expected to consider the report.”The murder of Pat Finucane was one of a number of cases which gave rise to allegations of collusion by the security forces.
It is a matter of public record that the Irish Government disagrees strongly with the decision by the British government last year not to conduct a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
Mr Kenny said the Government’s position “has consistently been in accordance with the all-party motion adopted in the Dáil in 2006 which called for a full, independent, public enquiry, as recommended by Judge Cory.”That position is unchanged”, he said.
He said the Government has also supported the Finucane family in their efforts “to ascertain the full extent of collusion behind Pat Finucane’s murder and the subsequent investigations”.
Mr Kenny said he spoke with Mr Cameron this morning before the House of Commons statement, and repeated these points to him once again.
He said he had also spoken to Mrs Finucane today, adding that he knows the family are not satisfied with today’s outcome.”
“…let’s bust the myth that Finucane was a human-rights lawyer. A human-rights lawyer is someone who disinterestedly protects people from abuse by the state or by terrorists. Pat Finucane didn’t do that. He was an IRA lawyer who worked for terrorists against the interests of justice.
The early 1970s in Northern Ireland were terrible times that pushed towards violence many who in a normal world would have led peaceful lives. Finucane was one of those. Although Northern Irish, at the expense of the British taxpayer, he studied law at Trinity College, Dublin.
After his death he was canonised by republican propagandists and turned retrospectively into a human-rights lawyer. It turns my stomach that this man was murdered, that members of the security forces colluded with it and that the murder was carried out in front of his family. But journalists and commentators should not carelessly adopt the language of propagandists. Finucane was a lawyer who was a faithful servant of a terrorist group that carried out in his lifetime many hundreds of vicious murders that he himself condoned.
The British state has admitted its wrongdoing. It’s time to close the book on Pat Finucane.”