More on the slow unravelling of the secrecy and deception which obscured most aspects of Britain’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland from the late 1960s to early 2000s. The family of Pat Finucane, the Irish lawyer assassinated in 1989 by gunmen from the UDA-UFF (the largest British terrorist faction in the country), is bringing a case to the courts in Belfast demanding a review of the decision by the UK authorities not to carry out a full investigation into his killing. From the Guardian newspaper in London:
“The murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane was part of British state policy to infiltrate, manipulate and direct terror groups during the Northern Ireland Troubles, Belfast high court has heard.
Paramilitary organisations such as the Ulster Defence Association which murdered the solicitor were able to carry out “extrajudicial executions” for the state, a lawyer representing the Finucane family said on Monday.
The Finucanes began high court action on Monday to challenge a decision by the British government not to hold a full independent inquiry into the 1989 killing.
At the time, the UDA unit responsible for his death had within its ranks in West Belfast at least 29 activists who were working as agents for numerous branches of the security forces.
Barry Macdonald QC, the senior counsel for the Finucane family, said: “He was identified by state agents, including particular police officers and army officers as suitable for assassination, and he was shot dead at the behest of state agents in front of his family in a particularly brutal fashion.”
He said: “This case is one of the most notorious of the Troubles and it’s notorious for good reason. The available evidence suggests agents of the state devised and operated a policy of extra-judicial execution; the essential feature of which was that loyalist terrorist organisations were infiltrated, resourced and manipulated in order to murder individuals identified by the state and their agents as suitable for assassination.
In other words, a policy of murder by proxy, whereby the state engaged in terrorism through the agency of loyalist paramilitaries….”
Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s prime minister during much of this period and as far back as July 2011 Ciarán Martin, the former security and intelligence adviser to then British premier David Cameron, wrote in a confidential memo that:
“Even by Northern Ireland standards the facts are grisly. Moreover, in terms of allegations of British state ‘collusion’ with Loyalist paramilitaries, this is the big one… whilst we know of no evidence of direction or advance knowledge of the murder by ministers, security chiefs or officials, exhaustive previous examinations have laid bare some uncomfortable truths.
Paid state agents were directly involved in the killing, including the only man ever convicted of involvement in it.
[official investigations paint] …a picture of a system of agent-running by the RUC’s Special Branch and the Army’s Force Research Unit that was out of control… There is plenty of material in the public domain to this effect.
…the evidence available only internally could be read to suggest that within government at a high level this systematic problem with Loyalist agents was known, but nothing was done about it.
It’s also potentially the case that credible suspicions of agent involvement in Mr Finucane’s murder were made known at senior levels after it and that nothing was done; the agents remained in place. These two points essentially aren’t public.”
This was reiterated in a second letter where it was stated that:
“[the prime minister] …like virtually everyone else outside MoD [Ministry of Defence] shares the view that this was an awful case and as bad as it gets, and was far worse than any post 9/11 allegation.”
Indeed the response above was in reply to a note by one of Cameron’s closest aides, the cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, questioning the reasons for not proceeding with a full inquiry:
“Does the PM seriously think that it’s right to renege on a previous government’s clear commitment to hold a full judicial inquiry? This was a dark moment in the country’s history – far worse than anything that was alleged in Iraq/Afghanistan.
I can’t really think of any argument to defend not having a public inquiry. What am I missing?”
Many things, one suspects.