Rosemary Nelson Inquiry Report

The Rosemary Nelson Inquiry report has been published [pdf file].  As the BBC headline notes, the inquiry found there was “‘no collusion’ in murder”.  But their home affairs correspondent, Vincent Kearney, adds

The government and police will be relieved at one level at the finding that there was no direct collusion.

However there are enough grounds for concern because the report points to a very negative view of Rosemary Nelson which it says may have contributed to making her a target in the eyes of loyalists.

The Guardian carries the PA report which notes

Before her death on 15 March 1999, the lawyer who worked on a number of controversial cases including those of suspected republican terrorists, had alleged police intimidation.

Those claims gained international attention and the report found police had made “abusive and threatening remarks” about the solicitor.

The public inquiry found that the state “failed to take reasonable and proportionate steps to safeguard the life of Rosemary Nelson”.

And from the report’s conclusions [pdf file]

Our Terms of Reference required us ‘To inquire into the death of Rosemary Nelson witha view to determining whether any wrongful act or omission by or within the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland Office, Army or other state agency facilitated her death or obstructed the investigation of it; whether any such act was intentional or negligent; whether the investigation of her death was carried out with due diligence; and to make recommendations.

We have taken as our starting point the UN’s ‘Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers’, adopted in 1990. They include:

‘Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be safeguarded by the authorities.’

The context in which all the state agencies were operating was extraordinarily difficult. We do not underestimate the problems and personal danger faced by the individuals whose work we have been examining.

There is no evidence of any act by or within any of the state agencies we have examined (the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), the Army or the Security Service) which directly facilitated Rosemary Nelson’s murder. But we cannot exclude the possibility of a rogue member or members of the RUC or the Army in some way assisting the murderers to target Rosemary Nelson. In addition:

• We are sure that some members of the RUC publicly abused and assaultedRosemary Nelson on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown in 1997, having the effect of legitimising her as a target.

• We believe that there was some leakage of intelligence which we believe found its way outside the RUC. Whether the intelligence was correct or not, the leakage increased the danger to Rosemary Nelson’s life.

• We believe that some members of the RUC made abusive and/or threatening remarks about Rosemary Nelson to her clients. This became publicly known and would have had the subsequent effect of legitimising her as a target in the eyes of Loyalist terrorists.

There were omissions by state agencies, which rendered her more at risk and more vulnerable. The two agencies of the state that had ample knowledge of Rosemary Nelson were the RUC and the NIO.

The BBC are also collated responses to the inquiry’s report.

Adds  As the Northern Ireland Secretary of State notes in his statement.

The panel has chosen not to make any recommendations, pointing to “fundamental changes to the organisations that we have been examining and to the context within which they worked”.

In particular the panel notes that:

“The Royal Ulster Constabulary has now been replaced by the PSNI, on the lines envisaged by the Patten Commission.  Many of the reforms were first proposed, and subsequently implemented, by Sir Ronnie Flanagan.”

“Complaints against the police are now investigated by the independent Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, so the PSNI is not in the position of having to investigate complaints about its own officers.”

“After the murder of Rosemary Nelson, the Key Persons Protection Scheme was amended: defence solicitors were included among those who could qualify for the scheme.“

The report concludes that “we consider that these changes effectively deal with the systemic problems that we saw in the way that the organisations operated”.

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  • Lionel Hutz

    Am I to be labelled as part of the violent strain of nationalism now?

  • JR

    My interpretation of the report was that while no “smoking gun” was found it is a pretty daming report on the attitudes of security services in Northern Iteland at the time.

    There is nothing in the report that reassures me personally that elements in the security services did not want the lawyer dead. Nothing that says she was not openly abused both verbally and physically by members of the security services or that her death could not have been prevented.

    Gross negligence can be proven. Collusion could not be 100% proven but equally was far from ruled out.

  • lamhdearg


    “I don’t know whether she would have accepted it or not. Do you? Why do you think she would not have?”.

    I do not believe she would have accepted a police precence around her 24 hours a day and one of the reasons i dont think it is i dont think that some of her clients would have wanted her to be under the protection of the police. there are other reasons i believe she would not have wanted a police precence around her, but i have a view on speaking about victims and the hurt it may cause to the one’s that loved them. As i say these are things i believe, i dont state them as facts. I hope you dont mind if i withdraw from this one now, it is going around in circles, and will reach no conclusion other than whats already in the minds of those that are commenting.

  • Skinner

    Lionel – I don’t know what your view on paramilitary activity is. Do you believe that PIRA was justified in killing people because the state was involved in killing people?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Skinner- no quite simply. I don’t think that any of the killings of PIRA were justified.

  • Skinner

    Good straight answer. My earlier post did not refer to you then.

  • Lionel Hutz


    That’s fair enough. I’m sure she would have had her reservations. But we’ll never know and we should have known. We can both agree on that.

    It’s a pity you believe this is just going round in circles but I dint mind if you withdraw ofcourse. I think it’s a constructive debate.

  • Cynic2


    “while no “smoking gun” was found”

    Isn’t it ironic that those who are so vehement here about an alleged “nudge nudge wink wink” attitude in the RUC to Nelson’s relationship with PIRA seem so determined to apply a ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ position on the RUC’s alleged involvement in her murder?

    Read the report again. No evidence at all of collusion by the police MI5 Army or the state

  • Cynic2

    “Am I to be labelled as part of the violent strain of nationalism now?”

    Join the club Lionel. For the last 48 Hours I have been labelled a bigot!

  • tacapall

    “Isn’t it ironic that those who are so vehement here about an alleged “nudge nudge wink wink” attitude in the RUC to Nelson’s relationship with PIRA”

    Does it say this in the report or is this another one of your attempts to discredit Rosemary Nelson, any factual evidence to substantiate your allegations.

    “Read the report again. No evidence at all of collusion by the police MI5 Army or the state”

    Keep reading it over and over cynic and Im sure it will turn into the Finucane report as well just like all the other enquiries that covered up the roles of members of the security forces in the murder of Irish people.

  • Cynic2


    Just read what I wrote please and look at the earlier comment it refers to before you jump in and accuse me of something i haven’t done.

    At no point did I suggest that Nelson had any relationship with PIRA as an organisation beyond (properly) defending its members. I don’t believe she had. Period.

    I was however contrasting the attitude of a number of posters here who, like JR, are applying a ‘nudge nudge’ approach to the evidence against the Police while criticising the Police for applying the same approach to Rosemary Nelson’s ‘link’ with PIRA.

    For the avoidance of doubt, both approaches were / are wrong

    As for your last sentence, I assume you now consider this inquiry report to be a cover up? If so, well done, you have added something new to this thread. Having lost the argument I am not surprised.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I read some saying, ‘it doesn’t say there was no collusion’ or ‘it does say there was no collusion but there could have been a conspiracy’. Well it seems pretty clear:
    “There is no evidence of any act by or within any of the state agencies we have examined (the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), the Army or the Security Service) which directly facilitated Rosemary Nelson’s murder.”
    That discounts both collusion and conspiracy. Both require acts to have taken place at some point (e.g. a conversation with a loyalist terrorist, the taking of a different patrol route, etc). It couldn’t be clearer. The blame attaches to the regime of protecting her, where there were flaws, but not deliberate moves to avoid protecting her – as that would count as an act and not an omission.

    Sorry it doesn’t play to your narrative guys but truth can be uncomfortable for all. Perhaps some of those who jumped to convenient (for them) conclusions on this owe the police an apology? I’m not holding my breath though.

    And while policemen should not be making false claims about solicitors in private of course, I think it’s unrealistic to expect all police people to have 100 per cent record in never criticising a lawyer. It happens all the time, they are at loggerheads most of the time, for goodness sake, that’s how the criminal justice system works. The police have a job to do in trying to bring serious criminals to justice and criminal defence lawyers have the job of trying to trip up the police wherever they can. And from my barrister friends, I know a lot of the dislike is mutual – and this is in England and Wales, without a sectarian terror campaign going on and without a history of lawyers semi-attached to terror gangs a la Tom Hagen in The Godfather (of whom Nelson it seems was not one). The mistrust is natural, but I do hope Ms Nelson didn’t die because of it. The report seems to say it wasn’t the cause.