Finucane controversy won’t die down

 Continuing demands for a “full independent international inquiry” into the murder of  Pat Finucane are unlikely to be stilled  to allow police and prosecuting authorities to consider what to. From their reactions yesterday we can be certain that unionist politicians will characterise the prominence given to the case as “one sided justice” and will heighten their demands for more aggressive action over IRA murders. Political division over the Finucane case  has surfaced as we knew it would,  further complicating any faint hope on agreement over dealing with the past more comprehensively   Try this from  Ian Paisley jnr after eight nights of trouble on Belfast streets.

My constituents are sick and tired of a one-sided narrative of revisionism that says that the Provisional IRA were actually quite good and the troops and police were quite bad. That, in the current circumstances in Northern Ireland, is bloody stupid—and I mean literally bloody. It will send a signal to my constituents that people have to push, kick, throw and petrol bomb to get what they want, and not abide by the law. We are trying to tell them all to abide by the law.

The rival demands are unlikely to  satisfied quickly if ever. Prosecutions may be a different matter. Decisions either way will be controversial. What would be the impact on the de facto amnesty? Ironically one of the decision takers may be Barra McGrory now the new Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions and son of the late Paddy, like Pat Finucane a solicitor who had a big IRA portfolio but who I’m entirely certain was respected across the divide and yet was also subject to loyalist threats, as David McKittrick reports. Barra is  commended for his explanations of contemporary prosecutorial procedures in hard cases to the Assembly.

It’s too early to expect a comprehensive critique of the de Silva report but here are some of the edgier reactions to emerge so far.

  •  Who was Pat Finucane? “thorn in the flesh” of the security forces and like other solicitors Oliver Kelly and Paddy McGrory deliberately left vulnerable to loyalist murder?. Or “IRA godfather”, the allegation given public voice by Ken Maginnis, refuted by de Silva and furiously denied as a smear by his family?
  • Did they want him dead or were they protecting sources?  MI5’s role was crucial, says BBC investigative reporter John Ware and he reports that Cameron told the family  that “there are people all around here who won’t let ( an inquiry) happen”.
  • Tom King Secretary of State at the time denied any role in collusion and insisted existing  precise agent handing rules were breached
  • Nuala O’Loan former police ombudsman claims the new regulatory roles were still not strong enough in 2003


Pat Finucane’s role

“Thorn in the flesh” David McKittrick reports

He successfully defended former hungerstriker Pat McGeown, another leading republican figure, unexpectedly securing his release after he was charged with the IRA killings of two army corporals in 1988.

Mr Finucane had been regarded with suspicion from much earlier since his brother John, who died in a car accident in 1972, was claimed by the IRA as one of its members.

After the solicitor’s death loyalist sources claimed that several members of their organisation, the Ulster Defence Association, which shot Mr Finucane, had been encouraged to target him by police. The loyalists said police had described him and two other solicitors who often represented republicans, Paddy McGrory and Oliver Kelly, as “the brains behind the IRA.”

Both the other lawyers have since died of natural causes. Mr McGrory’s son Barra was last year appointed Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland.

 Finucane Statement House of Lords 

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass (col 1075)

My Lords, as somebody who has been fortunate to survive 10 murder attempts by the Provisional IRA, I find this isolated apology quite ridiculous. The reality is that the Finucane family were an IRA family. I illustrate this by saying that when I made that allegation publicly and was being sued for libel, the family retracted and paid my legal expenses. Let us not therefore fool ourselves about the “Godfather” Finucane who was killed. If there was connivance, let me say that all of us who served through the heart of the Troubles in Northern Ireland served in such a way that it was impossible to have a secret. Why were there 10 attempts on my life? Why was the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, shot? It was because there was conspiracy.

I point out that less than 1% of all terrorist suspects involved in proactive security force operations were killed by the security forces, and that 99% of cases ended in arrest. There were no incidents of unlawful killing in a Special Branch-led operation in Northern Ireland, and the security-force response was totally human-rights compliant. Let us not forget all those years of terrorism and become compelled by a single incident which may in fact-and I will not deny it-have involved conspiracy. If one sought justification-and I do not justify it-it was not without a godfather. Godfathers were responsible for so many murders in Northern Ireland, it should not be forgotten.

Lord (Tom) King, Secretary of State at the time. Was there co-ordination at the top? (col 1076)

I take exception to one element of the Statement repeated by my noble friend: namely, the phrase “state involvement”, which is now current. I understand why it has arisen. It gives the impression that somehow the Government planned the murder of Patrick Finucane. It is an appalling concept that I as Secretary of State somehow authorised it. Of course, that is totally untrue. In my time I committed myself to trying to save every life that I possibly could on both sides of the community, however people were involved.

What is also clear is that there were incidents in which people were in clear breach of their orders or instructions. The Statement claims that there was no co-ordinated legal basis for the employment of agents. I draw the attention of the House to something in Sir Desmond de Silva’s report which states that agents were being handled at that time under the strict instruction of the Commander Land Forces Northern Ireland, Tony Jeapes, that it was unlawful for any person to authorise any illegal act, and that if there was any possibility of an agent becoming involved in criminality, the assistant chief of staff was to be informed through the commanding officer of the FRU so that preventive measures could be taken. Mr Nelson’s handler was acting in total breach of that instruction at the time. I should say that some of the agents, informers or touts-they go under different names in Northern Ireland-were incredibly brave people who saved an enormous number of lives. The difficulty of handling them should not be underestimated.

 Baroness (Nuala) O’Loan former police ombudsman.  Agents’ regulation still not strong enough after RIPA (col 1077-78)

But this was not an isolated situation. Investigation has shown that this pattern of activity was not unique to the UDA in west Belfast. The Prime Minister has stated, and the noble Lord has repeated, that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act has established a framework for the authorisation and conduct of agents. However, as Police Ombudsman I found as recently as 2003 that the Surveillance Commissioner was not being properly informed about UVF agents who were engaged in murders, attempted murders and other very serious crimes. Given the very small office of the Surveillance Commissioner, the pattern and nature of the investigations and inspections which are carried out by the Surveillance Commissioner, and particularly the resources available to the Surveillance Commissioner, is the Minister satisfied that there is adequate funding to enable the identification of any police failures in the handling and management of state agents?


 John Ware BBC investigative reporter

Role of MI5 – why not a public inquiry?

In refusing a public inquiry, Mr Cameron cited costs as one reason.

But when he met the Finucanes at Downing Street in October 2011, he is also reported to have said that there “are people in buildings all around here (meaning 10 Downing Street) who won’t let it happen”.

Which rather begs the question: who runs the country?

MI5 and SB – wanted Finucane dead or protecting sources?

My understanding is that at about the time of Mr Finucane’s murder, the UDA was penetrated at a senior level by three MI5 agents.

According to Justice Cory, MI5 was warned three times that Mr Finucane was being targeted for assassination, the latest being seven weeks before he was shot.

However, MI5 appear not to have informed Special Branch, though it is by no means clear that had they done so, the Branch would have done anything about this since they too had heard from one of their own informants that a “hit on a top IRA man ” was imminent and did nothing to stop it. Nor did the Branch help the CID catch the killers.

A key question for the de Silva review is this: was no action taken to warn Mr Finucane because elements in the police, military intelligence and MI5 wanted him dead; or, did agent security take precedence over the need to warn him that his life was in danger?

Limitations of de Silva review

The review was promised full access to all files held by MI5 and the Stevens Inquiry – all 13.5 tons of them. All government departments including MI5 were also ordered to “comply fully with the review”.

In practice, I gather it has not been that simple.

The review is said to have limited resources, and access to the Stevens files, now under control of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, has not been straightforward. Also MI5 has occasionally required Sir Desmond to justify why he wanted to publish certain documents.

Sir Desmond has been able to question witnesses but he has not had the power to conduct oral hearings and all this has taken place behind closed doors.


 Was agreement about to be reached with the last Labour government on a public inquiry? News to me

Ed Miliband Finucane Statement House of Commons 12/12 (col 300)

The last Government could not reach consensus with the Finucane family on arrangements for such an inquiry, but towards the end of our time in office the Finucane family indicated that they would support a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, and a way forward had begun to be discussed





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  • Mr Walker. I was reading the BT editorial on this vexing casethis morning just too check what angle they would come to it from and in an almost full length piece, the editor condemned what he carefully worded security forces at least three times over the collusion, but in the end reverted to type in leaving the now black name RUC completely out of the text despite their invaluable help at the very top. What or who are the BT afraid of?

  • BarneyT

    Looking a possible protestations from the unionist camp, its important that we distinguish between the IRA and the State.

    You can’t compare an enquiry against the state with one against the IRA or IRA deeds, as you then give them parity in many ways.

    From a British point of view, the IRA are terrorists and criminals. They commit crimes and therefore they are subject to criminal law., if there is consistency in that view

    Accepting this, crimes committed by the state need to be treated differently and although the state and IRA actions have led to the same outcome, it is very different when it is administered by the state.

    The state needs to take the moral high ground as they define the rules that makes society tick. When they stoop to an active level and commit murders by proxy, they pitch themselves at the same level as those they label terrorists they become terrorists.

    The other point I would make is that if the state or members of the state believed Finucane was in the IRA they should have arrested him and subjected him to the rule of law….using evidence of course.

  • BarneyT Almost inevitable Pavlovian response from unionist politicians who like to have their cake and eat it, expect British State forces to engage in terrorism themselves but not suffer any loss of moral authority because of it. You could have written Ken Maginnis’s response out before he opened his mouth.

  • Mick Fealty

    Michael Whhite’s been reading in and has his own comments to make:

    …is it really so surprising, even shocking, that some MI5 men, army special units or officers in the now-disbanded Royal Ulster Constabulary would stoop to such tactics when confronted with what the other side was doing every day?

    I checked my memory against the stats a few minutes ago. Here’s one tally from the Guardian’s powerful database. Here’s another. Here’s a third. Whichever one you prefer, the top killing machine by a long stretch were the IRA and other republican paramilitaries, fighting an illegal urban war in circumstances that did not remotely justify it, then or now when some of its key leaders hold elected public office in what remains part of the United Kingdom.

    I’m glad that Gerry Adams (the Brits did intervene to prevent him being murdered, several others too) and Martin McGuinness gave up arson and joined the fire brigade. The flickering embers of that conflict still flare – as they have done in recent weeks (strikingly under-reported on the mainland, I’d say; isn’t that the mistake we made in the pre-Troubles 60s?) over the wretched symbolism of flying the union flag over Belfast city hall.

  • Mick Fealty

    This is a telling statement from the PM:

    …there “are people in buildings all around here (meaning 10 Downing Street) who won’t let it happen”.

    But not necessarily for the reasons people think. This is Candid Cam, trapped by his civil servants.

  • BarneyT

    The ROI hss called for an independent enquiry which is good…but hows the savita case coming along? Perhaps if the ROI subject themselves to more scrutiny they can call on other states to do the same

  • Haifish

    Counter terrorism as practised by the French Army and tacitly endorsed by high ranking government members in Algeria, picking off FLN leaders too extreme and manouevering those the French could do a deal with into leadership positions, neutralising the troublesome coloniste terrorists of the OAS once the French decided it wasn’t “Algerie Francaise”;
    Seems somebody in the.British military intelligence world was closely following the doctrine of Marcel Bigeard.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    BarneyT the Savita case is coming along nicely (prob benefits from reacting immediately instead of waiting a few decades!) last I heard the journalist who broke the story is now confused as to what she was told by the husband and will no longer stand by the key bit about an abortion being requested.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Off course the Finucane murder is just a tiny piece in the jigsaw of British misrule of nationalists, there is also the denial of civil rights, internment, torture, Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy, all the other questionable murders and attempted murders, and coverups, the refusal to allow nationalists any political power for decades. In fact when you start putting all the pieces together it’s probably better to just pose one key question, Does the British government now have any legitimacy in Ireland? At what point does a government lose it’s right to rule? these are points used by the British government in the support for overthrowing other regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, should they not be measured by the same standards as Assad, Saddam and Gaddaffi.

    Not sure the continuous mumbled half apologies and the odd big one in the Commons really cut the mustard anymore, esp as noone ever seems to go to jail

  • iluvni

    “The reality is that the Finucane family were an IRA family. I illustrate this by saying that when I made that allegation publicly and was being sued for libel, the family retracted and paid my legal expenses.”

    why did the family retract?

  • Granni Trixie

    At least Lord McGuinness is consistent in that he
    reached a new low in the way he referred to gay people and same sex marriage ( ie ‘the road to legalising paedophilia’) as now he he is disrepecting a family bereaved in the troubles as “an IRA family” .

    Has he lost the plot? I don’t remember him being so extreme in the past.

  • Submariner

    “Has he lost the plot? I don’t remember him being so extreme in the past.”

    Maginness has always been a hate filled aul bigot .He was just a bit more articulate than others. Also do not forget he was an Officer in the UDR/Loyalist militia an organisation who even the British Govt reckoned were made up of 20% Loyalist terrorists.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Did Maginness not receive several grand a year for representing the RUC Federation and if so should he not declare that fact in a debate like this

    They also described Girdwood Barracks Mess as the UDA social club, the officer class prevented them cleaning the place out as it would damage moral. Go figure

  • Submariner

    “From their reactions yesterday we can be certain that unionist politicians will characterise the prominence given to the case as “one sided justice” and will heighten their demands for more aggressive action over IRA murders. Political division over the Finucane case has surfaced as we knew it would, further complicating any faint hope on agreement over dealing with the past more comprehensively”

    Brian Unionist politicians are reverting to type. They do not wish to hear “Their” Prime Minister state that “Their Police force and Army were involved in collusion and Murder along side Loyalist terrorists.Their hysterical reactions to the Finucane case and that of Savilles finding are based on nothing more than pure sectarian hatred which infects every facet of the Unionist community after all they are only Taigs so who cares . It is as brutal and blunt as that.

  • galloglaigh

    Jesus what a time to get a red card!

    One thing about this whole saga, is that the British government is ensuring that history will not favour its relationship with N.Ireland. Just as the history of their relationship with the people of the island since the Act of Union 1800 has not favoured them. What ever people like Ken Maginnis or Tom King say (two men who were up to their eyes in terrorism), it’s people like Nuala O’Loan, and indeed Gearldine Finucane, who will fill in the words of this island’s future history books.

    For that reason alone we should rejoice.

    I’ve been reading in on Slugger the last two weeks (nearly setting up a new profile) as unionism again welcomed the forces of loyalist terrorism onto the streets of Ulster. I couldn’t help but wonder what role ‘RUC’ special branch and MI5 had in it all? And seeing three republican terrorists ‘lifted’ with a device used by terrorists in Afghanistan, I again couldn’t help but wonder what role ‘RUC’ special branch and MI5 had in it all?

    The only people who violence aids, is the terrorists in nice uniforms and suits, and who the British government will gladly lift the carpet for, as they brush their terrorist crimes under to hide them.

    It’s time for the British government to rid this island of these people, who as history has shown us, have complete and utter disregard for the rule of law and order; complete and utter disregard for human life.

    P.S. I recall getting a red card for comparing the activities of Pat Finucane and Jim Allister. Both represented terrorists, yet only one is a ‘Godfather’. It’s a shame that people are allowed spew loyalist lies, while others are carded for challenging them. Surely that’s what a debate is for – to challenge peoples’ opinions?

    Pat Finucane was suppressed. Don’t suppress those defending his honour. Suppress those who continue the lies and propaganda…

  • galloglaigh

    By the way, I got my most recent red card for telling someone not to forget their tinfoil hat… Mick tells me that other comments were considered. Similar comments have appeared in other threads and not a dickie bird.

    Not a dickie bird indeed…

    Some people on here get away with murder…

  • Submariner

    Mick why the Yellow card?

  • Submariner. Unionists claim to have a distaste for hierarchy of victims but in reality, htey actually call for one, just that they don’t like the order victims appear in the hierarchy,

  • simtrib

    Part of the problem of this constant focus on collusion is that a generation of young people who didn’t live through the troubles may buy into Sinn Fein’s ridiculous notion that loyalist terrorists were a creation of, and were directed by, the British state. While it may make sense to focus on murders where there was state collusion for other reasons that should not be allowed to rewrite history.

    To dispel this notion simply look at who loyalist terrorists actually killed ,

    Civilian 868
    British Security 14
    Republican Paramilitary 41
    Loyalist Paramilitary 93
    Irish Security 0

    Over the 30ish years of the troubles they killed 17 members of the Provisional IRA, 27 civilian political activists, and 868 uninvolved civilians.

    Does that look like a puppet of the British state being used against the IRA? Even a quasi-puppet?

    Similar comments apply to the fact that loyalists were much more likely to be caught and go to jail than republicans were.

    Yes some loyalists were directed by the British state, just as some republicans were directed by the British state. Yes employees of the British state supplied intelligence to loyalists, but it is also true that employees of the British state supplied intelligence to the IRA. Indeed if we believe Martin Ingram’s testimony to the Smithwick Tribunal there were even badge carrying members of the RUC who were supplying intelligence to the IRA. I’m not saying that leaking intelligence or dodgy use of agents was not a bigger problem with loyalists than with republicans, but if we cherry pick individual cases all of this was happening every which way. The bigger picture however does not support the over all Sinn Fein narrative.

  • Submariner


    Yes Loyalists specialised in murdering civilians as the figures point out. But if you look at the 41 republican terrorists killed by Loyalists half of those were murdered between 1987 and 1994. This coincided with the rearming of the Loyalists by Brit intelligence and Ulster resistance. Brit intelligence took the decision to direct Loyalists away from random sectarian murder and to actively target republican paramilitaries and Sinn Fein members by providing them will lintel. Again the figures will bear this out . I am amazed that there are still navel gazers out there who refuse to believe collusion existed. I am not suggesting that you fall into that category.

  • tacapall

    Sim I think we are at the stage now that we can combine all murders carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces together as evidence has shown they acted one and the same and they shared their loyalty one and the same not forgetting they shared their weapons one and the same.

    I wont deny there was British agents within Republicanism who acted and were directed by and in the interests of the British state, once again being involved in murder of innocents, those cain figures just doesn’t do the truth justice.

  • blacklion

    Firstly I am very disappointed with the unionist politicans who are using this as stick to beat the IRA with
    This is nothing about the IRA
    Yes the IRA did many many terrible crimes many of which are still no sloved
    But this is not about the IRA
    This is about the fact that the British state which is supposed to represent all of the people of the UK engaged in illegal activity and engaged in murder and a massive cover-up at the very highesdt level and went against the justice system and with held justice from happening
    A state is supposed to have higher standards and has a legal bases in law unlike a terrorist organisation which has none
    Why is it so hard for some unionst politicans to accept this fact?
    If I was a unionst then I would be appallled at what certain sections of the British state had done
    So are these unionst politicans defending the British state and saying that it is ok when memebers of the British security forces politicans and others collude in these appaling activity when it is against the enemy?
    Is that it??
    I wonder what would these very same unionst politicans would be saying if these people were going after a unionst and giving guns and intelligance to the IRA and not a loyalist parliamilitary group
    I would like if a person who is on the unionst side who disagrees with what your Prime Minister has said and give me an explaination why
    thank you

  • simtrib

    those cain figures just doesn’t do the truth justice.

    How can truth not do the truth justice? Unless you are claiming the figures are wrong and that lots of those civilians were actually IRA men who were never claimed as such?

  • Desmond Trellace

    A German colleague of mine, who – as a regular visitor – is knowledgeable on both Ireland and Britain, made an interesting observation today. He was puzzled about the lack of a publc echo in England, the “core country of the UK”, about the British state having been exposed as systematically operating outside the rule of law as regards matters of seriious crime, coverng up of crime and obstruction of justce.

    Even if the killing of Irish catholics has traditionally not been a big issue for the Englsh public, are they not concerned that all this could come home to roost some day and negatively affect themselves?

    Or has it already? After all, the leap of imagination from the Pat Finucane case to some other notable cases (the Princess Diana case, for example?) has become all the more leapable since yesterday.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    ‘Does that look like a puppet of the British state being used against the IRA?’

    No. It looks like a puppet of the British state being used to terrorise the whole nationalist community. That is what collusion was all about. That is what the UK government was involved in, and used its proxies for – a campaign of terrorism against the nationalist community.

    The figures you cite support that interpretation of events.

  • BluesJazz

    The United Kingdom has services such as MI5, MI6 and Army Intelligence operating in an extra judicial capacity as do many other nations.
    The Litvinenko case showed this today.
    It’s no big deal if they operate in such a fashion *provided it’s for the greater good of society* as it was with Finucane.
    Most people don’t care that he was whacked. It was for the greater good.
    Thankfully we have people like Gordon Kerr and Frank Kitson manning our fences.

    The CIA, Mossad etc know the lines are blurry. No big stink from the USA about this story because they know how it works.

    Oh, and it will ‘die down’ simply because only a few muppets actually care.

  • Neil

    One obvious note from the high civilian death count of the Loyalist paramilitaries is the fact that Pat was one of the civilians in those stats. Yes I agree a huge number of people were civilians but that doesn’t mean that the state (or security forces, etc.) didn’t see those deaths as beneficial at best or collateral at worst. For example, how many people got snuffed out so British agents could become accepted into the organisations they were ‘informing’ on. A truth commission is needed, one to focus on all victims equally.

  • wee buns

    A police culture not only of impunity – but complete impunity – can’t be disappeared as a legacy even with time.

  • BluesJazz

    “is the fact that Pat was one of the civilians in those stats.”

    Yep he was a civilian like Billy Wright, Lenny Murphy and Bobby Sands.

    He was, however, a ‘player’. He knew the big boys rules.

  • BluesJazz

    Incidentally, the FRU have disappeared. Unless they all followed Kerr to China?

    Not a chance any of the good guys will appear before a court over the whacking of some small town solicitor.

  • Zig70

    Ken Maginnis always wound me up. It did cheer me up though to hear his fellow peers refer to him as the Irish peer. We are all paddys across the water. This big document eased nobodys pain and all a public inquiry would do is put the fat cat barristers noses in the trough. We’ll all still believe what we do now.

  • BluesJazz

    “Finucane controversy won’t die down”

    Yes it will, completley.

    2 years from now no-one will even remember a forgotten player. They won’t remember Rosemary McCreesh either. MI5 play a long game