Ruth Dudley Edwards, quoted approvingly in the News Letter, has exposed the posthumous indictment of Pat Finucane in the Daily Telegraph that deeply offends the family and repels more than supporters of a public inquiry. It’s important to say that the Prime Minister accepted the findings of the de Silva report following Stevens, that he was not a member of the IRA. I post her article because it is a valid part of public discourse however unpalatable to many and to ask: what is it designed to achieve? Ruth herself doesn’t use weasel words to justify the murder.” 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 what is the purpose of claiming as fact a long standing story about Finucane from Sean O’Callaghan, which she cannot vouch for herself? I don’t see how it increases the pressures in favour of IRA confessions and revelations. The article is an ill-judged salvo in a new propaganda battle opened by Ken Maginnis in the Lords on the day of publication of the de Silva report which gained virtually no publicity except in the Bel Tel and here. The O’Callaghan version emerged after the publication of the first Stevens report in 2003. If it was ever going to gain traction it would have done so by now. As so often happens with ill –judged unionist counter blasts, Ruth’s article is unlikely to achieve its desired result and only serves to complicate further the search for elusive and probably unreachable truth. As an often discerning but critical friend of unionism, Ruth Dudley Edwards should realise that more than most. If any further inquiry into Pat Finucane is to proceed, let evidence that he was a conduit between remand prisoners and the IRA be produced. If it exists it will be if the files somewhere. It might supply motive for his murder. Isn’t it strange that de Silva didn’t see it?
The IRA informer, Sean O’Callaghan, first met Finucane in 1980 at a high-level IRA finance meeting just south of the border. Finucane arrived with Gerry Adams, who introduced him to O’Callaghan as a member of the Belfast Brigade staff. He next met him 1988 in Crumlin Road Jail where he was on remand, after giving himself up for earlier terrorist offences. Finucane wanted to become O’Callaghan’s official lawyer, but O’Callaghan didn’t sign the necessary forms. Finucane nonetheless visited him a few times trying to find out what the police had been told and whether O’Callaghan would be giving evidence against accomplices. That was part of his IRA work. He was also an invaluable conduit for messages between prisoners and the IRA leadership.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London