Pat Finucane murder: ‘Shocking levels of state collusion’ admits David Cameron

Lawyer Pat Finucane
Lawyer Pat Finucane
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A DAMNING report into the killing of the prominent Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has uncovered “shocking levels” of state collusion in his murder, the Prime Minister has said.

• Lawyer Pat Finucane was killed by UDA loyalist terrorist group in his Belfast home in 1989

• David Cameron accepts results of an inquiry saying there was collusion in murder by cleared Tory ministers of involvement in cover up, but rules out public inquiry

View the full report here

View David Cameron’s statement

David Cameron told the Commons that the collusion detailed was unacceptable and reiterated his previous apology to Mr Finucane’s family on behalf of the government for the role of members of MI5, the army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in the murder.

But he refused to launch a public inquiry into the loyalist murder, insisting it would not shed any more light on the scandal.

Last night Mr Finucane’s family dismissed the report by leading QC Sir Desmond de Silva as “a sham, whitewash and a confidence trick” for stating that there was no evidence to support a state conspiracy in his death.

Sir Desmond’s review of the 1989 murder of the Catholic solicitor, who represented members of the IRA, found that collusion by the state went beyond a failure to prevent the crime.

Sir Desmond examined the role of two British agents in the murder and found that another man involved was later also recruited as an agent, even though he was suspected over the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) murder of Mr Finucane.

While the QC accused successive UK governments of a “wilful and abject failure” to implement an appropriate legal framework for running agents within paramilitary groups, he said no minister was aware of the plot to kill the solicitor.

Mr Finucane was murdered by the UDA loyalist terrorist group at his home in North Belfast in 1989 after being identified as a target by Brian Nelson, an agent of an army intelligence unit, the Force Research Unit (FRU). The review also found RUC officers proposed Mr Finucane be killed.

The report was highly critical of the role of members of MI5, the army and the RUC in the murder and it suggested that 85 per cent of the UDA’s intelligence came from those sources.

It also found that MI5 spread propaganda about Mr Finucane after his murder. It concluded there was “no overarching conspiracy”, but the murder may not have happened without state help.

Mr Cameron told MPs in a sombre House of Commons that the report made hard reading. He said: “As Sir Desmond makes clear, he is looking at an extremely dark and violent time in Northern Ireland’s history. I’m sure you will all join me in paying tribute to the police and security forces that served in Northern Ireland.

“But we should be in no doubt this report makes extremely difficult reading. It sets out the extent of collusion in areas such as identifying, targeting and murdering Mr Finucane; supplying a weapon and facilitating its later disappearance; and deliberately obstructing subsequent investigations.”

Mr Cameron said the report also answered questions about how high the collusion went, finding ministers had not been involved – but that they may have been wrongly advised.

He added: “Sir Desmond is satisfied there was not an overarching state conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane. But while he rejects any state conspiracy, he does find, quite frankly, shocking levels of state collusion. He is, and I quote, ‘left in significant doubt as to whether Patrick Finucane would have been murdered by the Ulster Defence Association in February 1989 had it not been for the different strands of involvement by elements of the state’.”

Explaining why there was no need for a public inquiry, Mr Cameron said: “I don’t think it would achieve what we want it to achieve.” He added that it would be “long and expensive”.

He also warned a public inquiry may delay possible prosecutions. But Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine dismissed the report as “a sham … a whitewash … a confidence trick”.

Renewing her call for a full public inquiry into her husband’s death, Mrs Finucane said that the British government had suppressed the truth and attempted to throw all blame on dead individuals and disbanded organisations while exonerating ministers, serving officers and existing security agencies. She said: “Yet another British government has engineered a suppression of the truth behind the murder of my husband, Pat Finucane.

“At every turn, it is clear that this report has done exactly what was required – to give the benefit of the doubt to the state, its Cabinet and ministers, to the army, to the intelligence services and to itself. At every turn, dead witnesses have been blamed and defunct agencies found wanting. Serving personnel and active state departments appear to have been excused.

“The dirt has been swept under the carpet without any serious attempt to lift the lid on what really happened to Pat and so many others.”

Her son, Michael Finucane, asked: “Why is there this great fear by the British establishment to go examining the case of Pat Finucane in public?

“It’s because they have stuff 
to hide. It’s because they don’t want people being questioned in public.”

Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast Paul Maskey said the report “does reinforce the need for an independent inquiry …it doesn’t state who had the responsibility, for example, for recruiting some of these people.

“The British Army itself, the British government have the responsibility to own up and tell us who it is that they are protecting, because the de Silva report is protecting somebody.”

But former Northern Ireland secretary Lord King said the incident involved a serious breach of orders by only “a few” military and security personnel.

Peter Hain, who was Northern Ireland secretary from 2005-7, said: “When you look at the detail… I think that provides the basis for a lot of follow-up.

“Whether we subsequently have an inquiry or not, there is a question of whether prosecutions should follow, there is a question also of acknowledging and learning the lessons from this, to make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again.”

Read a summary of the case’s key points and the people involved here

Read an analysis by Peter Geoghegan, the author of A Difficult Difference: Race, Religion and the new Northern Ireland, here