'Shocking' British collusion in N. Ireland murder: Cameron

12th December 2012, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday there was a "shocking" level of British state collusion in the 1989 paramilitary murder of Northern Ireland lawyer Pat Finucane.

But a year-long, 500-page review found there was no "over-arching state conspiracy" to murder Finucane, who defended high-profile members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Gunmen from the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) used sledgehammers to break down the door of Finucane's house in north Belfast before shooting the 38-year-old Catholic father-of-three 14 times -- one of the most controversial murders of the 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

The review found that two state agents were involved in the murder, along with another person who later became a state agent.

The British army and the Northern Irish police had prior notice of a series of planned attacks by pro-British paramilitaries but did not act, it found.

Finucane rose to prominence defending members of the IRA -- the paramilitary organisation responsible for many of the 3,000 deaths in the British province -- including hunger striker Bobby Sands.

The UDA, which fought for Northern Ireland to retain links to Britain, stood on the other side of the conflict from the IRA, which wanted a united Ireland free from British control.

Senior lawyer Desmond de Silva, who conducted the independent review, found the murder could and should have been stopped.

"I have concluded that two agents who were at the time in the pay of agencies of the state were involved in Patrick Finucane's murder, together with another who was to become an agent of the state after his involvement in that murder became known to the agency that later employed him," his report said.

De Silva said the collusion had taken the form of "the passage of information from members of the security forces to the UDA, the failure to act on threat intelligence, the participation of state agents in the murder and the subsequent failure to investigate and arrest key members of the West Belfast UDA."

Making a statement to parliament after receiving the review, Cameron apologised to the Finucane family on behalf of the British government, saying the report exposed "shocking levels of state collusion".

"I am deeply sorry," Cameron told lawmakers. "Collusion should never, ever happen."

De Silva's report found that government ministers were misled as to the extent of security force leaks to the UDA and other loyalist paramilitaries.

"My review of the evidence... has left me in no doubt that agents of the state were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder," the report said.

"However, despite the different strands of involvement by elements of the state, I am satisfied that they were not linked to an over-arching state conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane."

The Finucane family have requested a public inquiry into the murder.

Cameron said that while he respected their campaign, he had told them when they met last year that "I would do everything I could to try to get the fullest, truest picture of what happened as quickly as possible."

But he said he believed a "costly, lengthy public inquiry... might not, may well not get as far as this."

© 2012 AFP

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