Finucane Report — Truth at Last or Just Another Cover-Up?

Pat Finucane was 39 years old when two loyalist killers broke down his door with a sledgehammer in February 1989 and shot him twice in front of his children before shooting him a further twelve times in the head as he lay on the floor.  He was a lawyer who defended people accused of crimes, as lawyers do, and he was good at his job.  He was murdered because the security forces didn’t like that.

They recruited  the killers, they supplied the weapon and they hid the evidence.  The State killed Pat Finucane and then buried the evidence.

Pat Finucane

On the face of it, the de Silva report seems pretty hard-hitting.  It certainly goes into Finucane’s murder in considerable detail and doesn’t shirk from pointing the finger at the police, the army and the various organs of state that colluded in his killing.  And yet, it manages to omit certain vital facts and makes no attempt to establish if anyone in government knew of the threat to defence lawyers in Northern Ireland.

As it turns out, Finucane wasn’t the only lawyer targetted by the loyalists with assistance from the RUC Special Branch, MI5 and the army.  Ed Moloney, former Northern editor of the Sunday Tribune,  has contradicted one of de Silva’s  most important findings, that the British government first discovered  RUC officers had incited the murder when they were told about it the next day by the Irish ambassador.

This is plainly untrue.

Two months before Pat Finucane’s murder, Moloney met Tommy Lyttle, the west Belfast commander of the UDA.  Lyttle informed him that RUC officers were openly suggesting to loyalists that they should kill lawyers instead of ordinary Catholics, and that three individuals were specifically named: Pat Finucane, Oliver Kelly and Paddy McGrory.  Ironically, Finucane had represented both loyalists and republicans in court, and perhaps this was why Lyttle chose to tell Moloney what was going on.

Moloney tipped off McGrory, who contacted Charlie Haughey.  Haughey passed the information to the Northern Ireland Office who seem to have done nothing, because the threat was duly acted on two months later with Pat Finucane’s murder.  But of course, it’s also inconceivable that this information would not have found its way to Downing Street.  Hardly a month after Moloney had lunch with Lyttle, minister Douglas Hogg stood up in Parliament and complained about lawyers who were, in his view unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA.

That statement beggars belief.  It goes completely contrary to the concept of  an accused person being innocent until found guilty, but it goes beyond that again.  If the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran had suggested such a thing, there would have been outrage.  Hogg and his colleagues would have been trumpeting the virtues of western democracy by contrast with the totalitarian barbarity of the Iranians, and yet, in a European parliament, here we had the spectacle of a government minister denouncing officers of the court for carrying out their properly-constituted duties.

Hogg made his comments on foot of a confidential briefing from the RUC – a briefing that can now be seen for what it was: the preamble to murder, and even though Jack Hermon, the RUC chief constable, was enraged at Hogg for breaching confidentiality, his anger is perhaps being misconstrued.  Hogg, in his pomposity and hubris, inadvertently blew the whistle on Hermon and on the special branch of which he was master, exposing the sort of thinking that permeated the RUC.  Even worse, from Hermon’s point of view, Hogg in his stupidity lifted the lid on the reality of the North.  There was no such thing as democracy.  After all, if lawyers can be spoken of in such terms for defending people against criminal charges, and if those same lawyers can later be shot dead, then there’s only one way to describe such a state of affairs.  It’s a police state.

The context is important.  Less than a year earlier, the SAS shot dead three IRA members in Gibraltar.  At their funeral, loyalist Michael Stone attacked the mourners with guns and hand grenades, killing three and wounding  many more.  Three days later, at the funeral of one of those killed in Milltown, two British soldiers in plain clothes accidentally drove in among the mourners and were immediately taken for loyalist attackers.  In a scene of appalling violence  witnessed by the whole world on television, the two were pulled from their car, beaten, stripped and shot dead.

Four years earlier, the IRA had set off a bomb in the Grand Hotel in Brighton where the Conservative party was holding its annual conference.  The bomb killed five people and injured many more.  Though Margaret Thatcher escaped injury, it was now personal.

Thatcher was no great believer in democracy when it could be avoided.  She had few qualms about sending the mounted police to beat the coal miners off the streets when they marched to defend their livelihoods, and showed no hesitation in launching a war to defend the ridiculous Falkland Islands when she detected that a bout of nationalistic jingoism would boost her re-election chances in 1982.  It  mattered nothing to Thatcher that so many men on both sides would lose their lives as long as the Tories retained power.

So why on earth would such a woman, who was happy to throw away English lives for political advantage, be too worried about one troublesome Paddy?

De Silva sees no “overarching” government involvement in the collusion between the police, the intelligence services and the army in subverting democracy, such as it might have been in the North at that time, but perhaps that’s because he wasn’t briefed to look in the right places for such information.  I have no doubt that he’s a decent and honourable man, and what’s more, I don’t doubt David Cameron’s sincerity when he apologises for this outrage, jjust as he was sincere in apologising for Bloody Sunday.  He has done more than most British PMs in that regard.

But I can’t help thinking that this report is a gambit: giving something away to gain something bigger.

Denning might have been in his dotage when he articulated the appalling vista judgement, but decrepit though he was, he still had his bony old finger on the establishment pulse and I suspect the de Silva report is simply a concession by the British government in order to avoid a truly appalling vista.  It looks like the lower levels have been jettisoned to avoid asking the real question: Did Downing Street decide to murder troublesome lawyers?

The implications of that are so enormous that Cameron may be willing to sacrifice any amount of traditional Conservative ground rather than face the consequences.




De Silva Report


37 thoughts on “Finucane Report — Truth at Last or Just Another Cover-Up?

  1. Thanks Bock.

    was a bit on the young side when that murder happened, Your article summarises the chain of events perfectly

  2. I don’t agree that David Cameron was sincere in his apologies. He really could not defend the indefensible and needed to say something. By apologising there is an admission of sorts but his reluctance to carry out a proper investigation, I believe, makes a joke of his apology. I listened to his wife Geraldine speak the other day. She said, “it’s like as if someone might say to you – ‘I have done something terrible on you but cannot reveal what it is and by the way I’m sorry’.”

    My heart goes out to her, and her children. How can they move on until they get some definite answers?

  3. The North is not a democracy – it was never designed to be a democracy, so no surprise that State-sponsored death squads have operated there with impunity.

    Unfortunately, some sections of the unionist community are having a difficult time coming to terms with the introduction of democracy – as witnessed by the rioting after last week’s decision by Belfast City Council to curtail the flying of the UJ on City Hall. 100 years ago, the British establishment aided and abetted such behaviour – and much worse – within the unionist community.
    This time around, the world – especially the US – is watching very closely and the condemnation from the British Govt. was very clear, calling it very “un-British” behaviour……interesting choice of words.

    On current trends, there will be a Nationalist majority in the North by 2020 – will not mean an automatic Re-United Ireland but will be a serious game-changer.
    Interesting letter from Trevor Ringland in the “Belfast Telegraph” the other day – making it very clear that the wider unionist community is in grave danger – if it does not face down the thugs within the unionist community.

    Interesting times ahead.

  4. When you look at the record of success by public enquires here in the republic, I can see why there might be a reluctance to go down that road,
    Public enquiries serve only one purpose. LINE THE POCKETS OF JUDGES AND THE LEGAL PROFESSION.
    Now that times are getting tough for this elite group, they are starting to bay for enquires again.
    Then again so would I if I was a barrister

  5. You did a much better job of this than Niall O”Dowd on Irish Central. He outlines the same events and points at Thatcher but not so succinctly. I appreciate thislisting of fact and events because this era was during my youth and was fraught with emotion (obviously) and very hot headed opinions. I couldn’t fully process it at the time
    Very thought provoking. Well done.

  6. Not a word about it on BBC’s Question Time last night.

    All through the Troubles the UK public were given a very one-sided picture of events
    in the North.
    One would have thought that heads would roll but as in the cases of the Birmingham
    Six and the Guildford Four the police manage to avoid punishment for criminal act.
    I won’t be holding my breath.

  7. Re. Kilkenny Tom’s US comment above, imagine the fuss
    if the US flag was not flown outside the White House or the
    Capitol daily !!

  8. At perfidious – You are not comparing like with like.

    You cannot draw a comparision between the Flag of the US flying outside the White house and the Union Flag flying above city hall in belfast Northern Ireland. Your comparision – in my humble opinion – is not an accurate one.

  9. perfidious albion :

    …”imagine the fuss
    if the US flag was not flown outside the White House or the Capitol daily !! ”

    Comparing apples to lemons only serves to undermine your argument and your ability to put forward
    a sensible rebuttal. Basically, you make yourself sound like an idiot.
    – Belfast City Hall is not Stormont……….the White House / the Capitol are inaccurate analogies.
    The nationalist community is now the majority community in Belfast city.
    Let me know if you need further clarification.

  10. I have nothing much to add to Bock’s summation of the situation, except to offer my own personal theory that the reason the British Government will not allow a public enquiry in this case is because it would (assuming the truth that we are sure is to be found) then be a tacit admission of guilt on their part; not only that but it would cast doubts over whether the dirty business of “modern warfare” that they and other states were and still are currently engaged in, was in any way defensible.
    That is to say (and I am not in any way defending them – what they did in this case was just plain wrong) but in their minds, they were fighting a dirty war back then, and they continue to use the same kind of hushed-up, don’t-talk-about-it-at-the-dinner-table methods in more modern theaters. But as long as they can abstract all that nastiness away into the likes of MI6 and even their own domestic police force, where direct orders are rarely given but instead there are plenty of innocently ambiguous “policies” and “guidelines”, they can still pretend they are “right and honorable” and all that rubbish….hopefully some day, the truth will out, maybe it will be in Mrs. Finucane’s lifetime so she can get some closure, maybe not.

  11. ” The nationalist community is now the majority community in Belfast city.
    Let me know if you need further clarification. ”

    You forgot to add ” and the boot’s on the other foot now “.

    As for the OP…the notion that there’s a memo somewhere with ” go ahead , shoot him. Yours etc. Margaret Thatcher” is too ridiculous for words.

  12. Fair comment, analogy not comparable.
    Imagine the fuss if the US flag was not flown outside every Town Hll in the US !!

  13. That’s also a flawed analogy, unless you can think of a US city where the population is divided on its national allegiance.

  14. Do you remember that song by Light A Big Fire? If I was the CIA, I’d kill anyone who got in my way.

    I think all governments engage in terrorism to a greater or lesser extent, depending on their size and reach.

  15. perfidious albion :

    Bock is very gentle on you – your analogies are operating from a flawed basic premise.
    You appear to be under the illusion that the North is a democracy.
    When you do understand that the North is not a democracy – and was never intended to be one – then I’d imagine your efforts at making accurate analogies will benefit accordingly.

  16. The inquiry will come . . . eventually. Cameron knows too well the can of worms that will be opened when the truth finally emerges. I imagine that most or all of the prepetrators wll be dead by the time it happens.

  17. Good post Bock. In the 80’s many would simpy brand you as a Provo for writing it. Re Sheepshaggers comment on the UK being supplied with one-sided versions of events, I would say in general that UK channells like Channel 4 suppied more even-handed commentary that our own beloved RTE -The station that always referred to UVF/UDA et al (but never IRA )as “paramilitaries, or at worst “Gunmen”- I seem to remember whan Gay Byrne interviewed Geraldine Finucane, Geraldine brought up the issue of state collusion with Loyalist “paramilitaries” to which Gay replied …..mmm…..and tell me ….how are you coping? Perhaps not exact quote but the way he deflected the issue was very obvious to anyone interested. Gaybo didn’t want to go there, surprise surprise. Afraid of being pervieved as being symphatetic to the “Men of voilence”, as Mrs Thatcher called them.

  18. This from the former Head of PIRAs Southern Command, Sean O’Callaghan:

    “I knew Pat Finucane reasonably well. I first met him in 1980 at a high-level IRA finance meeting in Letterkenny, Co Donegal. The meeting took place in a private room above a public house. Also present were Gerry Adams, the now-dead Tom Cahill, Pat Doherty (now the MP for West Tyrone) and several others. Adams and Finucane arrived together in the morning and left at lunchtime. Did Finucane introduce himself as a member of the IRA? No. Did anyone present describe him as such? No. It was, however, exclusively an IRA meeting and quite clearly, without doubt, understood to be so by all present. That is the evidence of my own eyes and ears and I stand by it today as I did yesterday and as I will tomorrow.
    Of course Finucane should not have been murdered, and if it is proved that anyone played a role in that murder they should pay the price. But he was not the blameless, innocent “human rights” lawyer beloved of nationalist Ireland and the quasi-liberal chattering classes in the United Kingdom.
    He came to visit me several times in Crumlin Road prison in Belfast, where he spent much of his working life acting as a trusted conduit between the IRA prisoners and the leadership on the outside. Finucane wanted to represent me, but expressed no interest in my legal position. All he wanted to know was what I had told the police, and there is no doubt in my mind as an individual that he was acting as an IRA member and exploiting his own legal position for the benefit of that organisation.
    When an IRA member was arrested, the first person to gain access to him was usually a solicitor. The organisation on the outside was often desperate to discover if the prisoner had made any statements incriminating himself or others, had provided information on arms dumps or future IRA operations or even had been turned by the security forces.
    This was where an individual solicitor such as Finucane was invaluable to the organisation. He was different to many other lawyers who held strong political views. The renowned Belfast solicitor Paddy McCrory was undoubtedly a staunch republican, but he was a constitutionalist who demanded the highest standards from the state and never believed that the law was a weapon to be exploited by a terrorist organisation.
    Pat Finucane was first and foremost an IRA volunteer, and he exploited his position ruthlessly to wage his war on the state. In Crumlin Road, I once explained to him that I had admitted the attempted murder of a UVF member from Portadown and went into some detail.
    When I finished he looked at me with contempt on his face: “And after all that, you missed him.” Hardly what you would expect to hear from a peace-loving man who believed in the primacy of law. The last occasion I met him was in Crumlin Road about 27 hours before he was murdered: I was, in fact, the last prisoner he spoke to.
    Pat Finucane was an effective agent for the IRA. Who knows what “punishments” were exacted by the IRA as a result of his activities? Finucane did end up being murdered, but not because being a member of the IRA was immediately punishable by murder or execution – unlike being a member of the RUC , the Army, the judiciary, a civilian worker at a security force base or an agent for the state.
    Strange old “troubles”; a very strange “dirty war”. To anybody who has involved himself in Northern Ireland, none of this should come as any surprise.
    How Pat Finucane would laugh at his continuing effectiveness.

  19. Oh come on, please. Sean O Callaghan is hardly a dependable source of information. I have no difficulty with your making the case that Finucane was an active IRA member if you can substantiate it, but you’ll need to do better than the unsupported assertions of a man who has played both sides of the field for almost forty years. His word is not reliable.

  20. So Callaghan’s word is not reliable?

    So he sat down and simply invented this stuff about Finucane.

    Also strange! not a word by the media about Finucane’s two brothers Dermott and Seamus both very active and convicted members of Pira?

  21. I think he’s compromised. The guy has been operating in too many conflicting camps to be a credible witness, and while I don’t know what he did or didn’t make up, I think his word is too tainted to rely on. If you can come up with information corroborating his claims, I’d be delighted to have it. After all, that would be a major scoop for this site.

  22. Of course you have every right to believe whatever you want, but that’s not the issue here. I’d like to see independent corroboration of his account and this is not an unreasonable thing to ask for.

  23. Re John’s comment – is a soft line being taken on state-sponsored killings without due process? I realise he says Finucane should not have been murdered but the post seems to have a “but he was asking for it” vibe. Or should the stste kill people whose brothers are involved in criminal activity?Maybe I don’t get it but I think the reference to Killings of RUC members , the Army, etc. being legimitate, although not meant seriously, is being argured for, if on the other hand state sponsored summary killings are somehow being justified here.

  24. The guy was murdered John. as Maggie said, murder, is murder, is murder. The family as well as the wider community , deserve a full public enquiry, not a cover-up. Bock I’m off for last pint of the year.

  25. Yes he was murdered like 3,000 others

    Do not forget that

    Anyway I’m off for a pint as well!

    happy new year

  26. No he was not deserving of murder

    Just because he was a solicitor does not make any different than any other poor person

  27. Prompting every solicitor joke ever made.

    But yes, it does make a difference, not because we like lawyers, but because murdering an officer of the court is a direct attack on democracy.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.