Murder probe could be let down, lawyer's family warned

A public inquiry into Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane’s murder could be a major let-down, it was claimed today.

A public inquiry into Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane’s murder could be a major let-down, it was claimed today.

Even though shocking levels of collusion between the security forces and loyalist killers have been found, Denis Bradley, vice-chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, insisted a judicial hearing may not be the answer.

Mr Bradley, who campaigned hard for the Saville probe into the Bloody Sunday shootings in 1972, warned the lawyer’s family of the huge legal wrangling involved.

He said: “I called for a public inquiry into the Bloody Sunday issue and I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that sometimes I’m disappointed.

“I’m disappointed in the amount of legal detail in which it involves itself.

“I get disappointed and saddened for the people who are at the end of this, the families themselves, because it has gone on for such a period of time and at great stress.

“But I do not have as much confidence in a public judicial inquiry as some other people.”

Pressure for a full public hearing into Mr Finucane’s killing in February 1989 has intensified after Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens issued a devastating new report.

The lawyer’s widow, Geraldine, has urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to keep his promise to call an inquiry after Stevens found rogue elements of the state intelligence services plotted with Ulster Defence Association gunmen to murder Mr Finucane.

The Government’s decision now depends on the outcome of an inquiry by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, who is due to report his findings on the Finucane case and five other controversial murders later this year.

But human rights campaigners have called on Mr Justice Cory to publish early in a bid to secure a public hearing.

Up to 20 serving and former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch and the Army’s covert Force Research Unit may also now face prosecutions based on Stevens’s damning evidence.

His four-year probe – the third since he first began investigating collusion claims in 1989 – concluded that agents and informants were allowed to operate without effective control and take part in terrorist crimes.

The murders of both Mr Finucane and student Adam Lambert, gunned down on a Belfast building site in 1987, could have been prevented, the report said.

Mr Bradley, a former priest from Derry who brokered secret peace talks between the IRA and the British government, claimed staunch nationalist and republican communities had been surprised by how damning Stevens' findings were.

“People like me knew it was going on,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

“But, first of all, the unionist people didn’t believe it ever went on, and secondly, people like myself didn’t believe the British establishment, as we described them in past days, would ever come with this forthrightness, with this honesty to say it happened and it must never happen again.”

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