Pat Finucane was a Belfast civil rights lawyer who successfully challenged Britain’s human rights abuses in Northern Ireland. This is something that rankled with the state and Loyalist supporters. In 1989, Finucane was killed by UDA gunmen, one of whom was informer Ken Barrett, with the collusion of the British security services. The gunmen sprayed the Finucane’s home as the family were finishing their dinner. Finucane was killed by 14 bullets, his wife was also wounded in the attack.
Earlier this week, Sir Desmond de Silva’s report into Finucane’s murder concluded that the British state colluded with the killing but was not involved in a conspiracy. I would truly like to believe that there was no conspiracy but something tells me that would be naïve, given the dirty nature of the conflict and the cycle of violence that accompanied it. We know about the Loyalist death squads and we also know that the British security services (along with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ulster Defence Regiment) passed information onto these Loyalists. If that isn’t a conspiracy, then I’m the Lyin’ King.
The Loyalist paramilitaries: the UDA, the UFF, the UVF, the Red Hand Commando and others acted as an unofficial repressive state apparatus carrying out murders on behalf of the British state. Loyalist violence was only ever condemned through clenched teeth by the authorities.
On Wednesday, David Cameron offered a mealy-mouthed apology for Finucane’s murder but for the family and those who seek justice, it was not enough. Loyalist death squads were given carte blanche by the British authorities to carry out targeted murders. Beatrix Campbell writing in The Guardian says,
Those running the RUC, the army, the Northern Ireland Office and the Joint Intelligence Committee – later to become a household name during the Iraq war debacle – regarded the loyalists as a vital but disreputable rabble. So the army’s Force Research Unit enlisted an ex-soldier, Brian Nelson, to streamline the UDA’s killing machine. De Silva describes Nelson as “to all intents and purposes a direct state employee” – a remarkable admission. MI5 used him to orchestrate arms shipments from South Africa to distribute among loyalists. The state, it seems, took control of re-tooling the paramilitaries.
Not a conspiracy? Please, pull the other one.