Parliament: Northern Ireland: Unionist anger at Finucane inquiry

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The Independent Online
ULSTER UNIONISTS accused the Government yesterday of undermining the police investigation into the murder of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane by insisting it might still order a public inquiry into the case.

John Taylor, the party's deputy leader, said during a short Commons debate that people would no longer co- operate with the inquiry by John Stevens, Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner, because of such a pledge.

He told the Northern Ireland minister Adam Ingram: "The Finucane family is one of the strongest republican families in Northern Ireland who despise all police, whether they are RUC or English police.

"They have now said they will not co-operate with Mr Stevens and you, by your policy of saying that you will look beyond to an independent inquiry, have cut the feet from underneath the credibility of the Stevens inquiry. People will no longer co-operate with it." But Mr Ingram stressed that it would be wrong "to rule out anything" because the outcome of the Stevens inquiry was not yet known. "It doesn't undermine the Stevens inquiry one iota to say that we have got to consider the possible consequences of his report," he said.

Earlier, Mo Mowlam, the Northern Ireland Secretary, held a "useful and constructive" 30-minute meeting with the widow of Mr Finucane, Geraldine, at Stormont's Castle Buildings in Belfast. This week, The Independent revealed that Dublin strongly suspects that elements of British intelligence were deeply involved in many loyalist murders of republican sympathisers.

Mr Finucane was shot dead in his Belfast home in 1989 in an attack that the loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters group said was its work. But republicans claimed that security forces had colluded in his death and that Brian Nelson, an army intelligence double agent who had worked for military intelligence, had previously told them of a murder attempt on the solicitor. During the debate, John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, argued that there was a general view that confidence could only be restored by a full independent inquiry.

Setting out the background to the case, Mr McDonnell told MPs: "Less than four weeks before his murder, Douglas Hogg, then a junior Home Office minister, said in this House, `In Northern Ireland there are a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA'." Mr McDonnell added: "I do not say this lightly but I know of no more dangerous a statement to have been made in this House by a minister of the crown.

"This statement was in effect a declaration to some elements within the loyalist organisations that human rights lawyers in Northern Ireland were legitimate targets. For Patrick Finucane, it was a pronouncement of a sentence of death."

Replying, Mr Ingram stressed that the Government was determined that all necessary steps would be taken to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice. "There have also been certain allegations made against the security forces in relation to the murder," he said. "Likewise, we are determined to ensure that all the allegations are fully and fairly investigated and are seen to be so.

"There is a police investigation under way in relation to the murder and other issues, but that does not mean that the Government has closed its mind on what, if any, additional action is necessary in relation to the House. All options remain open - nothing has been ruled out."

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