Judge issues warning over reports into Ulster killings

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The Independent Online

Detailed reports on eight controversial killings during the Troubles were handed to the British and Irish governments yesterday with a warning that their author would "make a lot of noise" if they were altered.

Peter Cory, who is a retired Canadian judge, was commissioned by the two governments to explore the possibility of security force collusion in the killings, which include that of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in February 1989.

There will be astonishment if the judge has not recommended a public inquiry at least in the Finucane case, since Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has already declared there was collusion, and that the death could have been prevented. It seems highly likely that Judge Cory has advised holding inquiries in at least some of the other cases. These include the deaths of two other Catholics, and a loyalist who was killed in prison by republicans.

Two reports to the Irish government concern a judge and his wife and two senior policemen, all were killed by the IRA on the Irish border in two separate incidents. They gave rise to allegations that republicans had been assisted by security leaks from the south.

The judge's recommendations and 500-page report are not expected to be published until early December, after London and Dublin have examined the text for sensitive material. He said that he had received full co-operation from all of the agencies involved and had seen all documents relating to previous investigations. He added that, in some cases, he had obtained new and detailed information.

But he was also at pains to emphasise his independence and his determination to hold the governments to their main commitment to hold a public inquiry in any case where he recommended one.

Asked about any attempt to alter his report, the judge, who is 77, said: "I have one younger grandson who expresses it very well. He says, 'I'm going down to my room and I'm going to kick and scream and turn blue'. I don't think I would kick and scream and I don't think I would turn blue but I would make a lot of noise." Assuming that at least one public inquiry is in prospect, the British Government will try to ensure that it does not assume the proportions of the Bloody Sunday tribunal, which has been running since April 1998 at a cost of many millions.

The authorities may prefer a format somewhere between that of the Bloody Sunday tribunal and the Hutton inquiry, a procedure which takes months rather than years. The exercise would, none the less, have to be a substantial one if it is to have any chance of clearing up the deep suspicions which exist within the families affected and internationally.

The question also arises of whether an inquiry should run concurrently with criminal proceedings or should await their conclusion. A Belfast loyalist has been charged with the murder of Pat Finucane, while files on up to 20 people, some of them members of the security forces, have been sent to the prosecution service.

The authorities have yet to announce whether an inquiry would be postponed until such cases have run their course. Human rights organisations have been pressing for inquiries to proceed as quickly as possible, pointing out that some of the killings involved date back to the 1980s.

Paul Murphy, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in accepting the reports, said: "The two governments are determined that, where there are allegations of collusion, the truth should emerge. We will consider the reports urgently."

Pat Finucane's son Michael said yesterday: "No consideration has been given to what any of the families are going to be experiencing at this time. There is no reason why we can't be told what Judge Cory's conclusions are. Quite simply, has he recommended a public inquiry or not?"

Conor Murphy, a Sinn Fein representative, called for the immediate publication of the reports, saying: "We are told by British Government sources that the Cory reports have to be vetted by the securocrats before they will be considered for publication. But even if you accept this argument, which we do not, there should be no excuse for failing to publish the recommendations of Judge Cory immediately."