Ken Keable reviews Killing Finucane - murder in defence of the realm by Justin O'Brien, Gill & MacMillan, ISBN 0 7171 3543 8, £10.99 pbk
"THE POLITICALLY inspired killing of an officer of the court represents a profound assault on democracy."
With this remark Justin O'Brien sets the tone of this book. It's not just about the evidence of state collusion in the murders of solicitor Pat Finucane and other innocent people, but also about the policy background against which they occurred and the wider implications. It bravely examines collusion generally, in relation to Britain's dirty war in Ireland. It exposes the guilt of successive governments, for the murder itself and the continuing cover-up.
The main facts are as follows. Prior to Finucane's killing in 1989 at least three wings of the "intelligence community" knew that he was being targeted, yet failed to warn him. After an inflammatory statement in the Commons by minister Douglas Hogg, two loyalist paramilitaries (one an British army undercover intelligence officer and serial murderer, the other probably also a British agent) planned the murder; the officer supplied the intelligence, and a Special Branch agent supplied the weapons and informed his handler that the murderers had driven off to commit the murder.
The Special Branch later recruited one of the murderers as an agent, knowing he was the murderer. The police and secret services lied to and actively obstructed all investigations, the agent-murderer (who now enjoys state protection) pleaded guilty to avoid exposure of the facts and parliament passed a special law, the Inquiries Act 2005, to enable the state to withhold evidence from the inquiry, which has still not been held.
The author has followed the case, and the collusion issue generally, for many years. From 1995 he worked as a senior producer at the Spotlight programme for the BBC in Northern Ireland, then later at RTE in Dublin and UTV in Belfast.
The book includes, as appendices, the Walker Report, the conclusions of the Stevens Report and the conclusions of the Cory Report. The Walker Report of 1981 laid down procedures for the police and secret services, permitting them to operate above the law. The other two reports are so damning that they have still not been published in full.
Unfortunately the writing style of this book makes it a more difficult read than it needs to be. Nevertheless it is a very important book because the subject is so important, there are so few books on it, and the mainstream British media continue to ignore it. I have yet to hear a minister asked awkward questions about this on the BBC's Today programme.
If the state can organise the murder of a solicitor in Belfast because he is too good at defending people the state doesn't like, then the same state can do it anywhere. That's why it is important to keep on alerting the British public until the penny drops.
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Copyright © 2007 Ken Keable