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N. Irish police involved in Belfast lawyer's 1989 murder, says report

Today's report said Northern Irish police colluded in a loyalist paramilitary's murder of high-profile lawyer Patrick Finucane, though it did not find an 'overarching state conspiracy.'

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De Silva's report found that, "on the balance of probabilities, that [a British police] officer or officers did propose Patrick Finucane (along with at least one other man) as a UDA target when speaking to a loyalist paramilitary."

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De Silva said senior British Army officers later "deliberately lied" to criminal investigators, claiming they did not have informants in Northern Ireland. He added that Northern Irish police "Special Branch" officers "were responsible for seriously obstructing the investigation" into the murder, noting 85 percent of the UDA's intelligence had been leaked to them by British security service sources.

He also found "a willful and abject failure by successive governments" to provide a clear framework for handling agents within the law.

The report notes that the then-British secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Douglas Hogg, told Parliament on Jan. 17, 1989 that there were a number of lawyers in Northern Ireland who were "unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA," after receiving a briefing from police.

Dissatisfaction with the report

Speaking to Parliament in response to the report's publication, British Prime Minister David Cameron said collusion with the killers was "totally unacceptable" and "should never, ever happen." He also said he was "deeply sorry" for the Finucane family, but added he "respectfully disagree[d] with them that a public inquiry would provide a fuller picture" of what happened.

Speaking to the press, Finucane's widow, Geraldine, dismissed the report as a "sham" and a "whitewash," but welcomed Mr. Cameron's personal apology, saying "after all he is a human being, he probably does think it was … atrocious."

Finucane's son, Michael, said any fair-minded person would agree "the state has the most to hide."

Irish republican politicians are similarly dissatisfied with the report.

Speaking in Parliament, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Alasdair McDonnell, said the report "doesn't go far enough" and called on Cameron to order a full public inquiry into the killing.

Former Sinn Féin official Danny Morrison said the full truth of the matter was still to come out. The report "only goes so far. You can never even penetrate above a certain level."

"The British government is protecting itself. [Police] Special Branch and MI5 [military intelligence] don't go out and assassinate people without say-so," he says.

Kevin Bean, professor of Irish studies at the University of Liverpool, says the question of how high collusion went remains open.

"The limited nature of the inquiry means it doesn't get to the heart of matters: whether there was political direction and the fact that there were instances of the targeting of people for political reasons," he says.


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