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Ex-RUC friend of Pat Finucane's urges family to accept British review

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday World)

A former top cop has spoken of his personal friendship with murdered lawyer Pat Finucane and has urged his family to accept the British government's offer of a review into the controversial killing.

Kevin Sheehy said he understands the Finucanes want the truth exposed about the solicitor's murder but the family are wrong to think that can only be done by an independent public inquiry.

Sheehy, an old school friend of Finucane's from their days at Belfast's St Malachy's College, said: "The Billy Wright inquiry cost £30 million, the Robet Hamill inquiry has so far cost £20 million, and the Police Ombudsman's Claudy bomb investigation cost millions too.

"These inquiries haven't brought us any closer to the truth and we can't go on spending that amount of money. I desperately want closure for Pat's wife Geraldine and his children. They're great people but they're mistaken to reject as inadequate David Cameron's suggested review into the murder."

Sheehy said that as a former "investigative detective with 26 years experience" he believed the review proposed by Cameron, which will be chaired by leading QC Sir Desmond de Silva, would be independent and thorough.

"De Silva is an internationally renowned legal figure. He wont shirk from addressing allegations of security force collusion with loyalists in Pat's murder. He can get to the bottom of it all and find out the truth."

The former top cop said the state couldn't keep giving "preferential treatment" to certain victims over others. "I don't hear the same clamour for a public inquiry into the Kingsmill massacre, in which 10 workers were taken off a bus and murdered by the IRA, as I do into other killings," he added.

Pat Finucane was shot 14 times in front of his wife and three children as they ate Sunday dinner in their north Belfast home in February 1989. The Finucanes walked out of a meeting with Cameron in Downing Street on Tuesday after he offered them only a review of already existing documents on the case.

The family said they were "angry and insulted" by the proposal and won't co-operate with the review. They're backed by leading QC Mike Mansfield who branded the review "a waste of time and money".

While de Silva will be able to re-interview ex-senior security officials, he won't have the power to summon witnesses.

But Sheehy claimed the fact that de Silva would be able to see evidence gathered by Sir John Stevens when he investigated the solicitor's murder – including documents which until now have remained top secret – was a big step forward.

"There's over a million pages of paperwork to be examined. Those documents will help answer a lot of questions," the ex-detective said. Finucane's murder was claimed by the UDA but at least two security force agents in the loyalist terror group were involved.

FRU agent Brian Nelson provided the intelligence to target Finucane and Special Branch informer Billy Stobie supplied the weapons. UDA gunman, Ken Barrett – who in 2004 was sentenced to 22 years in jail for the murder – claimed an RUC officer had suggested he kill the lawyer.

"Finucane would (be) alive today if the peelers hadn't interfered," Barrett said. "Solicitors were taboo. We used a lot of Roman Catholic solicitors ourselves. .. you didn't touch them."

Three of Finucane's brothers were IRA members – John, Dermot and Seamus. The UDA alleged the solicitor was too – a claim his family vehemently deny.

Kevin Sheehy told the Sunday World how his unlikely friendship with Finucane began at St Malachy's College. Sheehy was the first Catholic graduate to join the RUC. He went on to hold many senior positions in the force including the head of serious crime, anti-racketeering, and drugs' squads.

As teenage students, Sheehy and Finucane spent summers in Lincolnshire working in a factory canning fruit and vegetables. The pair's friendship continued when they were students at Trinity College Dublin, sharing digs, and playing for the university football team.

"I was always a unionist and I hung a picture of the Queen on my bedroom wall which Pat slagged me about," Sheehy recalled. "If we went to the cinema, I'd try to escape before 'The Soldiers' Song' was played, and Pat and the other lads would block me in for the craic.

"Pat held strong republican views. When I said I was considering joining the RUC, we agreed to differ. But even after I joined, we remained good mates. We'd bump into each other in the courts and go for coffee or a pint."

Sheehy said he'd actually dated Finucane's future wife, Geraldine, for a while. "I was fonder of her than she was of me!" he admitted. "I later introduced her to Pat and she fell for him. Until he died, my partner Rosalind and I often had dinner with Pat and Geraldine at their home.

"Pat and I would argue about politics over a drink. Voices were often raised. Pat wanted an end to British involvement in Ireland and I didn't. The women would tell us to tone it down. We both had strong opinions but we always parted on good terms."

Sheehy said that just before he was shot dead, Finucane had expressed concern about his security and approached his detective friend about obtaining a legally held gun. "I advised him on how to go about it," the ex-RUC man said.

He learned the solicitor had been killed when a police officer at the murder scene, aware of the pair's friendship, phoned Sheehy: "I went to the house. There were dozens of mourners there. Some looked at me in disbelief," the ex-cop explained.

"Geraldine had been shot in the foot. We embraced. She said, 'Thanks for coming but it might be better if you didn't stay.' I didn't go to the funeral because I didn't want a confrontation with anyone."

Sheehy took early retirement from the RUC in 2001. He now runs an animal shelter.

October 18, 2011

This article appeared in the October 16, 2011 edition of the Sunday World.

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