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Cover-up Act creates intolerable situation

(Susan McKay, Irish News)

Impossible, impossible, impossible. Unfortunate, unfair, unnecessary and intolerable. These are the words chosen by Judge Peter Cory to respond to what Tony Blair is trying to do to the public inquiry into collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane. Remember what he said when asked what he'd do if the British tried to scupper his recommendations?

He quoted his young grandson, who, when thwarted, would announce that he was going to his room and he was going to kick and scream and turn blue.

Judge Cory threatened to "make a lot of noise". He's started.

It was impossible, he wrote, for there to be a "meaningful inquiry" under Tony Blair's proposed new Public Inquiries Act, currently being rushed through Parliament. Impossible for it to do its work and impossible for any self-respecting judge to preside over it. It was unfortunate the new law had been proposed. It was unfair to "change the ground rules at this stage". It was unnecessary because the courts would protect the "security of the realm" – the ostensible reason for the new law.

And, the judge concludes: "It really creates an intolerable Alice in Wonderland situation."

Judge Cory's furious and scathing letter was part, last week, of a US congressional hearing of the International Relations Committee in Washington. It follows the statement by Lord Savile that he wouldn't have taken on the Bloody Sunday inquiry if it had been held under the terms of the new law. The British lord chief justice has also expressed concern. This law would allow the British government – under investigation, remember, for colluding in murder – to withhold information and to overrule at every turn the judge conducting the inquiry.

Geraldine Finucane, Pat Finucane's brave and indefatigable widow, has been campaigning for this inquiry for the 16 years that have passed since UDA gunmen, most, if not all, of whom were also British agents, murdered him.

She said at the hearing last week, "I will resist this proposed law because I want to know the truth about the murder of my husband. I refuse to allow the British government to take away the truth as easily as it took away Pat's life."

Judge Cory isn't going to let them get away with this either. When they delayed publishing his reports he personally phoned the families to brief them.

Now he is accusing them of bad faith at Weston Park in 2001. They agreed then, he insists, to a "true public inquiry" under the old law, and that agreement is binding.

The British finally announced four of the five inquiries he'd called for but not in the Finucane case. Criminal prosecutions had to be finished first, they claimed. By the time fall-guy Ken Barrett was convicted of the murder they had a law ready to thwart the inquiry they then announced. Impossible, unfair, unfortunate, unnecessary and, above all, intolerable.

Geraldine Finucane didn't get the media attention she deserved last week because all eyes were on the McCartney sisters. However, it is understood that the taoiseach has persuaded the US president to put pressure on British prime minister to do the right thing and drop this disgraceful Cover-Up Act.

The Belfast republicans who have taken to jeering at the McCartneys for turning to Bush as their champion should reflect on this. Yes, he is an international menace to freedom, democracy and human rights. He's also the most powerful man in the world and Gerry Adams would have been happy to shake his hand – again – had he been asked.

Judge Cory called collusion, among other things, "conniving with those who committed the murder by turning a blind eye". That applies equally to the republican movement's behaviour in relation to the McCartney murder.

Speaking of hypocrisy and of murder, the PSNI's response to questions about rumoured Loyalist Volunteer Force involvement in the murder of Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian deserves to be noted.

"Speculation isn't helpful," the detective in charge said. "What we want to deal with is facts and evidence."

Hardly the view taken by his boss in relation to the Northern Bank.

The LVF is closely bound up with the UDA which was closely bound up with the British intelligence services when it murdered Pat Finucane.

If it is still involved in murder, we need to know, just as we need to know about the IRA's role in the McCartney case and the British government's in the Finucane case. We all need to emulate Judge Cory's grandson. We need to make a lot of noise.

March 23, 2005

This article appeared first in the March 22, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

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