(by Ed Maloney, Sunday Tribune)
A United Nations report due to be published next week is expected to call for an independent judicial inquiry into allegations of RUC and security force collusion with the Loyalist gunmen who killed the Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane a decade ago.Also by Ed Moloney this week: Crucial Week in Talks Process
Special Rapporteur Dato Param Cumaraswamy, in a report commissioned by the UN's Human Rights Commission, is also expected to express his concerns about ongoing allegations of RUC intimidation, including death threats, levelled at other defence lawyers in the North. The report will be published in Geneva.
It is understood that the RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan objected to part of a draft of Mr Cumaraswamy's report in which Mr Flanagan is allegedly quoted as complaining that some lawyers in the North have their own agendas. It is believed that this section of the report has been corrected after an intervention on behalf of the Chief Constable.
This is the second time that Chief Constable Flanagan has been involved in a dispute over what he is alleged to have said. The last occasion was when he denied that he had given nationalists in the Garvaghy Road area an assurance that the Orange Order would not be allowed to parade through the area in 1996. He denied this even though an independent witness, in the shape of a Mediation Network representative, was present.
The UN report is likely to be highly embarrassing for the RUC coming as it does as Nationalists are demanding thorough going reform of the force as part of a political settlement.
The killing of Pat Finucane has been surrounded by allegations of security force collusion almost from the moment the 39 year old solicitor was gunned down at his north Belfast home in February 1989. Mr Finucane was one of a small number of lawyers in Belfast who specialised in defending alleged republican paramilitaries including suspected members of the Provisional IRA.
He died in a hail of automatic gunfire when two gunmen from the Ulster Defence Association broke into his home. The UDA later alleged that Mr Finucane was a member of the IRA but this was strongly denied by his family and associates.
The allegations surrounding his killing come from two sources. One was an assertion that in the weeks and months prior to his death RUC detectives in Castlereagh holding centre made persistent suggestions to Loyalist detainees that they should be targetting pro-IRA solicitors instead of uninvolved Catholics. It is understood that the detectives are alleged to have named three Befast solicitors, one of whom was Pat Finucane.
At the time this allegation was confirmed to the Sunday Tribune by high-ranking UDA sources.
The other source for the allegations came out of the scandal of the British Army's double agent Brian Nelson who was also in charge of the UDA's intelligence department when Pat Finucane was targetted.
According to Loyalist sources the decision to kill the Belfast lawyer came about by accident. UDA gunmen were interested in targetting the late SF councillor and Belfast IRA commander Pat McGeown and asked Nelson to provide a photograph of him.
Nelson duly obliged and handed over a picture of McGeown leaving the Crumlin Road courthouse in the company of Pat Finucane, his solicitor. The UDA gunmen took the photo away but came back to Nelson to ask him for information about Mr Finucane. It is understood that Nelson took the gunmen to Mr Finucane's home on the Antrim Road in a reconnaisance exercise prior to his killing.
The question immediately arises as to whether Brian Nelson informed his handlers at Military Intelligence headquarters at Thiepval Barracks about the UDA's interest in the Belfast lawyer. If he did, the next question is why military intelligence apparently did nothing to stop the killing.
Brian Nelson was subsequently convicted of conspiracy to murder but two charges of murder were dropped in a deal struck with the then British Attorney-General, Sir Patrick Mayhew in recognition of Nelson's work on behalf of military intelligence.
It is understood that in his report Mr Cumaraswamy takes the view that these allegations are so persistent that the whole matter should be laid to rest by holding a judicial inquiry. His report will present the British government with a serious dilemma.
While it will be very difficult for the British to ignore such a request coming from the United Nations, the Northern Ireland Office will also be acutely aware of the anxiety within the ranks of the RUC created by the prospect of such a delicate inquiry.