Violence – Northern Ireland

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I say to the Secretary of State that condemning the deplorable violence is the easy bit, and will she do two further things? First, given her national security responsibilities will she engage directly with the loyalist groups and be willing to talk even to those who may be on the fringes of the violence—as we did to positive effect in 2006-07—who feel excluded from the political process? Secondly, will she come up with a package of resources to tackle the deplorable level of youth unemployment? Some of the young republicans—and in recent times the young loyalists—involved in this violent activity have no stake in the society. That does not justify their violence but it does explain why it is happening.

Mrs Villiers: I certainly think that part of the way forward is an inclusive dialogue that must be led by Northern Ireland’s political parties. Indeed, as part of our work I and the Minister of State engage in regular conversations and listen to the concerns of people across the community. Addressing youth unemployment is one of the UK Government’s highest priorities. Employment figures across the UK have been improving over recent weeks but there is still a very significant problem, particularly in Northern Ireland. The issue continues to be one of our highest priorities and we will continue to work with the Northern Ireland Executive on ways to grapple with it. One reason David Cameron chose to bring the G8 to Northern Ireland was to demonstrate his commitment and attract inward investment.

Pat Finucane’s death is a terrible stain on Britain’s record in Northern Ireland

The Guardian, 12th December 2012

The De Silva report into the brutal murder of Pat Finucane, coupled with the prime minister’s searing confession to parliament, revealed probably the worst atrocity by the British state within UK jurisdiction in recent times.

Pat Finucane was a respected Belfast solicitor who had often represented republicans during the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. On 12 February 1989, he was assassinated while eating Sunday lunch at home in front of his wife, who was wounded, and their three children.

His murderers were loyalist gunmen, one of whom, Ken Barrett, eventually pleaded guilty when put on trial in September 2004. However, this was not just another of the many grisly loyalist killings at the time. Special branch agents were directly involved and, with IRA terrorism widespread, encouraged loyalist terrorists to kill republicans. So did the army’s secret Northern Ireland intelligence agency, the force research unit (FRU), a team of army officers tasked to recruit and train double agents within the paramilitary organisations.

Pat Finucane had republican sympathies but he was a lawyer, not an activist, still less an IRA member. Yet, as De Silva confirms, the FRU and other state security officers obstructed the subsequent police murder investigation which would have exposed their complicity.

The Finucane family fought bravely for many years to get the truth out into the open and wanted a public inquiry. The Labour government pledged to hold one as part of the peace process. But when I was secretary of state for Northern Ireland from 2005 to 2007, the family would not accept one under the 2005 Inquiries Act – the only vehicle available – because evidence from the security forces could be given confidentially. Their position was entirely understandable – why should they trust the British state that had killed Pat?

But the reason for this restriction was to enable the security forces to provide key evidence without compromising sources or methods and therefore their ability to continue confronting terrorism. The impasse remained until more recently, when the family apparently indicated they would accept a 2005 act inquiry.

Nevertheless, De Silva has revealed that British government agents, supposedly acting in the name of democracy and the rule of law, totally betrayed those principles: a truly horrendous stain on Britain’s record in Northern Ireland. The prime minister should be held to his pledge that the attorney general will examine possible prosecutions and that other cabinet ministers will ensure that lessons are learned and nothing like this can ever happen again.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/12/pat-finucane-death-stain-northern-ireland

Pat Finucane Report

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Notwithstanding the disagreement over an inquiry, may I commend the Prime Minister for the searing honesty of his statement, which allows the whole House to express solidarity with the Finucane family who are with us today? What this report and the Prime Minister have revealed is even worse than I thought and was informed about as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The fact that special branch agents and members of the Army’s force research unit were involved and up to their necks in this murder is horrendous. Does the right hon. Gentleman think it right therefore that Colonel Gordon Kerr, commanding officer of the force research unit at the time, should have been promoted subsequently to brigadier?

The Prime Minister: First, let me echo what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Finucane family. They have carried out a very respectful, very legitimate and perfectly fair campaign, because they want justice for the appalling wrong done to Pat and the appalling way in which he was murdered. I had a meeting with them last year, and while, obviously, we did not agree about the outcome, I hope they can see that I was sincere in saying that I would open every door, I would open every part of Whitehall and do everything I could to try to get the fullest, truest picture of what happened as quickly as possible. I profoundly believe that that is the right approach, rather than a costly, lengthy public inquiry, which might not—may well not—get as far as this report.

On what the right hon. Gentleman says about the specific individual, much information about what individual people did is in that report. As I have said, it is now open for different authorities to take the steps that they find appropriate. I have specifically asked the Defence Secretary, the Northern Ireland Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary to examine what is in the report and to give any lessons back directly to me, which I will then publish.

BBC Northern Ireland Interview

Interviewed as a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by BBC outside Parliament about the brutal murder of Pat Finucane on 12 February 1989, a respected Belfast solicitor, victim of state collusion with Special Branch agents and the Army’s covert Force Research Unit involved. A shocking stain on Britain’s record in Northern Ireland.

Pat Finucane’s Death is a terrible stain on Britain’s record in Northern Ireland

Guardian

The De Silva report into the brutal murder of Pat Finucane, coupled with the prime minister’s searing confession to parliament, revealed probably the worst atrocity by the British state within UK jurisdiction in recent times.

Pat Finucane was a respected Belfast solicitor who had often represented republicans during the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. On 12 February 1989, he was assassinated while eating Sunday lunch at home in front of his wife, who was wounded, and their three children.

His murderers were loyalist gunmen, one of whom, Ken Barrett, eventually pleaded guilty when put on trial in September 2004. However, this was not just another of the many grisly loyalist killings at the time. Special branch agents were directly involved and, with IRA terrorism widespread, encouraged loyalist terrorists to kill republicans. So did the army’s secret Northern Ireland intelligence agency, the force research unit (FRU), a team of army officers tasked to recruit and train double agents within the paramilitary organisations.

Pat Finucane had republican sympathies but he was a lawyer, not an activist, still less an IRA member. Yet, as De Silva confirms, the FRU and other state security officers obstructed the subsequent police murder investigation which would have exposed their complicity.

The Finucane family fought bravely for many years to get the truth out into the open and wanted a public inquiry. The Labour government pledged to hold one as part of the peace process. But when I was secretary of state for Northern Ireland from 2005 to 2007, the family would not accept one under the 2005 Inquiries Act – the only vehicle available – because evidence from the security forces could be given confidentially. Their position was entirely understandable – why should they trust the British state that had killed Pat?

But the reason for this restriction was to enable the security forces to provide key evidence without compromising sources or methods and therefore their ability to continue confronting terrorism. The impasse remained until more recently, when the family apparently indicated they would accept a 2005 act inquiry.

Nevertheless, De Silva has revealed that British government agents, supposedly acting in the name of democracy and the rule of law, totally betrayed those principles: a truly horrendous stain on Britain’s record in Northern Ireland. The prime minister should be held to his pledge that the attorney general will examine possible prosecutions and that other cabinet ministers will ensure that lessons are learned and nothing like this can ever happen again.