The most basic question arising from Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane’s murder is whether RUC Special Branch members aided and abetted loyalist paramilitaries in the elimination of people it saw as problems. The answer is undoubtedly yes. A case book example of this campaign of collusion came with the murder of UDA hard man James Craig just four months before the Finucane murder.
A spy close to Craig revealed to his RUC SB masters in 1988 that he had been fraternising with the enemy, ie Official IRA figures running building site tax scams and also INLA and Provisional IRA figures. Craig wished to use these ’Fenian’ contacts either for financial gain or to bump off the many enemies he had created with his knuckle duster and lump hammer approach to discipline in the UDA.
With MI5 help, the RUC carried out audio and video recordings of these secret meetings and passed them on to their top agent within the UDA inner council, ‘Brigadier’ Tommy Lyttle. By doing this, the RUC sealed Craig’s fate. The UDA heavy was then shot dead by two masked gunmen as he sat in a bar in East Belfast in October 1988, just four months before the murder of Finucane.
In his diary, British agent Brian Nelson describes handing over a picture of Finucane to the head of the UDA hit squads operating in North and West Belfast, Eric McKee. Also in the car was a man directly involved in the murder of Pat Finucane, Ken Barrett, who was an RUC agent.
Nelson says, “On the Thursday prior to the murder of Finucane, I was asked if I had any copies [of Pat Finucane’s picture]. McKee had asked me this in the company of Ken Barrett… On giving him the copy, he in turn handed it to Barrett who, after looking at the photograph, folded it and put it into the inside of his brown leather jacket.”
The whole of the state-encouraged murder of Finucane comes together in this extract from Nelson’s diary. Just a few days before the murder, a British army agent hands over a picture of Pat Finucane to an RUC agent, who was part of the gang that shot Finucane in front of his children. The guns used by Barrett and his gang had been supplied by another RUC agent, William Stobie.
Thus, a number of state agents, mostly RUC, were centrally involved in the build up to Pat Finucane’s slaying. Yet no action was taken by the RUC in this period to save Finucane’s life.
Craig was rubbed out because he was harming the British war effort against Republicans. Finucane was rubbed out because he was running rings round the RUC in the courts.
Barrett is the only one of the Finucane UDA murder squad that has been convicted of the actual killing itself, but he was released after three years, given a new life, a new identity and a large payment for his ‘services’.
Many of these details have been published or broadcast piecemeal, but a state-backed hearing, held in public with compellable witnesses, would clarify and greatly amplify the extent of British state involvement in the collusion between its security forces and Loyalist assassins.
A public inquiry is the last thing the British government wants.