Category: Archive

Finucane law partner replies to ambassador

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

The law partner of slain Belfast attorney Pat Finucane has rebutted claims made by the British Ambassador to the U.S. in a letter published in the New York Times.

Peter Madden, in a letter of response published Friday, June 8, took issue with the contention by Ambassador Christopher Meyer that a public inquiry into the 1989 assassination of Finucane, and the 1999 murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson, would prejudice criminal investigations into both cases.

Madden, in his letter, made the point that Meyer had ignored precedent, specifically in the context of Bloody Sunday.

"[Meyer] did not say that public inquiries were established simultaneously with criminal investigations in other cases; an example is the Bloody Sunday killings of unarmed civil rights demonstrators in 1972."

Madden argued that with regard to the Finucane and Nelson deaths, a purely police investigation had been carried out in secret with no input from the bereaved families.

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"International human rights groups, lawyers worldwide and the Irish government have called for public inquiries. At present, the British government’s stance is out of step with international opinion," Madden concluded.

The letter was published two days after Madden received a letter from the Royal Ulster Constabulary warning that he and others employed by his legal firm might be under threat from extreme loyalists.

"I have to inform you that the name of your legal firm was found in a computer recovered from a person believed to have an association with a loyalist organization. You are advised to take precautions for your personal security," the letter, signed by an assistant chief constable, said.

The Meyer and Madden letters followed a Memorial Day editorial in the newspaper headed "Unsolved Murders in Ulster."

The editorial followed a meeting in March between the Times editorial board and Finucane’s law partner, Peter Madden, and Pat’s brother Martin Finucane. It pointed to "disturbing information" uncovered by journalists investigating Finucane’s murder.

"Agents of British Army and RUC intelligence have said that they participated in targeting and arranging Mr. Finucane’s murder. Credible witnesses have also said that the agents’ handlers knew a murder was coming and did nothing. The veracity of these claims must be tested by an independent public inquiry," the editorial stated.

With regard to the Nelson case, the editorial pointed to death threats from RUC officers leveled at the attorney

"The murder investigation, while led by a British police officer, has been run from the RUC station that employs the officers who allegedly threatened her. That has discouraged witnesses from coming forward."

In his letter of reply to the editorial, Ambassador Meyer stated that the British government had not ruled out calls for a public inquiry into both the Finucane and Nelson murders "but cannot accept such a call while criminal investigations are under way."

And he went on: "Inquiries would take evidence from the same witnesses, raising issues of disclosure, admissibility, conflicting evidence and immunity from prosecution."

"You state that earlier inquiries associated with Mr. Finucane’s murder ‘went nowhere.’ The first — into security breaches, not the murder itself — led to 44 convictions and 100 remedial measures; a summary was published. The murder inquiry has led to one person’s being charged. The Nelson investigation continues to employ 80 police officers; 8,000 people have been interviewed and 24,000 documents seized."

Meyer concluded by stating: "It is not true that nothing was done about a request from a human rights group for protection of Ms. Nelson. The group was advised as to how she could apply for protection. She did not apply."

Meanwhile, Madden, together with Pat Finucane’s widow, Geraldine, is due in New York in a few days. The two are lined up to speak at a luncheon hosted by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, the Manhattan-based foreign-policy think tank.

The committee, which has bestowed honors on a number of world political figures, including Margaret Thatcher, issued a statement that said that "many Americans were quite startled" upon reading the Times editorial.

"The National Committee believes that it is unsolved cases such as these that leaves a major segment of the population in Northern Ireland extremely distrustful of the entire policing and justice system. This, in turn leaves them very suspicious of the British Parliament’s failure to fully implement the Patten Commission recommendations," the National Committee statement said.

"The National committee believes that unless policing and justice systems are fully accepted by the people, little, if any, progress can be expected with respect to the two major issues of decommissioning and demilitarization. Thus, the subject of the New York Times editorial is of great significance to the National Committee."

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