By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — A campaign was launched this week to seek an independent inquiry into the murder of Lurgan lawyer Rosemary Nelson.
Repeated assurances from the RUC that everything will be done to find her murderers have failed to stop the growing campaign urging that the North’s police force to be removed from the inquiry.
Lawyer Gareth Pierce, who helped free the wrongly convicted Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, attended the campaign launch in Belfast on Monday. The Nelson family priest, members of her family, other human-rights lawyers and community workers were also there.
Assurances from the RUC chief constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, who has called in the FBI and two senior British police officers to help in the inquiry, have failed to dampen demands that the RUC turn the investigation over to an independent body.
At the launch, Paul Nelson, the slain lawyer’s husband, read out a statement in which he said her family had "no confidence" in the current RUC investigation. "We therefore support this campaign in the hope that we may learn the truth about the circumstances leading to her murder," he said.
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Campaign spokesman Dr. Robbie McVeigh said swift movement toward a full independent inquiry was the only way for the human rights promised in the Good Friday peace agreement can be properly protected.
British Northern Secretary, Mo Mowlam, meanwhile, had talks this week with UN special rapporteur Param Cumaraswamy, whose report was deeply critical of the RUC and Flanagan. The UN rapporteur also met the chairman of the commission on policing, Chris Patten.
It’s understood another report, concentrating on Nelson’s murder, will be compiled later this year, while hopes rose that the British government may yet order a full inquiry into the murder 10 years ago of another lawyer, Pat Finucane.
There are claims that Finucane’s murder was sanctioned, if not instigated, by members of British military intelligence and the RUC special branch. His family is suing the British government over claims military intelligence knew in advance he was being singled out for murder.
In South Armagh, there were signs of remilitarization, with British soldiers once again donning steel helmets on patrol.
Four men from the area, held for questioning about the January murder of former IRA man turned author Eamon Collins were released without charge.
Meanwhile, the IRA has denied reports that it has set any conditions on how the bodies of the nine "disappeared" people it admits killing in the 1970’s should be treated when found.
Press reports have claimed the IRA is demanding there be no post-mortems and that the funerals of the disappeared be held in private. There were also stories that republicans are stipulating funerals take place during the hours of darkness.
On Friday, the IRA repudiated the claims, saying these were all matters entirely for the families themselves. A republican source told the Irish Echo that speculative reports could only add to the anguish of the families.
In attempting to resolve this matter, he said, the IRA’s only interest had been to bring this anguish to an end and that remained the case. The only reason for any delay in identifying the locations of the bodies is that legislation to grant immunity is awaited.
The nine killings were carried out mainly in the early 1970s before the IRA decided that the bodies of those it shot should be left in the open to allow them to be found.
Meanwhile, loyalist pipe-bomb attacks continue at the rate of two or three a week. The RUC say two crude bombs left at Catholic homes in Randalstown, Co. Antrim, on the night of April 15 were sectarian.
The pipe-bomb devices were pushed through two letter boxes in the town in the early hours. British army technical officers carried out controlled explosions on the two devices. No one was hurt.
Garett O’Fachtna, a Sinn Féin ard comhairle member, returned to his home in south Down on Friday to find a bullet and a threat lying inside an envelope on his doorstep.
Inside an envelope was an old election photograph of himself around which a firing target had been drawn with the words "bang, bang, you’re dead — Red Hand Defenders." Inside the envelope also was a 9-millimeter bullet.
The Red Hand Defenders have claimed three murders within the last six months, an RUC man killed with a pipe bomb in Portadown, a Catholic man shot dead in north Belfast, and Rosemary Nelson, killed in a car bombing a month ago.