Belfast Telegraph

Pat Finucane probe could expose more than gunmen

An anxious wait lies ahead as Owen Paterson considers a public inquiry into the 1989 murder, writes Brian Rowan

In Northern Ireland the past still frightens the present - frightens those who were part of the different wars, and frightens some more than others.

And, so, on the Shankill Road, inside the UDA, they will be thinking and wondering about those statements that emerged on Tuesday from Secretary of State Owen Paterson and Madden and Finucane Solicitors.

There is no decision yet on the long-awaited public inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, but there is a sense that something is happening.

In the background there have been "constructive" discussions, and more time is being allowed to see where those talks end up - two more months to be precise.

Paterson has set out his position: "When this further period has concluded it remains my intention to consider the family's views carefully and in detail, along with any other relevant representations I receive, before taking a decision as to whether or not it is in the public interest to hold a public inquiry into the death of Patrick Finucane."

Solicitor Peter Madden restated the family's position that "the independence of a tribunal is fundamental".

And, now there will be a wait as that talking continues in the background.

The UDA was still legal when its gunmen killed Pat Finucane, and there are still people in the most senior positions of that organisation who will know the fine detail of the shooting.

They will know everything; who was involved in intelligence gathering, who provided the guns, who drove the car, who pulled the trigger, where the gunmen left from and where they returned to.

But any inquiry will want to look not just at those things, but into a much wider frame.

"There are very few remaining questions about what actually happened that night," Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre said.

"That information has been available to the authorities, some of it before the murder even took place," he continued.

"I think the key question around any inquiry is going to be around the issue of command responsibility - how much was known by government, military, security services and police at a senior level."

Many see the UDA as a puppet in the murder and believe the prompting came from elsewhere. Exploring this thinking will be the real work of any inquiry.

Loyalists will talk about most things, but not about that shooting. Inside the UDA all sorts of people were at play in the plot, among them Brian Nelson who was working for the Army, and Special Branch informers William Stobie and 'Tucker' Lyttle.

The current UDA 'brigadier' on the Shankill Road and those closest to him will have information and answers should they ever choose to speak.

But that is unlikely.

The one loyalist who did talk - Ken Barrett - is widely believed to have overstated his role.

This is a killing that many believe takes you into that place known as the "dirty war", a story that is not just about the UDA, but that has other hidden hands.

It is not just about who shot Pat Finucane, but why he was shot, and who wanted him dead.

There are those who have read Tuesday's statement by the Secretary of State as yet more stalling, but maybe they are wrong, and perhaps something is beginning to move.

What if Owen Paterson decided there shouldn't be an inquiry - how could that be explained?

For many that type of decision would simply confirm a cover-up - of a truth too ugly to be told.

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