Belfast Telegraph

Thatcher knew what happened when Pat Finucane was murdered by UFF, says widow

Pat Finucane
Pat Finucane
Geraldine Finucane
Sir John Stevens
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

The widow of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane has claimed that top Canadian judge Peter Cory told her that collusion between loyalists, the security forces and the State went all the way to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Geraldine Finucane said she believes "the Prime Minister of the day knew exactly what was going on".

She adds that Judge Cory, who investigated the lawyer's murder by the UFF in February 1989, told her he had seen papers marked 'for cabinet eyes only' and they involved collusion and the killing of her husband.

Mrs Finucane makes her allegation in the latest episode of the BBC NI series, Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History.

The programme also claims that MI5 wiped the files of the judge's inquiry team after their agents visited their offices in central London in 2002 'in the interests of national security'.

One of the inquiry team, Renee Pomerance, now a superior court judge in Canada, told Spotlight she could confirm the incident occurred just as they had described it. Spotlight says the security services claimed they were concerned that the inquiry's computer system was insecure and a leak could endanger informers.

Judge Cory told Sir John Stevens, the head of the Metropolitan Police, he did not pursue an official investigation in order "to prevent what might have become an international diplomatic incident".

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Geraldine Finucane

In the end the judge recommended the holding of an inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder, but it has never happened.

In the programme Sir John Stevens, who earlier conducted a series of investigations into collusion, reveals that at one time more than 200 agents were working for the Army inside loyalist paramilitary groups, with upwards of 300 others within republican organisations.

However, Spotlight says the security forces acted on the information they received on only a handful of occasions to protect people, including Gerry Adams.

The programme also includes an interview with a retired RUC detective, Alan Simpson, who was tasked to investigate the Finucane murder.

He claims he was warned off by his boss, Wilf Monaghan, who said: "If I were you, I wouldn't get too deeply involved in this one."

Simpson says he didn't know what was going on.

Spotlight says Special Branch knew the identities of the UFF killers within a week but Simpson wasn't told. Nor was he informed that ex-soldier and Army agent Brian Nelson had helped set up Mr Finucane.

Spotlight says after Nelson was recruited, the Army had encouraged him to go to South Africa in search of weapons which arrived in Northern Ireland two years later, by which time their agent was the UDA's head of intelligence.

Reporter Mandy McAuley says MI5 tried to poach Nelson from the Army's Force Research Unit (FRU) to join three other even more senior figures in the UDA who were working as their agents.

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Sir John Stevens

The official line was that the security services were trying to disrupt loyalist killer gangs. But Spotlight says some agents were carrying out an increasing number of UDA attacks with the complicity of the State.

Sir John Stevens tells Spotlight that Nelson was at the very centre of all of the intelligence and the targeting of people who were later killed. Nelson was supposed to be telling his handlers about planned murders, but Spotlight says there is evidence that the Army were passing on crucial intelligence to him.

Murdered north Belfast Catholic Terence McDaid was shot dead by the UFF by mistake. Nelson had been targeting his brother, who loyalists thought was in the IRA.

Spotlight says Nelson told the Army five times who the UDA were plotting to kill and though they relayed the information to the RUC's Special Branch, nothing was done.

Spotlight says a secret report was sent to the British Government about the Army's involvement in the McDaid murder and it also included concerns about Mr Finucane's murder. Six months after the solicitor's murder, the UFF killed Rathfriland Catholic Loughlin Maginn and subsequently showed BBC reporter Chris Moore an official intelligence file on him. The terrorists alleged this supported their claims that their victim was in the IRA, allegations denied by his family.

Moore was also shown files on other suspects which proved conclusively that there was collusion between the security services and loyalists.

Stevens, who was brought in to investigate the leaks, tells Spotlight that Wilf Monaghan warned him off about 'the high stakes of his inquiry'.

Sir John says he told him that the Army would 'fire him down', adding: "He said you need to understand the implications of all of this and what you are up against. I was pretty shocked at what he said but as subsequent events turned out, he was absolutely right to warn us."

Brian Nelson's fingerprints were found on some of the leaked security files, but just before the Stevens team planned to arrest him they discovered a fire at their offices in an RUC building near Carrickfergus.

Mr Stevens says that Mr Monaghan turned up and told him he believed the fire was the work of the Force Research Unit, the first time he had ever heard of them.

Mr Stevens says the Army lied to him that they didn't run any agents in Northern Ireland before conceding that Nelson was working for them.

McAuley says FRU also had another three loyalist agents, but Mr Stevens says the number of people working for them, the Special Branch and M15 was spectacularly higher.

"We arrested about 210 people and only two were not touts as they are referred to," Mr Stevens adds. Spotlight says the Army were running around 500 agents, mostly republicans, towards the end of the Troubles with M15 overseeing the operations.

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