by David Granville
THE 12th of February 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the murder by loyalist gunmen, working in collusion with British security forces, of the Belfast human-rights solicitor Patrick Finucane.
The stain on British society that this bloody violation of Pat Finucane's right to life, and similar acts involving collusion, is spread further and deeper by evidence pointing directly to the involvement of British government ministers.
In recent years Finucane's family have rejected government efforts to hold an inquiry under the terms of the 2005 Inquiries Act, believing, as do a wide range of civil liberty and human-rights organisations, that the legislation gives ministers undue influence over any investigation.
Given the murky nature of the British state's involvement in Northern Ireland since the arrival of regular British army troops on the streets of Belfast in 1969, the propensity of all governments' to cover up their misdeeds and, where it suits, those of their predecessors, an independent judicial inquiry is probably the only mechanism capable of uncovering anything approaching the full truth.
It is precisely this reason why Labour ministers have fought tooth and nail to prevent such an inquiry and continue to apply pressure on the family to abandon their insistence on one.
In mid-February, within days of the 20th anniversary of Finucane's killing, the Northern Ireland Office sent the family a letter suggesting that if it refused to co-opeate with an inquiry under the terms of the 2005 Act, ministers could decide that it was no longer in the public interest to hold an inquiry of any description.
The circumstances surrounding the Finucane murder are not the only ones involving security force collusion with paramiliary groups, loyalist and republican, or where government direction is implicated.
Two inquiries currently underway concern the murder by loyalists of fellow human-rights solicitor Rosemary Nelson and the killing by republicans of the loyalist murderer Billy Wright, who at the time of his death was incarcerated in The Maze top security prison. Both inquiries are being conducted under the terms of the 2005 Act.
While it remains to be seen exactly what impact on the inquiries' the restrictions of the 2005 Act will have, the experience of deliberately hazy memories and less than fulsome co-operation on the part of some of those called to testify, along with the seemingly inevitable 'mysterious' disappearance of important documents, suggest that it will be nothing short of a miracle if the anything approaching the full truth eventually emerges.
In much the same way as the current government hasn't been keen on us knowing the truth about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or details of cabinet debates in the lead up to the Iraq invasion, or of Britain's collusion in the 'extraordinary rendition' and torture of British citizens in Pakistan, Morocco and Guantanamo Bay, it is not keen on us knowing too much about what governments of various political hues were up to in Northern Ireland during nearly three-and-a-half decades of conflict.
The desire to lift the lid on a murky nexus which brings together the various elements of the security apparatus and loyalist death squads is not some academic point of historical research or record. It is an issue which goes to the very heart of how the British state conducts itself in times of war and crisis.
Questions such as these are fundamental to the character of what we understand and experience as democracy in Britain.
It is therefore imperative that we show solidarity with the Finucane family and step up our efforts and join with them and human and civil-rights campaigners in demanding a fully independent judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the solicitor's murder.
As Pat Finucane's widow, Geraldine, explained on the 20th anniversary of his murder, not only is an independent inquiry the only mechanism capable of getting to the truth it is also essential for helping society to understand its past, to learn from it and to eventually move beyond it free from fear and with confidence.
For further information visit the Pat Finucane Centre website at http://www.serve.com/pfc/
Jeremy Corbyn MP has tabled Early Day Motion 898 'Inquiry into death of Pat Finucane' which calls for a fully independent inquiry free from Government constraints. To ask your own MP to sign EDM 898 go to:
David Granville's article originally appeared in the Morning Star on Saturday 28 February 2009
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Copyright © 2009 David Granville