COMMISSION ON SECURITY & COOPERATION IN EUROPE: U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION
WHY JUSTICE IN INDIVIDUAL CASES METTERS
BRITISH IRISH RIGHTS WATCH
THE HEARING WAS HELD FROM 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM IN 210 CANNON HOUSE OFFICE
BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C., REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ), CHAIRMAN, CSCE,
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2011
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): (Sounds gavel.) The commission will
come to order.
And before I begin, I’d like to welcome my good friend and colleague, Don Payne
from New Jersey, who – he and I have served on the Human Rights Committee on
the Foreign Affairs Committee for several decades. And he chaired, I chaired –
we’ve gone back and forth, so it’s good to welcome my fellow New Jersian and
good friend to the commission, and thank him for joining us today.
And I would like to welcome everyone for joining us this afternoon, and in
particular to many old friends who are testifying today, and to others whom I
see in the room.
Today family members of people killed in Northern Ireland will tell us about
their efforts to learn the truth about possible British government collusion or
complicity in their loved one’s murder. I join my voice with theirs to say:
enough obfuscation, enough stonewalling.
We must continue to press for the truth wherever it leads, and continue to
press until justice has been served and those responsible have been held to
account. There is no statute of limitations on assassinations and on murders.
Several developments since the commission’s last Northern Ireland hearings in
2004 must be mentioned before we turn to our witnesses.
Most troubling was the adoption in the United Kingdom in 2005 of a new
Inquiries Act, superseding the 1921 Tribunals of Inquiry, or Evidence, Act, and
empowering the government to limit independent action by the judiciary and
block scrutiny of state actions in inquiries held under its terms.
I am deeply concerned that the intent behind the Inquiries Act of ‘05 was to
prevent exposure of state collusion with paramilitaries in the North of
Ireland, particularly in view of the British government’s continuing refusal to
heed calls for independent public inquiry into police collusion, and to release
the findings of its own inquiries into collusion.
We must be clear that the British government, as part of the Good Friday
accords and the subsequent Weston Park agreement, freely assumed the obligation
to full, independent, public judicial inquiries. Later, it changed its inquiry
legislation, making the sort of inquiry intended by Good Friday and Weston Park
Testifying before the U.S. Congress in 2005, before our committee, Judge Cory
said, “First, it must be remembered that when the Weston Park Accord was
signed” – in July of 2001 – “the signatories would have had only one concept of
a public inquiry. Namely, that it would be conducted pursuant to the 1921
Public Inquiry Act. To change the ground rules at this late date seems
unfair,” He said. “Further,” he went on, “it seems to me that the proposed new
act would make a meaningful inquiry impossible.”
And today we can be even more sure than we were in 2004 that such inquiries are
needed to establish the truth and give justice to the relatives of those slain.
In January 2007, the police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O’Loan,
released a comprehensive report which identified many areas of police collusion
with paramilitary organizations, including in murder, and stated that such
collusion could not have occurred, quote, “without knowledge and support at the
highest levels” of the police.
Moreover, the U.S. House of Representatives is on record as calling on the
British government to conduct an independent public judicial inquiry into the
possibility of police collusion in the murder of Patrick Finucane, through the
passage of several bills that I’ve authored, including H. Res. 128, which
passed in the 106th Congress, H. Res. 2740, which passed in the 109th Congress,
and a similar measure, again, H. Con. Res. 20, which passed during the 110th
It’s also important to note that in 1999, Congress passed my amendment that
suspended U.S. support and exchanges with the British police force in Northern
Ireland, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, until standards were set to vet any RUC
officers who engaged in human rights abuses. That legislation specifically
sought to vet out any RUC members who may have committed or condoned violations
of internationally recognized human rights violations, including any role in
the murder of Patrick Finucane or Rosemary Nelson or others as well.
I had hoped to meet with the British secretary of state for Northern Ireland,
Owen Paterson, personally this week in Washington to discuss longstanding
concerns in these and other cases, and am happy to be able to say that we are
planning to sit down together later this week. His recent meeting with
relatives in some of the cases, who will testify today, is a welcome gesture,
though there have recently been mixed signals as to whether the British
government is willing to undertake full, independent, public judicial inquiries
into the crimes committed in these cases.
Equivocating on the issue of truth and justice for past crimes will only
embolden those elements responsible for them from the resulting impunity. The
time has come to focus truth’s light on the murky relationships and collusion
that existed between the security forces and paramilitary organizations in
Northern Ireland and hold those responsible to account.
Finally, once again, we are all grateful to family members and others who have
traveled from Ireland to be with us this afternoon. Their commitment to
justice is moving and is a key factor building a brighter future for all of the
people of Northern Ireland. The other factor, which we are here to work on,
will be the British government’s willingness to deal more openly with the past.
I would like to now yield to my friend and colleague, Mr. Payne.
REPRESENTATIVE DONALD PAYNE (D-NJ): Thank you very much. I will be very
brief. I want to thank my colleague for allowing me to sit in, in this very
important hearing of the Helsinki Commission.
Let me congratulate him for his ascension to the chair of this committee. As
you know, his record has been very clear as it relates to the issue of Northern
Ireland, that he has had many, many hearings, as he’s indicated. And there has
to be – without justice it’s difficult to have true peace. We used to say, no
justice, no peace. And so we have to really search for peace in order to have
true justice in the cases here, the Finucane, McCord, Teggart, McAirt, and the
Winter cases are very important.
Let me just conclude by saying, here in the United States we had a number of
civil rights problems in the late ’40s and in the ’50s and in the ’60s. There
were murders; there were many heinous acts. And, don’t you know, our justice
system in the United States continued to probe these issues, and people were
brought to justice 50 years later.
Just three years ago, Matill (ph) case and other cases of people killed in the
’50s were finally brought to justice. So, I don’t think, as it’s already been
mentioned by the chairman, that time is – stands in the way. The loss of a
life is for eternity, and therefore I think that we must keep the lines open so
that we can get to the bottom of the case.
And let me just say finally, in conclusion, that though it has nothing to do
directly, we have to continue to keep the process moving forward in Northern
Ireland. We’ve seen tremendous accomplishments during the past decade. Things
have happened that we never thought would occur.
And I would hope that we – at another forum – and I’ll talk to the chairman of
the Helsinki Commission – that the IFI fund for Ireland, which now is on the
chopping board as we are tightening the strings on everything in our country,
but I think that we need to continue to support what’s happened in the past so
that the International Fund for Ireland can continue to do the great work that
its done. That’s not the subject of this hearing, but I think it’s – it works
in together. It’s all together. And I will talk to the proper authorities to
see if we can deal with that.
So, once again, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much to my colleague for his statement and for
underscoring the need for the International Fund for Ireland to be retained.
We had a discussion this morning with Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson
regarding the necessity of that fund and how it has synergistically worked with
other monies that are donated by the British and the Irish government and the
tremendous good it has accomplished in bringing the communities together. So
the point is extremely well taken.
I’d like to now introduce our witnesses today and thank them again for being
here, beginning first with John Finucane, whose mother, Geraldine, is present
as well with us this afternoon. Geraldine, thank you.
John was a child of eight when loyalist gunmen forced their way into the
family’s home and murdered his father, Patrick Finucane, in cold blood, and
wounding his mom, Geraldine. Of course, John Finucane – or Patrick, Finucane,
I should say, was a tremendous defense attorney that earned respect around the
globe for his work for human rights, for insisting that all parties have a fair
And, for that, having been threatened several times, unfortunately assassins
took his life. And he was there – John was there, and Geraldine, like I said,
was wounded. John has pursued a legal career himself. He’s specializing in
defense work. And, again, I thank him for being here.
Then we’ll hear from John Teggart, who was born in Belfast, where he has lived
all his life. When John was 11 years old, his father, Danny, was killed in
Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971. For 12 years, he and the Ballymurphy Massacre
Committee have campaigned for justice for all the 11 victims killed in that
massacre, and I thank him for being here as well.
Then we’ll hear from Ciarán McAirt, who is grandson to John and Kitty. Kitty
was killed in the McGurk’s Bar Massacre in early December of 1971. His
grandfather, John, was pulled, badly injured, from the rubble. Ciarán has
campaigned with members of the families and others killed in the bombing in
their search for truth about this heinous crime. He researches and manages a
website as well. It’s called the McGurkMassacre.com.
Also testifying will be an old friend of this commission, as well as our human
rights committee – or panel on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ms. Jane Winter,
who has testified many times. She’s been monitoring and researching the human
rights dimension of the conflict in Northern Ireland since 1990.
Since 1995, she’s been the director of British-Irish Rights Watch, an
independent human rights non-governmental organization whose services are
available free of charge to anyone who’s human rights have been violated
because of a conflict, regardless of religious, political or community
affiliations. In that capacity she has testified, as I indicated several times
before, to the U.S. Congress.
And the commission had invited Raymond McCord, Sr. to testify at today’s
hearing on the murder of his grandson, Raymond, Jr., by the loyalist
paramilitary group in 1997. Unfortunately, his recovery from recent surgery
prevented him from traveling. His written testimony will be included in the
hearing records. Most disturbing are his reports of ongoing threats against
his life, as a result of his ongoing activism on his own case.
And, finally, I would note that Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, a
fellow commissioner on this commission on security cooperation in Europe, with
a long history of engagement on the issues and cases before us today, had hoped
to participate but was required to travel in connection with the developments
in North Africa. But he has personally sent his best to each of our witnesses.
John, if you could begin.
JOHN FINUCANE: Mr. Chairman, Congressman Payne, thank you very much for the
invitation to address this commission again today on behalf of my family. We
appreciate all the work that was done by this committee in highlighting our
As has been outlined, my name is John Finucane. I am the youngest son of
Patrick Finucane, a defense attorney who was murdered in 1989 as our family sat
down to have Sunday dinner in Belfast.
While the loss of a father in any circumstance is always very hard to come to
terms with, as a child it was even more difficult by the fact that in the
immediate aftermath of my father’s killing, we had questions that needed to be
asked of the authorities, as he had been threatened for some time by the RUC,
via his clans, and sometimes directly in the months and years leading up to his
This commission, and many people in this room, will be fully aware as to what
has come out in the intermittent years, but essentially from around 1989 to
2004, many strands of collusion were exposed through the work of our friends in
America, groups here, nongovernmental organizations in England and in Ireland,
and the work of government.
Essentially we knew that the RUC and the British army had agents involved in
the murder of my father. They were not only aware that the act was to take
place but it appears that they helped conspire for that act to take place
successfully and covered it up subsequently.
And in 2004, as a result of peace talks between the British and Irish
governments, of which we had no input, a mechanism was announced by the British
government whereby a judge of international repute would look at the evidence
in the case, and if he thought that an enquiry was merited, then the relevant
government, the British government, would initiate that inquiry.
It sounds simple. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The judge very firmly recommended
an inquiry, and that was Judge Cory, who has been on the record in front of
this commission and since that time in support of our stance.
Essentially the government, the Labour government of the day, led by Tony
Blair, said that, yes, there would be an inquiry, but it would have to be
enacted under new legislation. That new legislation has already been referred
to as the Inquiries Act.
And whilst the majority of the legislation my family and I did not have a
problem with, the main bone of contention was the provision within the
legislation to allow a minister to issue a restriction notice. Now, without
getting bogged down in the legalities, very simply it allows a minister to play
a trump card whenever a decision is made that the government does not like.
We felt this went to the very heart of the independence of any inquiry, and
therefore we were not able to give it our approval. Since that time, we
entered into a period of stalemate. It got to the stage whereby the secretary
of states refused to even speak with us. As they said in correspondence,
what’s the point? We knew your position. Unless you change your position, we
are not changing ours.
That’s where things are. We had seen a draft restriction notice that they were
going to use, and it was as draconian as one would have feared. However, last
year saw arrival of a new British government, a coalition government, and the
shadow secretary of state, Owen Patterson, then followed on and became the
secretary of state.
We were pleasantly surprised when he requested a meeting with us, as it was
perhaps the first secretary of state to ever ask to meet us to listen to us.
And myself and my mother met with him towards the end of last year.
Following that meeting, in which we told him our position and we let him know
what exactly it was we wanted and we expected, he announced a consultation
period whereby he invited representations from the family and any interested
party to decide whether a public inquiry was still in the public interest.
Now, my initial frustration and – well, I was insulted as well at the language
that was used initially, but following that announcement we entered into
conversation with the secretary of state’s legal team whereby what they – what
the secretary of state thought was explained to us in a little bit more detail.
And once that was done, it certainly diluted our frustrations.
And essentially, what we understand the British government’s position at this
stage is that the consultation period has closed as of March the 11th. The
secretary will then take a number of weeks to decide whether it’s in the public
interest, and he will tell us prior to that decision privately before he makes
that decision public.
It was made very clear to us that the minister has an open mind, that there is
no firm conviction that a restriction notice will be used, and any inquiry into
my father’s murder, if one is decided to be held. And examples of other
controversial inquiries under the Inquiries Act whereby written protocols had
been agreed between that inquiry on the British government for the minister not
to invoke this part, to leave matters to the panel itself, they were presented
to us, and certainly we find that encouraging.
So the position where we are at the minute is that we have had 22 years of
hurdles and disappointments, so we will not be taking anything for granted
until, firstly, the minister announces that a public inquiry is very much in
the public interest. And we would urge all our friends and supporters to
remind the minister – remind the minister of that importance at every
If and when the minister makes the decision that is in the public interest, we
will hopefully be getting down to talking about what type of inquiry can be
settled that will finally put this matter to bed, that will finally have the
ability to achieve the truth, which is something we have always campaigned for.
And we have highlighted three main principles which we would want that inquiry
We think, firstly, it needs to have a strong, independent panel that would have
the ability and the experience to deal with the complex issues. Secondly, it
would need to have the support of an equally experienced and strong legal team
to facilitate the truth. And, thirdly, we would need a guarantee from the
British government that they will not invoke the power of the restriction
notice to trump any inquiry and to make predetermined outcomes and to prevent
an inquiry from being truly independent.
And I would always echo the comments of Judge Cory, who describes such as
“Alice in Wonderland,” and I think that critique remains as damning and as
pertinent today as it did whenever he gave that testimony to that committee.
So, in conclusion, I think the benefits of an inquiry will be felt, not just by
our family – and, to be fair, not just in society in Ireland, but I think it
will be felt around the world. This is a case and it’s an issue, the issue of
collusion between killers on our streets and the government of the day. I
think that issue being dealt with in a transparent fashion will be felt all
around the world and will cement a peace process.
I heard today that peace is not the absence of violence; it is the cementing of
justice, and I think that is an excellent way of phrasing it. And until we
have a truly transparent and independent examination of this issue, I think
instability will always be in our society. And, unfortunately, we’re all aware
that there are those in our society who seek to capitalize upon that
instability, and I think that that needs to be fully removed.
Will it be easy? No. The right thing is very rarely easy. But is it
something that is necessary? Yes, and I think it always remains necessary.
Prime Minister Cameron deservedly received international credit for the humble
and modest way in which he dealt with the publication of the Bloody Sunday
report. But if his government is truly committed to securing a peace in my
country, in my city, then I think this is something that needs to be dealt
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Finucane, thank you very much for your testimony.
JOHN TEGGART: Chairman Smith, Congressman Payne, I am deeply honored and
profoundly grateful for the opportunity to appear before this commission.
I am a member of the Ballymurphy Massacre Committee, the committee that seeks
justice about the British Army massacre of 11 of our loved ones in Ballymurphy,
Belfast, on August 9, 10 and 11, 1971.
One of the persons murdered was my father, Danny Teggart, age 44. He was shot
14 times as he lay defenseless on the ground. He left behind 13 children.
Next day at the barracks where my sister, Alice, went looking for our missing
father, the parachute soldiers jeered and mocked her, cruelly singing a popular
song at the time, “Where’s Your Papa Gone?” Other bereaved families were shown
similar disrespect by the soldiers and the judicial authorities.
My mother, Bella, has since died. Her only wish was justice for her husband.
She would be so pleased that this hearing is taking place today.
Another of the victims was Joan Connolly, age 45, a mother of eight children.
Mrs. Connolly was shot and initially blinded as she went to the aid of a
wounded teenager, Noel Philips. She was then repeatedly shot and left to bleed
out where she fell. Her daughter Briege Foyle is with me today. A local
parish priest, Friar Hugh Mullan, was also gunned down while waving a white
handkerchief, going to administer the Last Rights to a wounded man.
The massacre left a total of 57 children with the loss of a parent. I record
with honor and respect the names of all the other victims in my written
testimony, which also provides more evidence of the justice of our cause.
Nobody has ever been held accountable for this massacre. And it is most
important to stress here that no British soldier was killed or wounded in the
area where our families were slaughtered during these three terrible days.
There has never been a proper investigation into the circumstances of the
Ballymurphy Massacre. The police and the British army covered up and lied.
There was an agreement at the time between the police and the army that legally
constituted police were not allowed to interview soldiers who murdered our
loved ones. The investigation was instead carried out by the Royal Military
The inquests into the death of our loved ones were also flawed. The British
army denied the coroner was denied access to evidential material that would
have enabled him to conduct an effective inquest. No eyewitness testimonies
were taken. No military witnesses were interrogated. Their evidence was
merely passed to the judge in a brown envelope.
And to make the situation even worse, the Parachute Regiment that committed the
massacre went on to commit the Bloody Sunday in Derry on the 30th of January,
1972. Had the Parachute Regiment been called to account for murdering 11
people in Ballymurphy, then that regiment may have been stopped from murdering
14 people in Derry.
Today, as part of a long tradition, I turn to the U.S. Congress and to this
commission for support and help. I respectfully request my oral testimony to
be submitted and documents read into the record.
Time and time again in Ireland’s long struggle for justice, Irish people have
turned to America for support because they knew the British establishment would
never willingly grant justice. The Finucane family, Ray McCord, and the late
Rosemary Nelson have all previously come before this commission in the pursuit
Indeed, without the support of the United States, there would not be a peace
process in Ireland today. So it is with gratitude and hope that I appear
before you today, because the truth about what happened in Ballymurphy has yet
to be set free.
The Ballymurphy Massacre families demand from the British government an
international independent investigation into the deaths of our loved ones; an
investigation that is properly resourced, independent of the Police Service of
Northern Ireland or the British army; have powers of compelling documents,
soldiers and witnesses; have access to RUC and military intelligence; providing
findings and recommendations. Please refer to our document, “What is an
International Independent Investigation” for more details.
I respectfully ask the U.S. Congress to put pressure on the British government
to grant our reasonable demands. We will not accept a desktop review from the
Police Service of Northern Ireland’s PSNI Historical Enquiries Team.
Again, Mr. Chairman and members of this commission, Senator (sic) Payne, thank
you for your concern, and I am profoundly grateful.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much for your testimony and for traveling here. I
would like to now ask Ciarán McAirt if you would present your testimony.
CIARAN MCAIRT: Mr. Chairman, esteemed members, our families are grateful to
this honorable commission for allowing us to offer testimony to its hearing on
“Northern Ireland: Why Justice in Individual Cases Matters.” We humbly
request that our longer testimony be written into the record.
My name is Ciarán McAirt. I am a grandson of John and Kitty Irvine. Kitty was
one of 15 civilians – women, men and children – who were slain in the McGurk’s
Bar Massacre of 4th of December, 1971. Over a dozen injured were lucky to
escape with their lives.
It was a bomb attack carried out by loyalist terrorists but blamed by the
authorities on a republican bomb in transit. Therefore, the innocent victims
were despoiled of life and their good name.
Successive administrations have veiled the full truth from us for two
generations. Our families therefore have had to campaign inexorably,
constitutionally and with great dignity now for nearly four decades to clear
the names of our loved ones.
My grandparents were enjoying a quiet drink with old friends in a family-run
public house called McGurk’s Bar in North Belfast. That night, as the regular
customers chatted and laughed amongst themselves, upstairs the McGurk boys and
a young 13-year-old friend, James Cromie, were playing raucously, as only
children can do.
Mrs. McGurk arrived home with the McGurk’s only daughter, 14-year-old Maria,
and they were returning home from confession in nearby St. Patrick’s Church. A
bomb ripped through this scene, bringing walls and roof down upon everyone.
Those who were not crushed or slowly asphyxiated by masonry were horrifically
burned when shattered gas mains burst into flames beneath the rubble.
The lifeless bodies of 15 innocent men, women and children were dragged from
the ruins. Such was the carnage of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre. I record our
families’ names with great respect in my written testimony.
A young boy saw the bomb being planted in the outside hallway and the fuse lit
by a terrorist, who then got into the car with two other men before skipping
into the night. This young lad was able to give the police a vivid description
of the car and the masked stranger. He warned a passerby that there was a
bomb, and this man escaped with seconds to spare, testifying to the police of
the day, the RUC, that this boy had saved his life.
Nevertheless, these witness statements and those of the survivors, and an
admission by the loyalists themselves, and a whole gamut of evidence, was
ignored by the RUC. Instead, without substance, without substantiation, the
police placed on file that this was a bomb in transit. Our family members were
not innocent; they were guilty by association, if not complicit in acts of
Swiftly, the disinformation within this RUC duty officer’s brief was then fed
into the intelligence stream. It even became the basis for government
briefings and speeches. It was leaked to the press and was fed into the public
consciousness. It became a lie, therefore, that allowed the true culprits to
I have provided written reference for all these archived finds made not by the
authorities but by myself, the Pat Finucane Centre and the British Irish Rights
Watch. This includes the minutes of a Joint Security Committee meeting when a
chief constable, commander of the RUC at the time, and his head of Special
Branch told the Northern Ireland prime minister and the general officer
commanding the British army in the North that two of the victims were known IRA
terrorists. Other archived evidence, though, has been redacted or withheld
from us after targeted requests for information.
Against this backdrop, could we ever expect a fair investigation? A recently
published report by the police ombudsman censures the RUC investigators for
what it calls “investigative bias.” Nevertheless, the present chief constable
of the reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland denies such bias. He has
disputed the central finding of the statutory body set up to investigate the
Yet again, the massacre of our loved ones has been politicized by a chief
constable at a time when our community should have faith in a reformed police
force’s ability to recognize and learn from the failings of the past.
This is why, in Northern Ireland, justice in individual cases matters. It is
not simply about closure for fellow human beings. This is about historical and
moral rectitude. History informs the present, and from it we learn our mores
as a society.
That is why I humbly beseech you to use whatever influence you may have to
ensure that Britain, your great partner, releases all the other information
that was kept from us regarding the massacre of our loved ones in the McGurk’s
Bar on 4th of December, 1971. Otherwise, I fear the present authorities may
prove that they too are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, committee members.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. McAirt. Ms. Winter?
JANE WINTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
British Irish Rights Watch and our sister organization, the Committee on the
Administration of Justice, on whose behalf I’m speaking as well today, are
independent, award-winning, nongovernmental organizations with between us over
50 years’ experience of human rights in Northern Ireland.
We are very grateful to this honorable commission, and especially to Chairman
Smith and to Representative Payne, both of whom have staunchly shown their
concern and support over many, many years for human rights in Northern Ireland,
for allowing us to submit evidence to its hearing on “Northern Ireland: Why
Justice in Individual Cases Matters,” and we request that our longer testimony
be written into the record.
REP. SMITH: Ms. Winter, without objection, yours and longer statements and
submissions by all of our witnesses will be made a part of the record.
MS. WINTER: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The past in Northern Ireland cannot be ignored, and continues to shape the
present and to determine the future. One of the reasons for this is that
although there have been many victims on all sides of the community, many
people do not know why their loved ones died or why they themselves were
Many lies have been told, particularly about state collusion in killings.
There is a great thirst for the truth, particularly as people who are beginning
to emerge from the shadow of the conflict feel confident enough to ask
questions about what happened and why no one has been held accountable in so
There have been many genuine attempts to reform Northern Ireland’s institutions
since 1998, but whilst outstanding cases remain unresolved, there is a danger
that those reforms will be undermined. We have heard today about three of the
tragic cases – and we also have heard of Raymond McCord, who is not able to be
with us today – which span four decades and both sides of the community divide.
The relatives of the 11 victims killed by the British army in Ballymurphy in
August 1971 have not to this day received the effective investigation they are
campaigning for and deserve. My organization has investigated two of those
killings and is certain that those two victims were wholly innocent and
unprovoked, and we are sure that the same will be found in the other 13 cases.
Sorry, I beg your pardon – nine cases.
The families of the 15 victims who died in the McGurk’s Bar bombing in December
1971, as we’ve just heard, were branded as IRA sympathizers harboring a bomb
which exploded prematurely, when in fact they were the victims of loyalist
In the face of clear evidence that the rumor was the bomb – sorry – that the
rumor that the bomb was an IRA “own goal” originated with the RUC, the police
ombudsman for Northern Ireland was forced to withdraw an earlier report
exonerating the RUC, and he has now found that there was investigative bias in
the police investigation into the bombing. Astonishingly, almost 40 years
later, the chief constable of the reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland
seems to be unable to accept that finding.
John Finucane and his family have been campaigning for 22 years for an
independent inquiry into the murder in 1989 of Belfast lawyer Patrick Finucane.
Despite compelling evidence that the police, the army and the intelligence
service were all implicated in his murder by loyalists, an inquiry has yet to
be held. And, as we have heard, there is still talks going on about the
modalities for such an inquiry.
Raymond McCord has fought an almost-singlehanded campaign to uncover the truth
about the murder of his son Raymond McCord Jr. in 1997, which has resulted in
the unmasking of wholesale collusion over many years – (coughs) – pardon me,
between RUC Special Branch and the loyalist group, the Ulster Volunteer Force.
A report by the former police ombudsman has led to the largest police
investigation ever known in Northern Ireland.
However, the PSNI are now in charge of this investigation again. And that
means that they will not be investigating the issue of collusion, which would
have to be considered by the police ombudsman. However, if the police are not
looking for collusion, who will find it?
These are four landmark cases, all of which are crying out for justice. But
they are four among many. What emerges very clearly from consideration of just
four cases is that Northern Ireland is still experiencing great difficulty in
dealing with its past and that the past must be addressed if Northern Ireland
is to be able to shake off the shackles of the conflict and move into a safe
and secure future.
In our longer written testimony, we consider mechanisms that exist today for
dealing with the past: the historical enquiries team, a unit of the police
service; the police ombudsman; inquests; and inquiries. All have their
problems and limitations. The previous U.K. administration failed to implement
the recommendations of the consultative group on the past, which included a
legacy commission to deal with all cases arising from the conflict.
The present secretary of state for Northern Ireland has made some rather
strange proposals for dealing with the past. For example, he has suggested
that, quote, “historians rather than lawyers,” unquote, should deal with the
past and that a historical memory documentary center, such as has been
established in Salamanca, Spain, in the post-Franco era, might be a way
forward. Similarly, he has suggested that the historical enquiries team’s
files could be consigned to an archive like that compiled on the Stasi in
Germany. Not only are these comparisons with the aftermath of totalitarian
states rather surprising coming from a minister in the U.K. government but they
clearly indicate that he regards the past as something that is over and can be
filed away, which is far from being the case.
As the four cases today considered demonstrate so graphically and tragically,
the past remains very much part of the present in Northern Ireland today.
Unless an effective human rights compliance mechanism is found for dealing with
all the unresolved individual cases arising from the conflict, that conflict
will continue to cast its long shadow across Northern Ireland’s future and make
it more difficult to achieve the peace and stability that Northern Ireland so
badly needs and so greatly wants. We respectfully ask this honorable
commission to seek an assurance from the U.K. government that it will establish
such a mechanism without further delay and in consultation with victims, human
rights experts and others.
We thank this honorable commission for your interest in Northern Ireland. Long
may it continue.
REP. SMITH: Ms. Winter, thank you very much for your testimony and for the
very wise counsel you have provided both to the British government, the Irish
government in Northern Ireland and to this commission and Congress over these
many years laying out in a very coherent way a way forward, which unfortunately
has not been grasped years to date.
Let me ask just a couple of questions to start off. First, Mr. Finucane, you
mentioned that there was initial optimism but it was diluted when Owen
Patterson announced a consultation process to decide whether it remained in the
public interest to have an inquiry at all. I would remind the British
government- and I will be meeting with the secretary of state tomorrow
afternoon – that this obligation is – you know, the U.K. government, the
British government is a rule of law government. And when you sign a treaty,
when you have specific responsibilities to which you freely enter into, that
needs to be honored if your word is to be honored in any other area as well.
So I would hope that the – as you indicated in your final statement, Ms. Winter
– this isn’t a matter that ought to be subjected to debate. It ought to be
implemented. And it ought to be implemented with a very competent – in a very
competent way. So I am concerned when you hear – is it in the public interest?
That’s a no-brainer. It’s a matter of rule of law. It’s a matter of justice.
And frankly, knowing that there could well be some and probably many people –
you know, how is that Christopher Patten called them, the bad apples – that
could be somewhere in law enforcement still or in retirement. The sense of
impunity that this gives them and others who look at that and say, past is
prologue. If individuals who committed acts of collusion are not held to
account, you can almost guarantee at some point, when there is some strain or
in the society, acts of collusion will be held – committed again, because it
was who – as even Hitler said, when he talked about the Armenians – and I
actually held a hearing on the Armenian genocide. And it was one of the most
contentious hearings I’ve ever held. But even Hitler said, who remembers the
Armenians? I mean, if there is no accountability, whether it be a limited
number or a massive number of fatalities or killings, the seed of that passes
on to the next generation who then commit acts of impunity.
So and I also think it ought to be underscored that these are not what – as
euphemistically sometimes called – cold cases; these are concealed cases.
There is an archive. There is information available that simply has not been
made public and/or law enforcement has not acted upon to hold those who have
committed atrocities accountable. So I hope, you know – I do have a concern.
And perhaps all of you might want to address the archiving of this information.
How concerned are you that information has been deleted, shredded – memories
of eyewitnesses may have faded. Hopefully they have not. Or individuals have
died, passed on who might have provided very useful insights for law
enforcement for a public inquiry. If you could answer that, I would appreciate
Let me also ask all of you – and John, you might want to start with this – the
implication if the British government invokes their ability to conceal,
pursuant to the Enquiries Act. When that legislation was going through the
House of Commons, my colleagues and I wrote letters. We went through line by
line and pointed out what a farce it was because we knew why that legislation
was in the process of being enacted – to preclude information to all of you.
If you could just speak to that so it’s on the record very, very concisely but
very comprehensively as well. What that would do if they were to invoke at
some point in the process – now we have to invoke the Enquiries Act of 2005.
And finally, I understand that Rosemary Nelson’s case will be delayed until
after the May elections – your assessment of that development. As we all
remember Rosemary Nelson came before this commission and told us that she had
been threatened, that her life had been threatened by the RUC. And less then –
approximately a half year later, an infamous act was committed against her and
she was killed by a car bomb. So if you could speak to that issue as well –
why the delay and what you expect to come out of that.
MR. FINUCANE: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’ll deal with your second
question first. The possibility that the Enquiries Act will be repealed and
new legislation will come in – we understand that there is zero chance of that
happening. That was – that position has followed on with the new government.
The only departure – and it is a very significant departure – is that the Tony
Blair’s administration who were so insistent, one, that there would be the
restriction notice; that power would be used. And then secondly, they went as
far as to issue a draft restriction notice and they let us see that. And as I
said in my testimony, it was as draconian as one could possibly have imagined
it. It was the farce that Judge Corey described it.
Am I optimistic? I have to take it on the face of it what they’re saying to us
at this stage. If they are saying that once they get over the “whether”
question, as they call it – whether it’s in the public interest – if we get
over that and it’s in the positive, I don’t see how they could come to a
negative decision on that.
REP. SMITH: But if you could yield on that – it is in their interest – for
those of us here and I’m sure in Ireland and elsewhere are looking at the
British government’s ability to keep its word. So it’s certainly – I believe –
in your interest and the interest of all the loved ones who have been left
behind. But it’s in the British government’s interest to finally come clean
and cease its obfuscation of these various inquiries.
MR. FINUCANE: Well, it’s not just a moral obligation; I mean, there’s a legal
obligation as well. The promise to us to have an inquiry arose out of an
intergovernmental peace agreement. And as you have rightly highlighted, their
integrity on the international stage has always been on the line with this
case. But if they renege on an agreement made with the Irish government, I
think that would certainly portray them in a bad light, to say the least.
We will have to wait and see whether they decide to go down the route of
issuing a restriction notice. We have always said that we are up for an
inquiry. We want to get into an inquiry. You’ve talked about witnesses and
documents going missing. As a family, we’re not getting any younger. And
certainly, we want to get in and get involved with this as quickly as possible
so the matter can be dealt with. And we hope that they come to the right
The obligation is already there. And I echo your sentiments that it is
correct. It’s not a cold case. It is a concealed case. And certainly we hope
that in the next few months, we can get in negotiations with regards to the
makeup of an inquiry. We have always said, we don’t expect every decision in
an inquiry to go our way. But we want the decisions to be taken by a panel
with integrity and with independence. And we don’t see why the British
government should shy away from that.
REP. DONALD PAYNE (D-NJ): Yes, I just had a quick question where Mr. Teggart,
you mentioned that you would not accept a desktop review by the police service
of Northern Ireland’s historic enquiry team, that the families of the massacre
deserve better. Could you elaborate that on for a second? And the – I think
you mentioned five points you thought were important for an inquiry to be
substantial. And that’s all – I did have – well, I’ll just leave it at that.
I appreciate the chairman yielding.
MR. TEGGART: Okay, thanks commissioner. I’d be happy. The historical
enquiries team was set up by the British government. It was set up by the
actual combatants that murdered the 13 – the 11 in Ballymurphy. The historic
enquiries team are also answerable to the Police Service of Northern Ireland,
the PSNI. When I say about a desktop job, a desktop operation, that’s exactly
what it is.
And this here report, which is into the death of Father Mullan, that is a final
report into the death of the priest. It says there’s no possible chance of any
more information. They don’t conclude about the army bullet that was lodged in
the head of Frank Quinn that was also shot just yard from Father Mullan. They
don’t conclude 150 witnesses that the families themselves, I would like
investigated. We walked to the doors and asked, and we got 150 firsthand
witnesses into the occurrence of what happened at Ballymurphy. That’s what we
mean by a desktop investigation, a desktop investigation with totally the
absence – don’t’ source any witnesses.
And the other points where it says about the independence – it need to be
headed by an international figure. No former combatants, RUC or British army
personnel should be involved in the investigation. No chain of command to the
PSNI, Police Service of Northern Ireland, or the HET. And that’s basically
what – just some of the principles of an independent investigation.
REP. PAYNE: Thank you very much. I agree, certainly agree with the chairman
mentioning that Hitler mentioned about the Armenians. And if we had confronted
the genocide in 1915, perhaps the Holocaust would not have occurred and
genocide in Rwanda and on and on. And as you indicated, had we investigated
the paratroopers early on, then perhaps Bloody Sunday would not have occurred.
And so we can learn a lot from history.
I also have to – as it’s been mentioned about Rosemary Nelson – I was at those
hearings when she testified. And I was given the honor of presenting to her
husband an honorary doctorate degree from my alma mater, Seton Hall University
posthumously to her husband on behalf of the work that she had done. At Seton
Hall in the early ’50s, I learned about the problems of the north of Ireland
and that’s what made me committed then to take an interest and visit Drumcree
and stay on Garvaghy Road and be in West Belfast a number of years during the
marching season. So we’ve seen a lot of progress. But it’s not over and we
have to keep the pressure on.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman.
MR. TEGGART: Could I just comment on some of the things that Congressman Smith
has brought up? And when you brought up Cameron, I’d apologize for some bad
apples of – and Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday happened within 20 minutes. And
Ballymurphy was over three days. And the bad apples in Ballymurphy turned out
to be a whole orchard. Just some of the stuff that (archive evidence?). The
families themselves have archived most of our evidence. It’s only the lies and
the mistrust of British government would prevent us an investigation.
And I think that’s it, Congressman Smith, yeah.
MR. MCAIRT: If I could go back to the Good Friday Agreement, I think part of
the reason why we have come over here is that we see that the full agreement of
the Good Friday Agreement hasn’t been implemented. And yet, we see the Good
Friday Agreement as an international agreement, not only between Ireland and
Britain and Northern Ireland but also with partners in America.
And it’s ominous, though, that we have had to travel over here to engage with
the great and good upper echelons of the political elite in America to try and
find justice for our families back home. That’s the sort of impasse that we
have reached even after two generations – and John’s one generation.
Sometimes I wonder whether there is a political wealth in Great Britain to face
up not only to – how to deal with the past but, in effect, how to deal with the
truth. The mechanisms that we have in Northern Ireland at this moment in time
are far from good, far from perfect. In fact, they’re underresourced. But
they’re underresourced by a political power that was – has a lot of questions
to answer to as well.
You also mentioned, Mr. Chairman, about our concern for the loss of evidence.
And again, that is one of the main reasons why I, myself, have come over here.
Because not only do I see our campaign as a struggle of memory against
forgetting but there’s also a limitation on the amount of time that we can
actually access this information. Not only am I faced with the mortality of
our own elderly campaigners but, as the years go on, we have less and less
powers to access that information.
And as you know far well, the powers under the Freedom of Information Act can
stop us from getting that information at any time. Ours is an ongoing battle,
then, to access information, so from our request for information, I can tell
you personally that it’s an uphill battle. And as the years go on, it gets
harder and harder.
MS. WINTER: Mr. Chairman, both you and Representative Payne stressed the fact
that there is no statute of limitations on murder and that a murder is, in a
sense, eternal, and requires justice for eternity. And that is absolutely true
but it is also true that time is not on the side of many of the cases that we
have been talking about today and other cases as well.
We certainly have concern about the loss of documents, the loss of memory, the
death of key witnesses. Many of the elderly members of the Bloody Sunday
campaign died without seeing the outcome of the Bloody Sunday inquiry. In the
Finucane case, many key witnesses are already dead. And Ballymurphy and
McGurk’s – we’re both talking about the 1970s. People have already passed on
and others, you know, are living in uncertainty as to whether they will ever
learn the truth about what happened.
In terms of records, it is interesting that the United Kingdom, being a
democracy, does keep records for a considerable period of time. That being
said, some very key documents in the Bloody Sunday inquiry were missing without
trace. And other documents have been very difficult to find in these other
cases, although sometimes, with diligence – and certainly, Ciarán McAirt has
shown huge diligence in obtaining documents in relation to McGurk’s Bar
And other NGOs such as the Pat Finucane Center have spent days in our public
record office, seeking out documents on all sorts of cases. And many of them
are there to be found but what is worrying is that the police ombudsman and the
historical inquiries team have very often not found those documents for
themselves. It has been family members and NGOs who have done the research.
And that’s a worrying thought – that even though the documents are there,
perhaps people are not looking for them as diligently as they should.
On the inquiries act, we very much share the concerns that you voiced at the
outset of this hearing. It is not right that a secretary of state whose
department may have been complicit in a death should have control over what
happens as an inquiry; over what witnesses are called, over what evidence is
heard, over what documents are seen.
We would be pleased to see an inquiry in the Finucane case after all these
years and we would hope that any assurance that there will be no ministerial
interference would be a good promise which would be kept, but it would probably
be a first, so we’re in unknown territory here. And even if such an inquiry is
held under those terms, very close scrutiny will be required.
But having said that, the prior question, as John Finucane has pointed out, is
that – and really, it’s an insult to the intelligence – whether it still
remains in the public interest to hold such an inquiry. Self-evidently, it
does, and we hope that everybody we’ve met here on the Hill will be making that
point to the secretary of state in no uncertain terms.
I think also something that the secretary of state has really not thought about
– and this refers not just to the Finucane case but to Ballymurphy, to McGurk’s
and many other cases: I don’t think that he has seriously considered the
consequences of not holding inquiries in these cases.
The McGurk’s case, in particular, has really dented public confidence in the
police ombudsman, who first did a report that did not support their case, and
then after pressure and new evidence was put to him, changed his mind and
produced a better report. And then the chief constable who has really no
baggage in relation to the PSNI and the RUC – he’s only been in post for two
years – he doesn’t go back to the 1970s, and yet, he defended the indefensible
on the part of the RUC.
So there are real concerns there about the consequences of not acting and not
speaking the truth after all of these years. It really does resonate in the
present and do damage when that happens. So I think it’s important that the
secretary of state is made to understand that there are consequences to not
doing the right thing.
You asked about Rosemary Nelson. I don’t think that the delay in the
publication of her report is sinister. I think it is – all of the inquiries
that have been held in Northern Ireland and to the Robert Hamill case, the
Billy Wright case and the Rosemary Nelson have all taken a very long time.
It’s taken a long time to write the reports.
Unfortunately, the government insists on vetting the reports, even though they
have been produced by very, very capable, independent legal panels and teams to
ensure that they do not infringe national security or endanger the right to
life. And that adds to the delay. But I think, in Rosemary Nelson’s case,
it’s simply a matter, really, of timing, in that with the elections coming up
in May, if the report would be published in the runup to that, it would sink
without trace, whereas at least it will get some proper attention if it’s
published after the election. I don’t think that there’s any political
pressure involved there. I think it is actually some compassion towards the
families – the family, that they do get the attention that they deserve.
Having said that, we are not sure what to expect from the Rosemary Nelson
report. Just as the Bloody Sunday report, which was very, very welcome in
exonerating the victims fell short of holding those responsible for Bloody
Sunday to account, we are worried that the report on Rosemary Nelson’s death
may not get to the bottom of what really happened.
The inquiry itself has already said that it will abandon some lines of inquiry
that it had identified at the outset, including the very important one of
whether or not she was threatened by police officers before she died. We know
that she was threatened; we’ve seen the evidence. But they felt that there was
too much conflicting evidence for them to really come to a conclusion about
that, and so that is a real concern for us. And we very much hope that her
family are not left with a report which leaves them with feelings of regret.
We can only wait and hope that the report will vindicate her, as it should.
REP. SMITH: Just finally, Raymond McCord, in his written submission, indicated
that there were some threats to him. Could you maybe perhaps comment on that?
MS. WINTER: Yes, I mean, that is a very worrying situation because Raymond is
a very brave man who has, as I say, almost singlehandedly brought attention to
his case and brought about an enormous police investigation because what the
former police ombudsman, and now Baroness Nuala O’Loan uncovered was a catalog
of collusion between special branch and the UVF, going over a period of at
least 12 years and involving at least 20 murders, possibly many more, and many
attempted murders. It was a really appalling situation.
And for one man to have been responsible for exposing such huge corruption and
collusion obviously puts him at risk and makes him very, very unpopular. And I
think we should pay tribute to his courage in continuing to campaign despite
the fact that he continues to receive threats, and has, indeed, throughout his
campaign been threatened.
Raymond tends to kind of treat it as part of – you know, coming with the job.
But those of us who are watching are fearful and concerned for his safety.
REP. SMITH: Tomorrow, when I meet with Secretary of State Paterson, I will
give him each of your testimonies, tell him that both the Foreign Affairs Human
Rights Committee, which I chair, and the Commission on Security and Cooperation
in Europe is going to accelerate its focus. We’ve done it in the past. There
was somewhat of a hiatus, which I won’t get into as to why, but back as
chairman now, I can assure you that we’re going to use every resource we have
to keep this issue front and center with our friends in the British government
to let them know that the grandfathering of injustice, of impunity, of
collusion is not – is intolerable.
And, you know, I’m one of those who believes that if you, as the pope has said
so well, if you want peace, work for justice. And there needs to be justice in
each of your cases and people held to account, and information made public as
quickly as possible for all the reasons that have been so eloquently cited by
each of our very distinguished witnesses.
So I would ask you, you know, in addition to your testimonies, is there
anything you would like to add?
And finally, as we all know, you know, the peace – the sustainability of peace
does rest on a sense of justice. And we know that problems that continue to
flair – of course it was a genocide – between the Armenians and the Turks, in
part, continues because of a – the inability, particularly of Ankara, to
recognize what – for all of us who have painstakingly studied the occurrences,
or, the events that happened then, and they just say it didn’t happen. They’re
deniers. And we wouldn’t want the British government to continue to live in
denial of these terrible acts of collusion that led to murders and
So it’s – anything you would like to add before we conclude the hearing?
MR. TEGGART: I’d like to add, when you’re speaking to Secretary of State Owen
Paterson, just that he’s fully aware that the Ballymurphy families at no time,
even for 40 years, was there any police involvement and any investigation at
all. He has to understand that. He has to – and for him to act on that there.
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
MR. TEGGART: Thank you.
MR. FINUCANE: I think I would just like to, again, thank you personally, Mr.
Chairman, for your continued involvement and help. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t
be the case, but it is the case, that we have to travel this far to get
significant movement on our case, and we appreciate both of your help and the
help of all your colleagues here.
I think this hearing speaks for itself. You described it as a “no-brainer.”
The past is still very much relevant. And unfortunately, it has the ability if
not dealt with correctly to really destabilize our present society.
MACAIRT: I was just going to reiterate what John was saying, that if you could
emphasize to Mr. Paterson that this commission supports our views, that echoes
of the past resonate in the present, and our communities that – as can be seen
from the recent dissident balance, can be on a knife edge if these matters
aren’t dealt with.
MS. WINTER: I would just like to thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for your
declaration of accelerated and continued support because American assistance
has always helped to focus the mind of the U.K. government when it comes to
these human rights issues, and to request that you consider having further
hearings on Northern Ireland whether in this forum or under the auspices of the
Foreign Affairs Committee because it is this kind of hearing which does bring
home to our government that the world is watching them and that there are still
things that need fixing in Northern Ireland. Thank you very much.
REP. SMITH: Let me be very clear: There will be follow-up hearings and we
await a decision by Secretary of State Paterson with regards to all of your
inquiries. And so I thank you for saying that but I want to assure you this is
the first in a series of hearings.
MS. WINTER: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you, and the hearing is adjourned. And thank you all.