Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:
U.S. Helsinki Commission
Prerequisites for Progress in Northern Ireland
Widow of Murdered Human Rights Lawyer Patrick Finucane
British-Irish Rights Watch
Relatives for Justice
The Hearing Was Held From 2:00 p.m. To 4:00 p.m. in 2247 Rayburn House Office
Building, Washington, D.C., Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Moderating
Date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Federal News Service
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): The Commission on Security and
Cooperation in Europe will come to order. And I want to welcome our very
distinguished panelists to this hearing. Let me say in the outset – and I know
you know this – but just last week I and some of the other Members were at the
funeral of Don Payne, who had a deep compassion for the people of Northern
Ireland. And he will be deeply missed.
The funeral was actually five hours of memorials by some 30 individuals,
including President Clinton. So it was a very, very meaningful funeral. In
addition to his work there, I would note parenthetically, that I chair the
Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Committee. He served as my ranking
member. And when the Democrats had control, I served as his ranking member.
So we exchanged seats several times and worked very, very well together. He
will be missed.
Today’s hearing is called “Prerequisites for Progress in Northern Ireland,” and
our purpose today is to assess the progress made in Northern Ireland to date,
with a focus on what more can be done to ensure that peace is self-sustaining,
that people can reconcile their differences to build a better future together,
and that justice ultimately prevails. This takes a 100-percent commitment –
not a 60-percent or even 80-percent commitment – to fulfill the promises made.
While there has been much progress, I believe that the unfulfilled British
commitment -- the broken commitment, unless the British government reverses
course – in the Pat Finucane case is threatening the consolidation of the peace
process. In connection with the Good Friday peace agreement, the British
government promised, as we all know, to conduct public inquiries into the
Finucane and other cases where collusion was suspected.
Subsequently, the British government has backtracked in regard to the 1989
murder of human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane, despite the recommendation –
which, again, the British government agreed to abide by – of the international
respected jurist and former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory back in
2004. I note parenthetically that Judge Peter Cory testified on two occasions
before the commission and before my subcommittee. And he couldn’t have been
more emphatic than he was as to how integral it was that justice and absolutely
a public inquiry be followed in the case of Patrick Finucane. He was
articulate and very, very educated, and very incisive in his words. He
repeated over and over again, and said: There’s no other option. There’s no
other choice than to do the public inquiry.
The decision not to proceed with a public inquiry is a glaring public breach of
faith. It is a source of enormous frustration to Pat Finucane’s family and to
his many friends. It resonates throughout Northern Ireland, calling into
question the British government’s commitment to peace and reconciliation. This
is particularly sad because the British government has taken so many other
positive, truly honorable steps, many of which were painful for large sectors
of the British public and official opinion – such as the Bloody Sunday Inquiry
released in 2010.
To call all of that into question by reneging on the promised Finucane inquiry
is a tragedy. The British government has admitted that it did collude in the
Finucane murder, yet resolutely blocks any public inquiry into the collusion.
The question asks itself: After so many positive steps, is the British
government really going to diminish the good it’s done since 1998 in order to
protect the identity of people who share responsibility for this heinous crime?
In closing, I’d like to thank the Irish government for its plans to promote the
Northern Ireland peace process as a case study for addressing conflict
situations and post-conflict reconciliation elsewhere in Europe. Last month,
the Irish foreign minister, in his capacity as the Chair-in-Office of the OSCE,
testified in a hearing of this commission about these plans. Despite some of
the problems we are going to talk about today, there has been real progress on
the ground in the north of Ireland, due also to the goodwill of the people on
We have an excellent panel of witnesses today to update us on developments and
provide useful suggestions for further action. First, we’ll hear from
Geraldine Finucane, the widow of Patrick Finucane. Geraldine was there, along
with her three children, when assassins entered the Finucane home and took her
husband’s life. We are grateful for your presence here today, Geraldine. It’s
so great to see you again. You have been here before. And you have, with
great grace and great courage, admonished all of us – including the U.S.
Congress, the President of the United States and certainly the government of
the United Kingdom – to finally, at long last, do a public inquiry and get to
the bottom of the truth rather than engaging in cover-up.
Next, we’ll hear from Christopher Stanley. His extensive experience as a
lawyer, and currently with British-Irish Rights Watch, has made him an
effective advocate and an expert on public policy reform and the Bill of Rights
for Northern Ireland. We look forward to his insights and recommendations this
And finally, we’ll hear from Mark Thompson, who is Director of Relatives for
Justice. He’ll describe for us the impact justice can have on healing the
wounds of violence in Northern Ireland, and what happens when justice is not
forthcoming and those wounds are left open and exposed and festering.
I’d like to now yield to Dr. Burgess, one of our fellow commissioners on this
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL BURGESS (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for
calling the hearing. In the interest of time, because I know we’re going to
have some floor activity coming up shortly, let me just submit my statement for
the record and we’ll go right on to our witnesses.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Dr. Burgess. I’d like to now turn the time
to Geraldine Finucane for which time she may consume.
GERALDINE FINUCANE: May I start by reminding everyone just how difficult it
has been for everyone in Northern Ireland to reach our present position? Can I
remind you all of those difficult days when there was extreme diversity on how
to reach peace, when not everyone was committed, and when compromise was very
hard? I ask you to remember all that because it plays such an important role
in how we continue to move forward. Everyone worked so hard and gave so much;
it is important that what was promised is delivered, otherwise people will feel
all the work has been in vain. That is why I think the title of this hearing
is so appropriate. There are many prerequisites, but I feel it is very
important that commitments made during all the negotiations are honored.
As this committee knows from previous testimony, a commitment was made to my
family following talks between the British and Irish governments at Weston
Park. Under this agreement, an international judge was appointed, Mr. Justice
Peter Cory. He was tasked to review six cases, including that of my husband,
Patrick. Both governments agreed to fully implement his recommendations.
Although Judge Cory did recommend a public inquiry into Pat’s case, there has
been nothing but delay. Publication of the report was delayed, the
announcement of the way forward was delayed, and eventually the law was changed
to the New Inquiries Act 2005. This act has one important section which
provides the relevant government minister with power to override the tribunal
by issuing restriction notices. In my eyes, and also in Judge Cory’s eyes, it
removes independence from the tribunal.
This section of the act provided my family with a great dilemma. We felt we
only had one chance at an inquiry into Pat’s murder and the encompassing
circumstances. And we did not feel this law would let that happen. The Labour
government even drew up a restriction notice under which a tribunal would have
to operate. And that was before a panel had even been considered. It caused a
stalemate for many years. The Labour government never seemed willing to break
the logjam, but was instead happy to let time pass and blame us.
Following the change of government in 2010, we were asked for a meeting by the
new Secretary of State Owen Paterson. In November 2010, my son John and I
listened to him tell us his government was committed to resolving this case and
move it forward. Delay suited no one. We were encouraged.
What followed was an engagement between my family, our legal team and
representatives of the British government. John and I met with the secretary
of state in Belfast and here in D.C., and lawyers from my family, including
both my sons, and attended meetings over the course of last year with the
secretary of state and his officials. Most of these meetings were private in
order to facilitate open discussion. The process was part of a review by the
government to determine whether a public inquiry remained in the public
interest. The government wanted to know if we would participate in an inquiry,
and if so under what conditions.
Our objection to part of the Inquiries Act is well documented. We oppose the
use of restriction notices, as I have explained, because a government minister
can impose these upon an inquiry at will. We had asked the previous government
not to use them, but they would not agree. However, a recent case – the Baha
Mousa inquiry – created just such a precedent. Restriction notices were not
deployed, and decisions about the restriction of evidence was left to the
We told the government that an inquiry operating along similar lines would be
something we could participate in. Indications from the government officials
were very encouraging, and at no time were we advised that an alternative to an
inquiry was also under consideration. Lest there be any misunderstanding, we
committed our position in writing in a submission delivered to the government.
As it makes clear, the focus of the discussions between our family and the
government was the manner in which the inquiry might proceed. It was the
government itself that brought the Baha Mousa inquiry into discussions as a
model to promote progress. A considerable amount of time was spent exploring
how it could be utilized as a blueprint for my husband’s case.
At no stage was a review in the manner that was subsequently announced by the
prime minister ever discussed. Following the conclusion of our engagement with
officials, we learned in late summer 2011 that the Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron,
wished to meet with us in Downing Street. We were encouraged by this
invitation, and speculation was intense that the government was finally to
honor its commitment to a credible inquiry, originally announced in 2004.
Furthermore, in a telephone conversation between a senior NIO official and my
lawyer, Peter Madden, we were told that the prime minister wished to speak with
us personally and was confident we would be happy with what we heard. We
assumed this confidence would be a reflection of our position that had been
clearly outlined during the preceding 11 months. We could not bring ourselves
to believe that we were being invited as guests to the prime minister’s home,
just to be refused the public inquiry promised so many years ago.
That David Cameron did so, and in such a public fashion, ranks as one of the
most cruel and devastating experiences since our campaign began. Not only were
my family and I forced to listen to the prime minister renege on a promise made
by the British government, we had to hear him tell us over and over what it was
we really wanted, how we really wanted to achieve it, and what our ultimate
response would be. It was clear that we had been lured to Downing Street under
false pretenses by a disreputable government led by a dishonorable man. We
felt humiliated publicly and misled privately.
What Mr. Cameron has established is a review of the papers in the case. The
person appointed, Sir Desmond de Silva, will simply read statements collected
by the Stevens Investigation team. Although he will be permitted to speak with
relevant persons, this will all be done behind closed doors. My family is not
permitted to participate. We, and indeed anyone, will see nothing, hear
nothing and say nothing. If anyone refuses to cooperate with Sir Desmond, he
has no powers to compel or sanction them.
My family and I, and indeed many others in Northern Ireland, have no confidence
in this process. We cannot be expected to take the British prime minister’s
word that it will be effective when he is reneging on a government commitment
in order to do it. People are now asking the question, if the government is
unwilling to deal with the Finucane case in an open, thorough, transparent
manner, what are they going to do about all the other issues that need dealt
The case of Pat Finucane shows that promises of the British government can be
easily broken, and that their desire to help Northern Ireland is halfhearted at
best. This will impact deeply on Northern Ireland on how everyone moves
forward. Collusion affected everyone, and indeed continues to do so. Unless
the depth of it is exposed, no one will lose their suspicions, confidence will
remained undermined and no one will be able to settle to a stable future.
My son John and I are in D.C. once again. And once again I am testifying. And
once again, I wish to thank all of our supporters in Congress and the U.S.
administration. At this point, I would like to pay tribute to Representative
Donald Payne who died recently. Donald was a politician of a truly
inspirational kind, dedicated to human rights domestically and internationally,
and personally a kind and generous man. He supported my campaign for many
years, and for that I am truly grateful. He will be sorely missed, and my
condolences and that of my family go out to his family at this time.
I thank the committee for holding this hearing on a subject that is so
important and relevant to the current issues in Northern Ireland. Collusion is
a nasty strategy which did not discriminate on religious or political grounds.
There is no doubt that if progress is to continue in Northern Ireland, dealing
with my husband’s case is an absolute prerequisite. Thank you very much.
REP. SMITH: Mrs. Finucane, thank you so very much for your eloquent – as you
have done so brilliantly in the past, asked for simple justice, simple
transparency, openness. And it does beg the question once again: What is it
that the government is hiding? Why is there a cover-up? You know, Judge Cory
when he testified and when he admonished any jurist or law enforcement official
from being involved with what would be a truncated investigation, said you go
wherever the information takes you.
And if it fingers people who may perhaps be in high places, then so be it.
Eventually this information will come out. Nothing ever remains hidden or
dormant or under the table forever. But it does beg the question why, through
successive governments in the U.K., we have had this unwillingness to follow-up
with the clearly stated agreement that led to the Good Friday Agreement, and
one of those provisions included a public inquiry into the murder of your
husband, Patrick Finucane. So I think – and I can say this without any fear of
contradiction – our commission, and I know many Members of Congress, both sides
of the aisle, will continue to push hard.
But it has now gotten to the point, and again as you pointed out, you were
lured to 10 Downing Street for the cruel and devastating information that was
conveyed to you by Prime Minister Cameron, the reneging on what you thought was
going to be good news and then the government reneges and issues a very, very
bit of awful news. That only brings, I would respectfully submit, dishonor and
suspicion upon the government. And that, again, is both Labour and
Conservative, because it seems not to matter. But it does beg the question,
what is it that they are hiding? Why the cover-up?
I’d like to yield to my friend Dr. Burgess. We do have some votes that came as
you were speaking.
REP. BURGESS: Do you want to go ahead and vote?
REP. SMITH: OK, we’ll come back. Again, Mrs. Finucane, I want to thank you
for your valiant defense of your husband, and we all deeply grieve for the loss
of him. And many of us got to know him after the fact, and the tremendous work
that he did as a defense attorney. And certainly, with your son John who is
here in the back who has testified himself, what a legacy of a family that
absolutely will not be deterred in getting the truth and for fighting for human
rights for all.
I remember that Rosemary Nelson said, before she was assassinated, that no one
could forget Pat Finucane and the chilling message that that sent to every
defense lawyer throughout all of Northern Ireland. And yet, she stood strong
as well, and paid the ultimate price when she was murdered in that terrible,
terrible car explosion which was obviously another investigation that was
required. So thank you, Geraldine. You are an inspiration to each and every
one of us. You are a true human rights warrior and a champion. And we are all
indebted to you for your courage and bravery and your clarity. How could any
lawmaker, prime minister, president, Member of Congress hear your words and not
be moved? So thank you.
We will stand in brief recess.
REP. SMITH: The commission hearing will resume, and I’d like to apologize for
that rather lengthy delay. I would now like to go to our second witness. And
again, Geraldine, thank you for your testimony. Several members did indicate
they will be coming by, so hopefully that’ll happen shortly.
CHRISTOPHER STANLEY: Thank you very much. I can’t hope to emulate the
eloquence of Geraldine Finucane’s testimony, but I will try and be concise and
brief and to the point. I am part of British-Irish Rights Watch, and it’s
important to state that we’re an independent, completely independent,
nongovernmental organization. And I also think it’s important to state that
we’re based in London. We’re in the vicinity of Westminster.
Thank you. I’m grateful to this honorable commission for allowing us to give
testimony to its hearing on “Prerequisites for Progress in Northern Ireland,”
as a forum for following up and developing the themes of the previous U.S.
Helsinki Commission hearing of March 16th, 2011 on Northern Ireland, “Why
Justice in Individual Cases Matters.” We request our longer written testimony
be entered into the record of the Helsinki Commission.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Stanley, without objection, so ordered.
MR. STANLEY: Thank you. And we also welcome the opportunity for the evidence
given in written form by the Pat Finucane Center, by the Committee on the
Administration of Justice and by Dr. Patricia Lundy of the University of Ulster
also to be accepted into the written record of the Helsinki Commission.
REP. SMITH: Without objection, so ordered.
MR. STANLEY: Thank you. We wish to thank the chair of the Helsinki
Commission, yourself, Representative Smith, in particular for your longstanding
interest in human rights in Northern Ireland. And I’d also, of course, like to
take the opportunity to mark the recent passing of Representative Donald Payne
– although not a member of this commission, as has been noted, but with an
abiding interest in bringing peace and human rights to Northern Ireland. And
we send condolences to his family.
In this oral testimony, BIRW, British-Irish Rights Watch, outlines what we
consider to be the actions that still need to be taken to complete the peace
process and address potential implications of the failure to take these actions
on the situation in Northern Ireland. What we said last year still stands, as
unfortunately little or no progress has been achieved. And in some instances,
particularly in relation to the case of the murder of Patrick Finucane, there
has been regression in terms of no progress.
We also have – and I’ll talk about this later and it’s what my colleagues will
also address – deep-seated flaws and problems with the available mechanisms of
dealing with the past, in terms of a police ombudsman’s office which is
seriously undermined and a historical enquiries team which is actually part of
the police. So it’s a question of who guards the guards.
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 still do not know why their loved one died or they themselves were
injured. Many lies have been told, particularly about state collusion in
killings. There’s a great thirst for the truth, particularly as people emerge
from the shadow of the conflict and are empowered and confident enough to ask
difficult and uncomfortable questions about what happened and why no one has
been held accountable in so many cases.
Therefore, our first prerequisite continues to be the introduction of an
effective, human rights compliant mechanism for dealing with all the unresolved
individual cases arising from the conflict. This mechanism would be
independent of the British state and would accord with the elements required
for the discharge of human rights violations identified in international law,
and particularly of the jurisprudence applicable to the U.K. as a signatory of
the European Convention on Human Rights.
One of the implications for the continuing failure to introduce such a
mechanism will be that the past 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,
again, respectfully request 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.
Truth-recovery mechanisms do exist, as I’ve just said, in Northern Ireland,
having been developed mostly as a result of the Good Friday Belfast Agreement.
And we and other civil society organizations engage with these mechanisms to
assist our clients. Sometimes these existing mechanisms are able to offer what
is needed. However, in some core aspects, the mechanisms are flawed,
especially in regard to their independence of the state, which is so often
under scrutiny for its role in the conflict.
We and others, including our colleagues at this hearing, do not shy away from
our responsibility to point out the flaws in the available systems and advocate
for their reform as a second prerequisite for progress in Northern Ireland.
All parties to the conflict cannot avoid the political, legal and moral
obligations arising for the killings and injuries, other forms of loss that
occurred at that time.
It is a time not too distant: 1969 to 1998, within our lifetime. It is recent
history but should not be treated as historical. The 9th to 11th of August,
1971, is not historical to those families of the victims of the Ballymurphy
internment massacre. The 12th of February, 1989, is not historical to
Geraldine Finucane and her family. The 15th of August, 1998, after the Good
Friday Belfast Agreement, is not historical to those victims and the families
of the victims of the Omagh bombing. There can be no progress here unless
truth is exposed and confronted by all those responsible and dealt with in the
form of redress arrived through consensus.
And finally, a third prerequisite for progress is therefore not consigning this
past history. This is not history that can yet be analyzed by historians or
archived in some form of collective memory and filed as forgotten, or even
worse, dealt with. That simply will not do, despite the apparent political
will to do so. This history is too fresh and alive to be written, but must be
the subject of anxious scrutiny of judgment.
This is why the promises, obligations and expectations made in domestic and
international agreements in places such as Stormont, Weston Park and St.
Andrews must be fulfilled and not reneged upon.
Those outside Northern Ireland must realize that the peace is fragile, because
the ruins of the past have not been healed. London, Dublin and Washington
continue to have obligations here, despite the U.K.’s protestations about
devolution. The Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Belfast
Agreement is now moribund and conflated with a national political agenda. The
Weston Park agreement just failed to deliver what is required by the family of
Patrick Finucane, and so forth. Broken covenants do not ensure progress within
a society. Northern Ireland, having come so far, deserves and expects more,
and the honoring of promises is a fourth prerequisite for progress in Northern
And that’s our testimony. Thank you, sir.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Stanley, thank you so very much for your testimony, your very
specific recommendations. As you know so well, Jane Winter in the past has
been before this commission and before the Human Rights Subcommittee, and you
continue that very extraordinarily fine tradition of presenting incisive
recommendations, and I thank you for that.
MR. STANLEY: Thank you, sir.
REP. SMITH: I’d like to now recognize Mr. Thompson.
MARK THOMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the invitation and opportunity to
address this very important hearing. I too want to put on the record and
recognize the passing of Congressman Donald Payne. We had the privilege of
hosting him at Relatives for Justice on two occasions in Belfast, and it was a
I begin my testimony.
Eighteen years on from the first cessations of violence in the north and 14
years on from the peace agreement, our society has undoubtedly been transformed
for the better. The sharing of power by traditional political opponents, once
unthinkable, is as natural a thing as if it were always the case. We have much
to be thankful for, especially those of us who have been so adversely affected
Many observers of Irish affairs could be forgiven for believing that this
somehow signifies that everything has been resolved and that the focus, the
concentration once given, is no longer required. However, this could not be
further from reality.
Arguably, the most contentious issue of who did what to whom during the
conflict, that of responsibility, culpability and accountability, requires
addressing in a structured, resourced and independent way.
The failure to do so thus far casts a shadow not only over the lives of many of
the victims and survivors but also society too. The hurts of the past are as
present as the past is. Hardly a week goes by without mention in the
mainstream media and within civil society of an atrocity whereby the bereaved
and injured of all persuasions give public voice to their experience and for
resolution of human rights abuses. Families are seeking truth, acknowledgment
and recognition of their loss and injury. They are now telling publicly what,
for them, were once unspeakable truths. They are breaking the silence after
many years and have taken courageous steps towards addressing injustice. All
parties to the conflict have been rightly confronted and challenged by these
developments. The bereaved and the injured bear witness, testimony and now
The past week I have been part of a delegation of relatives visiting the U.S.
that have witnessed the murders of 15 of their loved ones and the injuring of
14 in three separate incidents. As part of this important hearing, I request
placed into the record reports carried out by Relatives for Justice into these
REP. SMITH: Without objection, it will be ordered.
MR. THOMPSON: These particular killings present challenges for the British
authorities. And as a sovereign government, there are certain standards and
legal obligations that must be met. Institutional avoidance, prevarication and
obfuscation sum up the official response to these killings. And perfunctory
processes exist that are presented as models for resolution by a British
secretary of state who has abdicated his government’s responsibility concerning
acknowledgement and accountability. These predicable outcomes, the result of
vested interests, underline the internationally accepted norm that those
responsible for violations cannot examine those same violations.
No doubt the British government will present that the PSNI are one of the most
regulated police services in the world. They will justify this with the
oversight role of the police ombudsman and that the PSNI's Historical Enquiries
Team is a unique initiative reviewing all conflict-related deaths. However,
scratch the surface, and much is revealed that tells a very different story.
Former RUC members, including members of Special Branch, have been re-employed
by the PSNI to work on legacy cases and are employed as civilian workers. In
this capacity they are thus unaccountable to the police ombudsman’s office.
The HET has also recruited a significant number of former RUC members within
its ranks. They too avail of this technical loophole and are unaccountable to
the police ombudsman.
And even within the PSNI’s own Legacy Unit, a former senior member of Special
Branch has been employed as a civilian person who vets material that goes to
the courts and to inquiries and to inquests. Effectively the role of the
police ombudsman’s office has been hollowed out in respect of its retrospective
remit examining legacy cases.
The bereaved and the injured of the conflict from all experiences and
backgrounds want the truth. They want validation of being wronged rather than
vilification for standing up and speaking out. The British government has
sought to make standing up for justice a negative concept. We live with the
legacy of impunity. Challenging impunity is a necessary prerequisite to
rebuilding a society and in creating the promotion and protection of human
rights and in the administration of justice.
In a recent report for the World Bank, they linked development and security to
justice. Truth informs positive change and reform. Justice is the bedrock of
democracy. People are dying without truth and without justice. And we owe it
to them to collectively address the legacy of the past in a progressive way
that delivers truth, accountability and transitional justice that consolidates
the peace and heals the wounds. We also owe it to future generations. The
cost of not doing so is too great. The quote “Those who forget the past are
condemned to repeat the past” has never been more present.
An independent international truth commission could potentially provide the
best opportunity for truth recovery for the greatest number of people affected
by the conflict. Such a process must be underpinned by key values and
principles, including those of independence and inclusiveness. Narrowing the
permissible amount of lies, securing the truth, transitional justice and
accountability is the only fitting memorial to those killed and for those
All of the key issues within the peace process have required an international
role and remit. Dealing with the past is the last piece of the jigsaw of the
peace process, and arguably the most contentious and challenging. We require
international assistance and not perfunctory processes that politick, that
conceal and prevent the truth from emerging. No government, no organization,
no party to the conflict with a vested interest in the outcome should
determine, lead and drive processes that address past violations. Rather, they
should be subject to a process which is independent.
The reality is that children are growing up with a narrative of injustice
rather than a narrative of hope. The issues are far from going away. If
anything they are growing, and they will not be brushed under the carpet. Mona
Ashrawi, U.N. assistant high commissioner for human rights, recently said:
“People don’t forget. They keep their loved ones close.” Facing the truth is
the only option.
We need to face the past and the unpalatable truths. Otherwise they will have
a negative and corrosive effect on our body politic and throughout civil
society. Individual, communal and societal healing, recovery and
reconciliation can only take root within the context of such a process. We
will be a stronger and a better society for it. Thank you, sir.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Thompson. That is very, very disturbing
information that you’ve conveyed to the commission and that needs to be further
investigated by us, by others. So I will get to that very shortly. But we’ve
been joined by Eliot Engel, a good friend and colleague of mine. We both serve
on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and he has been very active in all things
related to Northern Ireland for years.
Congressman Engel does have to catch a plane, but I’d like to yield to him for
any comments he might have, and then invite to the table two additional
witnesses, without objection, for comments from them. And then we will go to
some additional questions.
REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to
come here, even though I have a plane to catch, to show my solidarity and
strong support for what our people are testifying here for today. Geraldine,
welcome. It’s always good to see you, Mrs. Finucane, welcome. And to all the
other panelists as well – my good friend Malachy McAllister also.
Please know – as you already do, but I want to state it publicly for the record
– that there are a lot of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that
are very sympathetic to what you have to say. I think while we move forward
with the Good Friday accords, we should not use the Good Friday accords as an
attempt to sort of paper over everything and say everything is just hunky-dory,
everything’s right, put everything behind us and let’s move on.
I think we can only move on when the truth is finally told, when people who are
culpable admit their culpability or when people point out exactly what
happened. While I welcome the British prime minister’s apologies for Bloody
Sunday and think it took a lot of courage for him to say it, there are more
things that need to be said. There are more things that need to be done.
There are more things that need to be looked into.
And so I just wanted to come here. I have this atrocity pamphlet – which was
given to me, and I’ll be reading it in my district in Pearl River, New York –
this ambush assassination and impunity pamphlet, and this massacre collusion
pamphlet. These are things that I believe that all of our colleagues – Mr.
Smith’s colleagues and my colleagues – should have. And I hope we can get
copies for every member of Congress so that they can read. It’s easy reading,
you know. It’s not something that’s a thousand pages and you got to go through
it and whatever. It’s very short and very succinct.
We know atrocities were committed. No one disputes that. And we also know
that there were cover-ups, and no one disputes that. And we all know that
there was collusion within the highest perhaps levels of the British
government, along with some of the paramilitaries. I think that it helps to
get to the bottom of it. I think if peace and justice is to prevail, we need
to know what really happened.
And I just want to assure all of you – Mr. Stanley and Mr. Thompson and Mrs.
Finucane – that I will not rest; I will leave no stone unturned. And I look to
my good friend Congressman Smith, who you know will leave no stone unturned.
And there are others with us who will leave no stone unturned until we get to
You know, there’s a picture on this pamphlet here showing the shop of Sean
Graham here. And Malachy McAllister was telling me the other day that he lived
down the block from it in South Belfast. I also, by the way, mentioned this to
Gerry Adams yesterday when I had the occasion to talk to him. I think the
United States Congress played a major role in trying to bring peace and justice
to the north of Ireland. And I think the United States Congress still has a
major role to play. And I just want to assure you that I will continue to play
I’m sorry I have to run; I mean no disrespect. I wanted very much to come.
And in fact I had my office get me a later plane because I didn’t want to miss
coming here and just to tell you that you have my hundred-percent, unequivocal
support. And Chris Smith and I and others are going to work together to get to
the bottom of all of this. Thank you, and God bless. Thank you, Mr. Smith.
REP. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Eliot Engel, a good friend and colleague, for being
here and for his wonderful work on behalf of Northern Ireland.
I would like to welcome to the witness table Brian Gormally, director of the
Committee for Administration of Justice, CAJ. I would note parenthetically
that, you know, on my trips to Belfast often would meet with CAJ; would get
timely insights as to what was happening on the ground, as well as far-reaching
recommendations as to what I and other members of the U.S. House and Senate
ought to be doing. And in the past CAJ representatives have testified before
both my subcommittee and the commission. Thank you for being here.
And Patricia Lundy, who is a senior lecturer at the University of Ulster and
has done tremendous amounts of research on the Historical Enquiries Team, if
she could join us as well and present her testimony. Let’s begin with Mr.
BRIAN GORMALLY: Thank you, Chairman, and thank you for the opportunity to give
a very brief oral presentation to this important commission. I also associate
myself with the sentiments about the untimely death of Representative Payne. I
didn’t have the privilege of meeting him myself, but his contribution to human
rights in Northern Ireland lives on in CAJ’s institutional memory.
I just want to briefly talk from a human rights perspective about the
continuing breaches in Northern Ireland. We have made a huge amount of
progress, but as has already been apparent, there is unfinished business and
also attempts to roll back some of the advances that have been made.
The U.K. is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. And
Article 2 of that convention promotes and guarantees the right to life. Recent
jurisprudence in the European court has held that, amongst other duties, a
state must properly investigate any apparently unlawful killing, especially
where state agents may be involved. An investigation must be effective,
prompt, transparent and independent, and also involve the next of kin to the
extent necessary to protect their interests and their rights.
In CAJ’s opinion, the United Kingdom is seriously in breach of its European
conventional – Convention Article 2 responsibilities to protect the right to
life in respect of cases where state involvement in unlawful killing is
alleged. In a number of high-profile cases, including the Finucane case, it
has refused to carry out proper investigations into possible direct or
collusive involvement in killings. And it be apparent from the list of
criteria that I read out that the so-called review that the British government
has offered in the Finucane case does not meet international human rights
standards for investigating an unlawful killing.
In our view, this is not a matter of the past but of the protection of the
right to life in the present and the future. The reality is of a major Western
government failing to put in place the investigative and regulative mechanisms
necessary to prevent its agents from engaging in extrajudicial executions or
other unlawful killings. We are deeply concerned that this failure is leading
to a culture of impunity amongst British military, intelligence and security
agencies and may result in their further involvement in unlawful killings.
There is also evidence that the failings by the U.K. government give cover and
encouragement to those states, including Council of Europe members, engaged in
much more egregious human rights abuses. These cases arising from the past in
Northern Ireland are therefore vital to pursue for all those who care about
human rights and the responsibilities of major Western powers to take the lead
in their protection and promotion.
There are various mechanisms that can currently be used in Northern Ireland to
investigate past unlawful killings that might involve state collusion.
However, none of them at the present time meet fully the criteria that the
European court has set down. And we support the call that Mark Thompson has
made for a comprehensive way of dealing with human rights abuses and other
atrocities in the past in Northern Ireland. Without that, the peace process is
still at risk.
I just want to mention briefly the extent to which the Office of the Police
Ombudsman has been subverted over the past few years. It’s an office that we
fully support. It is one of the most powerful police complaints mechanisms in
the world and has a duty also to investigate paste cases where police
misconduct may have been involved. I won’t go into detail; the evidence that
I’ve given has been kindly put in the record. But at the present time, we have
to say that the police ombudsman’s office, just like the Historical Enquiries
Team that Patricia Lundy is going to talk about, are not able to properly carry
out the U.K.’s obligations to human rights and in particular the right to life.
The right to life is the most important human right, and we could argue that
the government’s foremost duty is to protect it. While there have been huge
advances in Northern Ireland, and human rights including equality are better
protected than ever before, the lack of effective investigations into unlawful
killings is a dangerous gap. It has the capacity to undermine the peace
process and to weaken confidence in policing and the new society as a whole.
Although these cases happened in the past, this is not a historical question.
It is a matter for the present and for the future. It’s a central human rights
issue. If we cannot trust the government to fully investigate cases where its
agents may have killed citizens, what can we trust it with?
Thank you, Chairman.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Gormally. I’d like to now yield to Dr.
PATRICIA LUNDY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to
present my oral testimony.
My testimony is based specifically on the Historical Enquiries Team. I was
granted access to research the HET by Hugh Orde, the former chief constable.
And for three years, I observed the day-to-day operations of the Historical
Enquiries Team. I also had access to all the members of staff and also to
documentation. Part of that research also involves interviewing families and
also analyzing the reports, which the HET delivered to families. So I think I
have a fairly good overview and insight into the Historical Enquiries Team.
What I would say is the British government’s approach to dealing with the past
has been a very fragmented approach, a piecemeal approach. But I think that
the picture that is painted at the moment is one where there is progress, where
there is a package of measures and those measures are actually working.
They’re delivering for families. But I would suggest that my own research and
also information from NGOs and lawyers would indicate that the package of
measures, aspects of it are not working. They’re not Article 2 compliant.
I will give you some detail about my own research and the concerns that it
raised. Initially, the research considered independence, and my research finds
that there were large numbers, I suppose in a sense, of former RUC officers
employed in the HET. But significantly, those individuals that had
responsibility for control of intelligence were former past Special Branch
officers. So the entire intelligence unit was made up of former Special Branch
officers, and they acted in a gatekeeping role.
I would suggest that the HET is most certainly not independent. It is the
police investigating the police. But I think it goes a wee bit deeper than
that even. I felt that the process actually delimited access to the truth for
some families. I felt that the families had to ask the right question. If you
didn’t ask the right question, you didn’t get the answer. I also find that if
a family is represented by an NGO or a lawyer, that the quality of their report
was significantly better.
But my most recent research, I think, raises even more concerns. And this is a
piece of research which focuses on actual reports that were given to families
and it deals with the military cases, 157 cases which are usually referred to
as RMP cases, Royal Military Police investigations. And maybe just to cut, you
know, a very, very long conversation down, these cases were never properly
investigated at the time. There was an arrangement or an agreement between the
RUC chief constable at the time and also the GOC of the British Army that the
army would investigate and interview the soldiers and the police would
interview civilians. And really what happened at the end of the day was those
cases were never investigated by the police. So we have 157 cases which have
never been investigated.
So this is now on the desk of the HET, and I have analyzed a number of the
reports and the reexamination of those cases. And what I can tell you is that
there is a difference and a differentiation of treatment between the cases of
the military and paramilitary cases. Now I can list the evidence to back this
up. It’s about pre-interview disclosure. It’s about verification of illness.
It’s about the robustness of the actual interviews that take place.
And HET surprisingly will also introduce what’s called a pragmatic approach.
And the pragmatic approach is that they will interview the suspect, the
soldier, but not under caution. And really what this is, is an informal
interview, which actually goes back to the initial complaint, which was the
informal interviews carried out by the RMP. The HET’s justification for the
pragmatic approach is if you interview someone under caution, they are likely
to be more guarded, and they will not give any information. They will not be
forthcoming with information. So it’s quite an unusual practice, I would say.
And I think it’s something that which a truth commission perhaps does. But the
HET is not a truth commission. It does not have the powers. It does not have
the power of amnesty or immunity. But it’s behaving as if it is a truth
So I would suggest that in the 157 cases there are anomalies, there are
inconsistencies. And I believe that this raises serious questions about the
impartiality of the HET and the effectiveness of its investigations. So I
believe that it is certainly not Article 2 compliant in terms of independence,
effectiveness and transparency. There’s a lot more that I could talk about,
but really this is really a very quick summary of the main concerns that
research has raised.
REP. SMITH: Dr. Lundy, thank you. Thank you very much for your testimony.
And all of your full testimonies will be made part of the record. And they do
really paint a very disturbing picture at a time when many thought, despite the
huge, colossal lack of responsiveness to the case of Patrick Finucane, that in
other areas there may have been some very good progress made. The testimony
presented today injects a very serious note of caution, a big amber rather than
a green light of going forward, that there are serious problems that remain
unattended to. And I thank you for bearing witness to those concerns in such a
comprehensive manner and with such precision. Each of your testimonies are
The deterioration, the backsliding, the concerns that you raise require our
commission to really redouble our efforts to get answers, to ask the tough
questions, to try and to hold to account, to do our part, if you will. We are
going to do a letter, and I expect to have numerous Members of Congress sign
it, which even in reviewing your testimonies, will be an eye-opener. You know,
unfortunately in Congress – and I’m sure it’s in every other parliament or
congress around the world – the issue du jour, whatever the crisis might be
often crowds out longstanding problems that if unredressed and if not
investigated, do fester and lead to an impunity that some of you have spoken
We’ll ask – and I’m not sure he’ll respond – but we’ll ask the U.K. ambassador
to the United States if he would like to testify. Unlike standing committees
of the Congress or at least of the House, we’ve routinely asked and have
ambassadors come and testify before our commission in order to ask real
questions in total sincerity, hoping for and expecting real answers. So we
will issue an invitation to him to see if he would like to come and testify and
answer some of the profoundly disturbing questions that you have raised today.
We know that Prime Minister Cameron was recently here. I’m not sure – and
matter of fact, I would bet my salary -- that President Obama did not raise
issues like the Finucane case or any others. I would have hoped that he would,
but he did not – or at least I would love to be corrected on that. Reading
some of the British tabloids, they certainly gave great details about how close
and friendly they were. I mean, the state dinner and the toasts and everything
else couldn’t have been more cordial. And certainly we want good relations
with every country, including our friends in the U.K., but issues past, which
are really issues present, need to be addressed.
So thank you, each of you. This is my 14th congressional hearing on human
rights abuses in Northern Ireland, backed up by a number of visits. And I met
many of you, especially Geraldine, on those trips. But this testimony really
injects a cautionary note that things are not getting better. If anything, you
know, the idea that RUC and others, Special Branch, would be recruited and
hired to run interference – and I think as you put it, the gatekeepers – I
mean, that just begs the question as to how many – you know, we know of the
big cover-up or at least believe there’s a massive cover-up with Geraldine
Finucane’s husband’s case -- but how many other cover-ups small and
intermediate and large are occurring every day as information is just thrown
away that otherwise would be actionable and very embarrassing? So your
testimonies, maybe more than those of other hearings, are important, because
people keep expecting: “Oh, Northern Ireland. Everything’s fine there.” It’s
not so fine. And we need to redouble our efforts.
I plan on doing a resolution that will focus on the Finucane case. I’ve done
that in the past. It has passed the House, putting all of us on record,
generating a robust debate of the floor of the House. But I think we need to
incorporate many of the very significant issues that you’ve all raised today.
And I again thank you for that.
So much has to be done. The key is in the follow-up. You know, you’ve
presented evidence that begs action, so thank you for that.
I would like to ask Geraldine, if you could, Mrs. Finucane, if you could just
further elaborate on what it was like when you had that visit with the prime
minister. I mean, you couldn’t have been more clear about your reaction to it,
but you certainly thought you were going there to receive good news, only to be
disappointed once again.
MS. FINUCANE: Yes, yes, we certainly did. And I do have to say that when the
meeting started on Downing Street, Mr. Cameron started extremely well by saying
it was a terrible crime, something that shouldn’t have happened. And he
pointed out that he was only 46 or 47 years of age, and he hadn’t been in
politics at the time, so he wasn’t going to tread on anybody’s toes. He
admitted that there had been state collusion in my husband’s murder. And he
said that he felt it was necessary to find out how high up the chain of command
that actually went. That was the start of the meeting, and I was sitting
there, thinking this is absolutely superb, and this is recognition of
government official position on collusion. Marvelous. And he then went on to
announce the paper review, in which we would have no input at all.
As you can imagine, the arguments put forward by myself and the rest of the
family were very strong. Mr. Cameron did not seem to have any reply to this
and seemed to get rather frustrated and flustered during the meeting. Indeed,
when John was asking him a question at one point, he sort of gestured and
pointed out around the windows outside and said, you know, there are people in
Whitehall who will not let me have this inquiry, so this is the best there is
to offer. And that was a rather shocking statement, and I really would like to
know what he means by that.
REP. SMITH: Great question.
You know, Mr. Stanley, how do the British people feel about a public inquiry
that was promised that was absolutely part of the Good Friday agreement? Are
they angry? Are they worried about what the government might be hiding?
MR. STANLEY: I think there is anxiety in many levels of British society about
power in the U.K. and who holds power and the relationship to the executive and
democracy and the erosion of that relationship. It’s partly in response to
recent cases which we try to bring as analogous to Patrick Finucane’s case,
where the British state has been held to be found accountable for torturing
Iraqi civilians, for example, and let’s have public inquiries into those
atrocities in Basra and so forth. That’s the model which now Geraldine and her
family will accept as a model inquiry. But for those truths to come out about
an instance in 2003 about breaches of Article 2 and breaches of Article 3,
which received very extensive press report, and then you have the extensive
let-down of a family being invited to Downing Street by the British prime
minister to be told, we’re going to do it behind paper, we’re going to be
behind the doors, secret investigation of a paper review for the third time –
it’s simply not acceptable. And I think the British public, even though not
directly, but I think there is a concern about this response to the abuse of
power by government and by the executive.
REP. SMITH: Regarding the subversion of the Office of the Police Ombudsman,
which was included in your testimony, Mr. Gormally, we had Christopher Patten
testify at one of my previous hearings. I remember at the time the biggest
concern that I raised to him was the grandfathering or the bad apples, as he
called them, the people particularly in higher positions who would not be gone
after. There are a lot of good things, obviously like the creation of the new
police services. There are many real reforms. And we certainly showered
praise upon that part of it. But again, others were grandfathered in, if you
will. But the police ombudsman was created, you know, from those reforms. Are
there people like Patten and others who are upset with this subversion of that
MR. GORMALLY: Well, I think – I think –
REP. SMITH: Are they aware of it?
MR. GORMALLY: Well, yes, I think they are. And the person most upset, I would
suggest, was the previous police ombudsman, Baroness Nuala O’Loan.
REP. SMITH: Nuala O’Loan.
MR. GORMALLY: And she has now publicly criticized the subversion of that
office. I mean, what has happened is that the powers, the legislation that
established the office are good and certainly capable of conducting the human
rights compliant investigation into unlawful killing.
But over the past period, we have had interference by the government in the
appointment process of the last ombudsman. He wasn’t given proper security
vetting. There are problems with the relations of the ombudsman with families
and the whole question involving the families since Nuala O’Loan left and the
current ombudsman took over. He has redrawn or failed to use the definition of
collusion that Judge Peter Cory developed, which is a perfectly adequate and
broad definition, so that he points to a list of failings by police or
incompetence or evidence being accidentally destroyed – facts that all put
together would add up to collusion, but then he concludes there wasn’t any
collusion because of his own invented, narrow definition.
In terms of independence, again, the whole appointment lowered the
independence, the intelligence, again, as with ATT is provided by the
intelligence unit of the PSNI, which has a large element of staffing by former
RUC Special Branch men. Reports are being rewritten to exonerate the police.
There are deep divisions – real deep divisions -- in the office, with some
senior investigators refusing to sign off on reports that were then published,
because they’d been changed to not reflect their actual findings.
The Criminal Justice Inspectorate, which is an independent inspectorate body,
has found bad governance and so on, and so much so that the current ombudsman
was forced to resign, although he is still formally in post. But recently
they’ve reinterpreted legislation, got apparently a secret council’s opinion.
That means that they will not investigate past cases that had been investigated
by the police in the past so that it’s a completely narrow interpretation, not
one that Nuala O’Loan adopted. And that is going to restrict its freedom of
And we are very concerned that what’s happening is that with the appointment of
a new ombudsman imminent – well, at least I understand it’s down to the last
four, Minister David Ford was telling me yesterday, although he’s not involved
in the appointment process since it’s the office of the first and deputy first
minister that makes the appointment – but what we’re concerned about is that
his or her freedom of action is being constrained and hamstrung by a number of
developments, in particular this reinterpretation of the legislation.
Now, there is a process, supposedly, of reform going on because the ombudsman’s
investigation into historic cases has had to be suspended, and it will really
be very important that our friends in the United States maintain pressure upon
the Ministry of Justice to make sure this program of reform is effective and
restores the police ombudsman to what it once was, a very powerful and
highly-respected institution, which is essential to maintain trust in our new
REP. SMITH: Mr. Thompson?
MR. THOMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think effectively we have three key
mechanisms that are dealing with the past currently. We’ve an inquest system,
have the coroner. We have the historical inquiries team and the police
ombudsman. And what we effectively have is we have a number of senior civil
servants, formally the NIO, within the Department of Justice and around all if
these issues, and former Special Branch people who themselves are actively
being scrutinized by these processes back in the system, and they’re flouting
Let me give you a couple of examples, if I will. I’m supporting a number of
families that have been affected by the policy of shoot to kill, which was
investigated in the mid-1980s, which took place as six killings over a matter
of a number of weeks in the year of 1982. The coroner initially abandoned
these inquests. Geraldine’s husband, Pat, was our chairperson, got them
involved and to take the cases initially, and he fought. And the then-chief
constable refused to cooperate with the corner, Sir Jack Hermon, who is now
Those inquests were, post the European ruling of May 2001, reopened by the
current coroner. There was agreement to provide redacted copies of the report
conducted by John Stalker into these killings, and was concluded by Colin
Sampson. In court two Fridays ago, Council for the Chief Constable said that
there was 172,000 documents, constituting one million pages, and that he was
now not going to hand them over.
Now, these inquests had resumed five years ago, and there was an expectation
that they would now begin. There were two police officers appointed in the –
PSNI’s vetting team that are now going to read these 1 million pages before the
chief constable will decide to hand over the material. These same two police
officers in the vetting process have to also look at 33 or 34 other inquests
with voluminous material. We have a process of thwarting and slowing down and
not cooperating. And at the heart of this are people within the Special
Branch. And they are not accountable to the Office of the Police Ombudsman.
There is one senior former manager within Special Branch, and he is employed as
a consultant around the legacy unit. This person has been questioned in the
past by the ombudsman in regards to his knowledge about actions that took place
with collusion. In 2007, my own details were given out by a member of the PSNI
who was a civilian worker. And I followed the case. He gave my details to
loyalist paramilitaries who were following me.
I then spoke to the ombudsman, and the ombudsman told me in April 2007 they
didn’t have jurisdiction. I’ve raised this continually. There are now almost
300 former officers inside the PSNI. They’re involved in training, they’re
involved in intelligence and they’re involved in legacy work. We aren’t going
to get to the bottom of this if we continue in this vein. We do need U.S.
assistance and support. In one sense the PSNI are actively politicking on
these issues through the HET or through their own mechanisms and concealing
truth and not dealing with the cases in an effective way.
REP. SMITH: Just so I’m clear, when you said in your testimony and just
referenced that former RUC members, including Special Branch, have been
re-employed by the PSNI to work on legacy issues as civilian workers, is that
that 300 number you just said?
MR. THOMPSON: It wouldn’t be all of them. They’re through the PSNI in various
capacities, but in legacy this person is employed as a consultant and he is
effectively deciding what happens to the material. So he’s in control in many
MR. GORMALLY: Just to add to that, these civilians staffs, so-called, have all
been hired through an agency. And there’s clearly some kind of employment
agency. And the difficulty is that the police have now admitted to the
policing board that there were 300 and so odd involved, and have detailed where
they’re working, with some of them in intelligence and training, as Mark has
But the difficulty is that as civilian staff, they are not actually accountable
to the police ombudsman. So as well as being ex-RUC Special Branch men,
whatever they do is not within the jurisdiction of the police ombudsman. We
have asked the deputy chief constable actually to answer questions, whether
these so-called civilian staff are tasking warranted police constables? Are
they involved in operations? Are they involved in surveillance? Are they in a
back office or are they on the streets? And we have received no reply.
REP. SMITH: Who vets them to ensure that they have no baggage?
MR. GORMALLY: Well, exactly.
REP. SMITH: OK.
DR. LUNDY: I would just like to add to what the previous speakers have said.
And I’ll just bring it back again to the HET. And this is not in the public
domain, but the foundations on which the HET is built are very shaky, because
the HET employed 31 ex-RUC officers, some of them Special Branch, to go out to
every police station in Northern Ireland, to collect the documents, collate the
documents and bring them back to the HET to be stored so that the
re-examination of cases could take place.
Now, this is certainly not independent, and it raises questions about the
documentation of what’s collected. So this is the basis, the foundation, on
which the HET is built. And I put it to the deputy director of the HET, “why
have you done this?” You know, this will certainly, I would suggest, raise
questions and concerns. And he said, “well, it would cost too much to employ
people from outside Northern Ireland. And actually, these are the people that
know where the documents are.”
REP. SMITH: That’s a red flag in and of itself.
DR. LUNDY: Yeah.
REP. SMITH: Would there be any way of knowing if certain documents went
missing or were shredded?
MS. LUNDY: Well, you see, you don’t know. It’s hard to tell. And that’s the
MR. THOMPSON: I can give some insight into that. The PSNI have destroyed
documents that were stored at Gough Barracks in relation to interviews of
suspects that were detained after murders. And the reason that they give for
the destruction of this material was that it was in a store that had an
asbestos roof. And then under health and safety they had to destroy the
I was at an inquest in which documents were destroyed, and the coroner had said
that they could have been copied and preserved. But that’s happened. And we
don’t know if it’s happened with the forensic exhibits also. There’s unclarity
about that. But even in regard to the Historical Enquiries Team in the role of
some of the most controversial things, you do have a report that’s been
submitted, and it was referred to by Congressman Eliot Engel in regards to Sean
And the HET looked at that case, and quite controversially at the heart of that
case is a weapon that was used, a nine millimeter Browning pistol, to which the
killer of Geraldine’s husband, Pat Finucane, Ken Barrett, stole allegedly from
a military barracks. He provided it to William Stobie, who gave it to his
Special Branch handlers. It was handed back and used to murder Ian Wallace,
and then six weeks later used in the bookmakers attack.
Lord Stevens found out about the history of this gun and that Special Branch
had handled it. When he rumbled them, they told him they deactivated the
weapon. But the killing of Ian Wallace would have made that quite obvious to
the Special Branch that it had not been deactivated and was subsequently used
in the bookmakers to kill five people, along with another weapon supplied by
The HET examined the case, and they said that the interview notes concerning
the nine millimeter Browning pistol were disposed of. We uncovered those
documents at the public records office. And it showed that a man in possession
of the gun, on his way to carry out a murder, was arrested and that he was the
son of a serving police office. We also found in the discovery of those
interview notes that the forensic report of that weapon showed it to be
Now, if the HET are going to say that these are disposed of, and these families
met Owen Paterson at the Northern Ireland Bureau event the other morning, and
they asked him this question. And he said to them: “It has nothing to do with
me. Take it up with your own executive. The British government is no longer
And one of the relatives said to him, “but British military intelligence,
including the people that murdered Pat Finucane, are centrally involved in this
incident too, and that Judge Cory touched on this in his report into Pat
Finucane’s murder.” And he then said, “go and talk to David Ford.” Now, the
relatives talked to David Ford and he said, “we can’t look at the past because
we’ve no money.” Brian rightly referred to how these people were recruited.
It’s been revealed that there were 60 million pounds spent in recruiting these
former people through a private recruitment firm. That does not include their
So when we are being told, you can’t have inquiries and we can’t look at the
past because of the cost, we then see that there is huge financial payments to
the RUC and British army - that there's half a billion under Patten to reform
policing. There are 250 million to the UDR in terms of a pension payoff, tax
free. There was 20 million given to the RUC Reserve in an ex gratia payment.
There’s been hundreds and millions of pounds spent in covering up the truth.
This is not about cost; it’s about will. We can have public inquiries into
planning, into health and into everything. It’s only when it comes to these
issues that we can’t. And it’s about the British government using their
sovereignty as a shield to prevent the truth.
We do need international support and international intervention. And the peace
process is an example of how all the big issues were handled and addressed with
that support. The Americans are allies of the British, as are the Irish
government. Enda Kenny, the taoiseach, has rightly stood up and said what
needs to be done in one of the cases in regard to Geraldine and her family and
Pat’s murder. What we need to do is bring them over the line.
John Finucane and I were in San Francisco during the election campaign prior to
the election of Barack Obama as president. And we were able to initiate a
process with Irish-Americans and other activists to secure his commitment to a
truth and reconciliation process pre-election. We need to see it through. The
taoiseach, the American administration and the American president need to bring
David Cameron and Owen Paterson over the line. They’re on the wrong side of
the line. And we need to get them across it. And as allies, the U.S. needs to
support getting them to the place where they need to be to build a better
future for our society and to address the core issues that need to be
addressed. And we’d urge the U.S., please to do it –
REP. SMITH: Can I just ask you, has there been any indication that President
Obama has done that?
MR. THOMPSON: We don’t know what was raised. You know, no journalists raised
the issue that, here we’re standing in Washington with the president as a prime
minister that has acknowledged not only that there was collusion, but he’s
powerless to do anything about it. Who runs the country? And I think that’s
the pertinent question.
What we need to do is to try and engage the White House. And we need to say,
as allies of you, Mr. Cameron, we want to bring you to the place and to the
right place. You are on the wrong side of this. We need to get you across the
line, and we need the one last push to do that. They need the honor and the
commitment in terms of that. But more widely out there in society we need to
look at the issues. They’re across our communities, and they are surfacing, if
not on a daily, on a weekly basis. And we need to address them.
REP. SMITH: You know, I would just note for the record that we will send a
letter to the president and find out what, if anything, he has done. But on
human rights globally, President Obama has been a serious disappointment. When
Hu Jintao, the president of China, was here, I actually put together a press
conference of people who had spent upwards of 20 years in the Chinese laogai
system including Harry Wu, Rebiya Kadeer and many others – Wei Jingsheng, who
was another great human rights activist.
And here is the man who is the jailer of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize
winner of 2010. And his jailer is at the White House. President Obama
obviously got the Nobel Peace Prize and preceded Liu Xiaobo by just one year.
And we asked that the president raise in a public forum, the press conference
or any other way, human rights abuses in general and Liu Xiaobo in particular.
When the Associated Press asked President Obama and especially Hu Jintao about
human rights, the president – our president – ran interference for the
president of China.
And it was so egregious that The Washington Post did an editorial, and the
headline was, “Obama Defends Hu” – President Hu Jintao – “on Rights.” And
Obama offered an explanation which I find despicable, where he said, well, they
have a different culture in China, and they have a different political system.
All these tens of thousands of Chinese human rights activists who are
languishing and being tortured daily understand, as does Hu Jintao, what human
rights and democracy are all about. They just choose not to have it and they
prefer dictatorship. I have repeatedly raised these issues with Hillary
Clinton and others, and there has been muted silence as to what the president
has done vis-à-vis China.
We will ask by way of letter if this has been asked. And you know, hope
springs eternal. My hope would be that the president, you know, into his
fourth year as president would raise the issue and do so in a – in a serious
way with Cameron – Prime Minister Cameron to try to get specifically a public
inquiry for the Finucane case.
But when did it get worse like this? Maybe you might want to speak to that.
When was the definition of collusion changed? You know, we all were operating
under, you know, the Peter Cory and a very, very serious definition of
collusion, and you might want to speak to that as well. When was that changed?
MR. THOMPSON: It was in June last year, if I’m not mistaken, in the
Loughinisland report which you have in front of you with the families – the
Loughinisland massacre. Their report that was lodged five years ago and
published in June of last year, or July of last year. And it was at that press
conference that the families had made public that, in the week leading into the
publication of the report, the ombudsman had decided not to use the definition
set out by Judge Cory and by Lord Stevens.
The disclosures in regard to the HET stuff are ongoing, and I could talk all
day about them. The disclosure in relation to Sean Graham’s bookmakers about
the disposal of the material was last year. And it was in October of last year
that we managed to obtain from the public records office the interview notes
and forensic report of the weapon. So this is ongoing, and it’s current.
REP. SMITH: Yes, Mr. Gormally.
MR. GORMALLY: The point about the definition of collusion is that it’s been
varied and contradictory. And it isn’t that the new ombudsman has come up with
a definitive new definition, but that it varies from case to case. As far as
I’m aware, in no case that the current ombudsman – correct me if I’m wrong,
Mark – in no case that the current ombudsman has signed off has he actually
come up with a finding of collusion.
MR. THOMPSON: No. It had been taken, given that they were working to the
definition as set out by Stevens and Cory, about what happened in an
examination of the bomb in Claudy that was carried out by the IRA. One of the
senior people that we referred to of Special Branch who’s now working in legacy
as a civilian worker interfered with the office at that time and tried to
overturn the findings. And we were being told that they were using the
definition of Cory and Stevens in regard to that report.
REP. SMITH: Before concluding and asking if you have any final comments you’d
like to make, let me just ask: Is there any court venue that you, Geraldine
Finucane, could avail yourself of, including European Court of Human Rights, to
try to compel the British government to finally – at long last -- provide this
open public inquiry?
MS. FINUCANE: Well, after the announcement in October we had a family
discussion and discussion with our lawyers. And we have decided to take
proceedings in the high court in Belfast against the British government, asking
them to review the decision to have a review as opposed to the inquiry that was
And we went to court in January, and we were granted leave to proceed to the
full hearing. That was granted unopposed, and the hearing is set for the
beginning of May. I would presume that, no matter what way it goes, it will be
appealed and then it will probably go to the Supreme Court in London. So we
are at the start of a judicial process.
REP. SMITH: As I indicated, I will be introducing a new resolution. I just
would note for the record that I have offered four resolutions that put the
House on record. And one of them was signed by President Bush, because I did
it as part of a larger bill, and that was in September of 2002. The first was
in 1999, the second in 2002, the third in 2006, and the fourth in 2007. All of
those were passed. We will do it again, and we will never quit.
You know, and it’s interesting that in cases of civil rights in the United
States, when killers of African-Americans are found years – there’s no statute
of limitations on murder, and that includes collusion or those who were
accessory to those crimes – (inaudible) – would be here. And could I – so I
just want to assure you that this member – and I’m joined, I know, by many
others who are deeply concerned as well – will not let up as well.
So we will – we will also look at – and I would appreciate your thoughts on
this, whether or not it might be timely to invite back to this commission Judge
Cory to get his insights once again, because he played obviously a crucial role
in cobbling together that agreement. So we’ll look for your advice on that,
and others who might come before the commission to amplify and provide a better
and more in-depth record. Because again, what you all have provided is just
staggering in its disappointing features. So I thank you for it, but I wish
you had better news to offer.
Is there anything else? If there are any concluding remarks that any of you
would like to make, we certainly would welcome that.
DR. LUNDY: My concluding remark is, I think, that what needs to happen is an
independent, international truth recovery process. I think it is absolutely
clear now that the package of measures or aspects of that package are simply
not delivering. They’re hugely problematic. So I think the way forward is an
independent, international truth recovery process.
REP. SMITH: Thank you. Again I want to thank you for your testimony, for your
insights and bearing witness to some very horrific truths. The hearing is