Former RUC police chief Ronnie Flanagan has denied any knowledge of Special Branch surveillance of prominent human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson prior to her assassination in 1999.
He also claimed that he had no reason to understand the need for the creation of intelligence files on Mrs Nelson, and further denied describing Mrs Nelson as an “immoral woman”.
He went on to disown the evidence of other Crown-force witnesses who claimed she was helping IRA Volunteers evade British prosecutions.
The 40-year-old solicitor died in a booby-trap car bomb attack in March 1999 in her home town of Lurgan, County Armagh.
Four months earlier on November 5th, 1998, the British-Irish Rights Watch group based in London sent Flanagan a report warning that Mrs Nelson had been assaulted by a member of the RUC and that she was subjected to repeated police death threats.
Six days later Flanagan responded to the head of the group, Jane Winter, rejecting her report. “I suppose by now I should really have learned to expect and not be surprised by the total absence of balance in reports from your organisation,” he wrote.
“This latest report continues your now well-established practice in that regard,” added Flanagan.
Asked why he complained of lack of balance, Flanagan replied: “[Jane Winter] appeared to be taking things as substantiated fact rather than considering them as allegations.”
During yesterday’s hearing there was reference to various correspondence warning of this threat against Mrs Nelson, most of which Flanagan said he was never alerted to or had no recollection of receiving.
He blamed Mrs Nelson for not providing sufficient assistance to the RUC to address the threats.
The inquiry also focused on a meeting attended by Flanagan and Dato Param Cumaraswamy, the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and a senior RUC officer, in October 1997. This was the first time he became aware of the threats, he said.
Based on this meeting Mr Cumaraswamy wrote a draft report in February 1998 saying Flanagan had told him that “some solicitors may in fact be working for the paramilitaries”. Flanagan also denied making this statement.
In a parallel development, a report by British intelligence has unsurprisingly found that the actions of British intelligence in the Omagh bombing did not help to bring about the deaths of 31 civilians, including two unborn children.
It has emerged in recent years that the RUC had considerable advance information on the 1998 attack and that the mobile phones used were being monitored by British intelligence at the time.
No one has ever been convicted of the bombing, which was blamed on the ‘Real IRA’, but is believed by many to have been allowed to proceed to erode support for the breakaway group. The ‘Real IRA’ subsequently called a full ceasefire.
Sir Peter Gibson, Britain’s Intelligence Services commissioner, said in the report this week that any information taken from telephone intercepts monitored by the British government’s listening station GCHQ (government communications headquarters), was passed to the RUC Special Branch - but could not possibly have prevented the attack.