The collusion spin
The collusion spin

The British government have been condemned for attempting to protect the PSNI from the fallout of the Rosemary Nelson inquiry.

The damning report on the loyalist murder of the human rights lawyer in 1999 found the PSNI (then RUC) had abused, assaulted, and left her open for eventual assassination at the hands of loyalist paramilitaries.

The public inquiry said it had found no direct Crown force role in the murder of the 40-year-old mother-of-three, killed in a high-tech car bombing in 1999, but said it could not rule out that elements of the Crown forces may have assisted the killers.

It said it believed the deliberate leaking of Crown intelligence had “increased the danger to Rosemary Nelson’s life”, while threats made against the lawyer “had the subsequent effect of legitimising her as a target in the eyes of loyalist terrorists”.

The report catalogued failures by the PSNI and the British government’s Northern Ireland Office which resulted in a failure to warn Mrs Nelson of the danger she faced or to offer her adequate protection.

The inquiry concluded: “The combined effect of these omissions by the RUC and the NIO was that the state failed to take responsible and proportionate steps to safeguard the life of Rosemary Nelson.”

British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson and PSNI Chief Matt Baggott have been accused of deliberately downplaying the list of police misdeeds identified in the report.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said Mrs Nelson was indeed a victim of collusion, disputing claims to the contrary.

In a statement, Mr Adams said “collusion took many forms in the north” -- “the family believes and the nationalist people of Lurgan and Portadown believe that she was the victim of collusion. They are right.”

Mr Adams described Mrs Nelson as a lawyer who “stood up for what she believed in and she sought to use the law - even one as corrupted as that of the north during the years of conflict - as a means of defending citizens from abuse and discrimination and as a means of achieving justice.”

Mrs Nelson was targeted by unionists and the police because he took on the prominent role of legal adviser to a Catholic residents’ group that opposed sectarian marches in the infamous Drumcree parade stand-off in Portadown, advised the family of Robert Hamill, who was killed in a sectarian attack in the town (in another case of RUC/PSNI collusion), and successfully represented Lurgan republican and miscarriage of justice victim Colin Duffy, who won several legal claims against police harassment.

Eunan Magee, Mrs Nelson’s brother, said the evidence against the PSNI, Northern Ireland Office and PSNI Special Branch had been “damning”.

Fighting back tears at a press conference, he said that his sister had been vindicated by the report.

“This is not a closed book and hopefully charges will be brought against people who are guilty,” he said.

“She was a mother of three children, a decent human being who had lost her life in pursuit of doing her job.

“No-one in the security services has been held accountable. Why after so many years have the people who wronged Rosemary walked away with impunity?”

He was critical of Owen Paterson’s comments that there had been no collusion in the murder. He said: “If it sounds like a duck and it walks like a duck, well, the chances are.”

Mrs Nelson’s bereaved husband Paul also spoke out over the findings of the report. He said the relatives had been proved correct in pushing for an independent investigation and said major findings had been made.

“I very much welcome this thorough and comprehensive report which I believe vindicates Rosemary’s publicly expressed view that elements within the RUC were unable to identify her as a professional lawyer and distinguish her from the alleged crimes and causes of her clients,” he said.

“I am deeply saddened to read that the report concludes that the conduct of some RUC officers had the affect of legitimising her as a target in the eyes of loyalist terrorists.”

Mr Paterson later defended his handling of the report’s unveiling and said he had accurately reflected its findings. “It is not for me to second-guess the report,” he said.

But the attempt by both Paterson and the mainstream media to play down the level of collusion involved in the murder has raised doubts that the family of another high profile defence lawyer, Pat Finucane, can finally attain justice for his death at the hands of admitted British agents.

Mr Adams said the circumstances surrounding that murder ten years before, had allowed loyalists to kill Mrs Nelson.

“Tory Minister Douglas Hogg - standing up in the British Parliament and accusing lawyers of working for the IRA and creating a context in which lawyers could be murdered,” he said.

Mr Adams said collusion was widespread in the case: “The RUC not only failed to act to prevent threats to her life but contributed to these and created a context in which she became a target for loyalists.

“The actions of the RUC, its Special Branch and the NIO directly contributed to the murder of Rosemary Nelson. That is collusion.

“The inquiry reveals a pattern of behaviour that all of these agencies connived in her death. That is collusion.

“Moreover, knowing that she was at serious risk the state and its security agencies, did nothing to prevent attack or help Mrs Nelson protect herself. That is collusion.”


The investigation into Mrs Nelson’s death was laid out under the conclusions of the Cory Collusion Inquiry, carried out by Judge Peter Cory into allegations of collusion in six cases in the North.

During the inquiry, Judge Cory said collusion could be defined as “to pretend ignorance or unawareness of something one ought morally, or officially or legally to oppose”.

Mr Adams said by those terms, Rosemary Nelson was not the only victim of collusion:

“Sometimes it was the provision by British intelligence agencies, directly through agents, of thousands of intelligence files, including names, addresses, car registrations and movements.

“Sometimes individual members of the RUC and UDR participated in sectarian attacks.

“Scores of UDR soldiers were convicted over the years of involvement in sectarian murders; of providing British intelligence information for unionist death squads; and of stealing weapons for use in killing Catholics.”

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