British military intelligence removed and destroyed the files of a judge who was investigating Crown Force involvement in the 1989 murder of Belfast defence lawyer Patrick Finucane, according to a BBC documentary aired this week.
MI5 agents entered the office of Canadian judge Peter Cory, who was appointed by the Dublin and London governments to re-examine cases of alleged collusion, and removed computer hard discs that were then wiped clean. The typical ‘Dirty War’ incident happened in 2002, more than four years after the signing of the Good Friday peace Agreement.
The murder of Mr Finucane – shot 14 times in front of his wife and children – is a notorious case that fuelled demands for a public inquiry which continue to be evaded by the British state.
John Stevens, a former London police commissioner who headed official inquiries into loyalist killings, confirmed to the programme that MI5 used “national security” reasons as justification for removing and destroying the judge’s files.
Presenter Mandy McAuley said: “A number of people entered the premises... they identified themselves as MI5 and said they were there to remove all of the inquiry’s hard drives in the interests of national security.
“Both drives containing top secret intelligence, most of it relating to the Pat Finucane murder case, were wiped clean and returned.
“An international panel running an inquiry into collusion set up by the prime minister had what was described its entire work product taken by MI5.”
Cory’s investigation proceeded – he retained paper records that MI5 did not obtain – but his recommendation for a public inquiry was subsequently ignored anyway.
Earlier this year the Supreme Court in London ruled that a 2011 investigation into Finucane’s murder was ineffective and failed to meet the standards required under human rights law.
Geraldine Finucane, widow of the murdered lawyer, revealed Judge Cory had told the family he had seen “papers marked for cabinet level, for cabinet eyes only” which had been denied to his investigation. There’s still something there that needs to be exposed,” she said.
Mr Finucane’s son John - the current Belfast Mayor - said the revelations about the hard drive were new, but not surprising.
“It is yet another example of how the security services and an extension of government abusing every weapon of the arsenal to keep the truth hidden,” he said. “We are not surprised any more and it is a further example of why a fully independent inquiry is needed.”
Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the Finucane case “exposes the use of those death squads at the highest level of government; British involvement in the mass murder of citizens, and in the smuggling of weapons into this statelet to facilitate this.
“Collusion was not just the occasional use of spies or agents by the British operating within the IRA or loyalist paramilitary organisations. Collusion was a matter of institutional practice by successive British governments.
“It involved the establishing of unionist paramilitary groups; the systematic infiltration by the British of all unionist death squads at the highest levels; controlling and directing these groups; arming; training; and providing them with information on people to be killed.
“That’s why the British government doggedly fights to deny an inquiry.”