“EVERYONE knows the Eames/Bradley recommendations are nonsense,” Peter Madden told an audience at St Mary’s College in Belfast last week. The solicitor was speaking at a relaunch of the campaign for an international, independent public inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.
“For 20 years,” Peter Madden continued, “the family has campaigned to establish the truth about what happened and for 20 years the British Government has introduced stalling devices to prevent the truth getting out, to prevent the establishment of a structure that could actually enquire into all the circumstances surrounding Pat’s murder.”
Peter Madden shared a law practice with Pat Finucane and worked with him for a number of years before Pat was shot dead in February 1989. Last Thursday, he joined members of the Finucane family, Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey, Clara Reilly of Relatives for Justice, and Jim McCabe, whose wife Nora was murdered by the RUC, to pay tribute to Pat Finucane and his work as a human rights lawyer.
Identifying the Eames/ Bradley initiative as the latest in a long series of British delaying tactics, Madden highlighted the inadequacy of the Consultative Group’s ‘truth recovery’ process, “a process that excludes all lawyers except for those working for the British Government,” said Peter.
“In other words, Eames and Bradley are asking us to leave the case of Pat Finucane, and other similar cases, in the hands of the British Government! Just stick it in there with the Legacy Commission and bury it along with all the other cases.
“A short time ago, the British Government introduced the Inquiries Act, another device to prevent the truth coming out. Section 19 of the Inquiries Act allows a British Government minister to withhold material from the public. The Stevens Inquiry was set up to delay a public inquiry and the information Stevens gathered has yet to be examined in public.
“The Finucane family has campaigned for 20 years; other families, like the family of Nora McCabe, have campaigned for even longer. No matter what barriers the British Government puts up – Eames/Bradley, the Inquiries Act or Stevens – it’s not going to work. Eventually, the truth will be acknowledged.”
Reflecting on the years he worked with Pat Finucane, Peter Madden said it was clear at the time that Pat was having an impact on the judicial system.
“The judiciary were pro-Establishment, pro-unionist and pro-British, and they didn’t want to hear anything challenging, but over time Pat was gradually changing that. Judges began taking on board his arguments. I could see very clearly that Pat was making changes within the judicial system.
“We didn’t know it at the time, but Pat was challenging more than the judicial system – he was challenging a British military strategy.
“Criminalisation relied on the compliance of the judiciary. And when they saw someone like Pat coming along and knocking it down, they decided to take him out.
“And because of the work of investigative journalists, we now know the mechanisms used to murder Pat, the covert British Army units, their collusion with loyalists, the role of Special Branch agents, high-ranking British Army officers with access to members of the British Cabinet. That’s why the British Government is so afraid of divulging the truth about what happened to Pat.”
Addressing the public meeting, Pat Finucane’s brother, Seamus, reiterated Peter Madden’s criticisms of Eames/Bradley.
“In the course of these last 12 months, there has been an unprecedented attack on public inquiries. There is no doubt in my mind this is linked to the recent report by the Consultative Group on the Past.
“There is an ongoing battle for hearts and minds. I appeal to all families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the British state and British state death squads to remain vigilant.
“What is clear is that the public view remains that there must be a fully independent public inquiry into Pat’s murder. Pat was murdered because he was good at his job but the British Government are even more afraid of him now, 20 years after his death, because they fear exposure. They fear the truth.”
Belfast MLA Alex Maskey urged families of those who died at the hands of the British state to examine Eames/Bradley, explore all the options and make up their own minds. “But speaking for myself, I think Eames/Bradley is a joke,” he said.
Recalling the murder of Alan Lundy, Alex said:
“I feel personally driven by that death, because Alan died at my house while trying to secure my home. Like the family of Pat Finucane, Nora McCabe and others, I’m determined to make sure Alan Lundy’s death doesn’t count for nothing.”
Commending the Finucane and other families “who have battled for the truth”, Maskey said the dignity and courage they have shown is in contrast to the behaviour of the British state.
“The Finucane family have campaigned tirelessly and have won significant international support, including from the new US President Barack Obama.”
Maskey added that, 20 years after his death, Pat remains an iconic figure whose image is recognised internationally, “in sharp contrast to the Brian Nelsons and Gordon Kerrs of this world,” the British Army figures at the centre of the case, said Alex.
In a moving testimony, Jim McCabe recalled the devastating impact of his wife’s murder upon his family and the kindness of Pat Finucane as well as his effectiveness as a lawyer.
“Pat was instrumental in bringing Nora’s case to the attention of a wider audience and the making of a documentary by Yorkshire television about her murder,” said Jim.
“But Pat was more than a lawyer to those who sought his help, he was a friend. I used to ring him up for advice at any time, day or night. Pat Finucane still has a lot to do with how I deal with my issues. After Nora’s death I became very despondent but Pat showed me how, with determination and honesty, you can fight to change the system no matter how rotten it is.”
Clara Reilly recalled being arrested in 1981 and “my first thought was to ring Pat Finucane”. She explained what had happened.
“I was held about four hours and questioned about my work and after my release Pat took a case against the British Government to challenge the process of interrogation known as ‘screening’. The High Court ruled it illegal. I remember Pat and I punching the air with delight. From then onwards, the RUC would have to show reasonable grounds to arrest anyone.”