Cameron’s coalition are afraid of what an inquiry into Pat Finucane’s murder might reveal, says Brian Rowan
At the time of the Pat Finucane murder back in 1989, one of the most senior UDA figures was Tommy ‘Tucker’ Lyttle. He carried the paramilitary rank of ‘brigadier’ and was part of a self-styled ‘inner council’.
One of his closest associates was Brian Nelson, an Army agent and collator of UDA intelligence – the targeting and killing information.
In that period of the 1980s the loyalist leadership was being re-structured. John McMichael had been killed in an IRA bomb attack and Andy Tyrie had been removed as so-called ‘supreme commander’ in an internal coup. It was at this time, a little over 20 years ago, that Jackie McDonald first got a seat at the top table of the UDA.
But who was ‘Tucker’ Lyttle? And what was his significance?
Lyttle was one of those in our wars, or conflict or Troubles who played on different sides of different lines. He wasn’t just a UDA brigadier. It depended on what mirror he was looking into at the time.
Twenty years ago, loyalists were describing him as a Special Branch agent and were suggesting his codename was ‘Rodney Stewart’.
One Sunday in August 1989, a third party contacted me with a message: I was being invited to Lyttle’s home in the Shankill area of Belfast, where intelligence information would be made available to me.
The UDA was trying to justify one of its killings – the murder of Loughlin Maginn. But there was a condition attached to the invitation: I would have to say that I was taken away by the UDA and given the information. I refused on the basis of the conditions attached.
The period is important, because it is only months after the murder of Pat Finucane and leaks of security material by the UDA would soon lead to the Stevens’ collusion investigations.
Lyttle was a player in the leaks, was arrested by the Stevens team and later shunned by the UDA. He has since died.
He is another man from that period – who along with other agents including Nelson and William Stobie – has been buried with his secrets.
Given his leadership position, Lyttle would have had knowledge and detail on the Finucane murder; would have known who was involved and where the coaxing and urging and orders came from.
He was also part of a UDA organisation that was not proscribed until August 1992 – more than three years after the Finucane killing.
And he was from a generation of loyalists who believed they were fighting on the same side as the state against the same enemy.
There were so many of them working for military and Special Branch intelligence, it is easy to understand why they thought that.
The loyalists had handlers, the handlers had managers, but who set the rules of engagement? This is the big question: where does all of this lead?
The answer is into the darkest corners of a filthy war. And this has to be why the Finucane case will not be scrutinised under the bright lights of a public inquiry. It is why his family has been pushed away and let down after a year of background contacts with Government officials – contacts discussing possibilities and terms for an inquiry.
In January this year, I wrote on this page: “What if Owen Paterson decided there shouldn’t be an inquiry. How could that be explained? For many, that type of decision would simply confirm a cover-up – of a truth too ugly to be told.”
An inquiry is not being refused for reasons of cost. In this climate, that is too convenient an excuse.
There will be no questioning of the agents, the handlers and the managers; no public exploration of those places of national security and official secrets.
And why? Because of what might be shovelled to the surface; information and a pattern of dark activities that might challenge us all to re-think the narrative of the past 40 years.