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Last week, Desmond de Silva’s report into the murder of Pat Finucane, the Belfast solicitor, was finally released. The Report found that there were ‘shocking levels of state collusion’ in the murder. It told of the ‘wilful and abject failure by successive governments’ to run agents lawfully.

It confirmed that Pat Finucane had been murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) who were undercover British agents. All the intelligence, as well as the murder weapon, had been provided by agents and RUC Special Branch had prior knowledge of the attack. Following the death, police and MI5 ensured a massive cover up which, as de Silva confirms, was designed ‘to defeat the ends of justice’.

Yet, de Silva concludes that ‘there was no overarching conspiracy’ in his murder. We are expected to believe that a few rogue elements in the state machine were responsible rather than the machine itself or, in particular, all those higher up who had ultimate control of the agents. This conclusion is strikingly similar to that of the Saville Report into the Bloody Sunday murders, which held that a few bad eggs in the paratroopers were to blame.

The Finucane family have attacked the report and called it a whitewash. Geraldine Finucane says the report has in fact suppressed the truth:

‘At every turn it is clear that this report has done exactly what was required – to give the benefit of the doubt to the state, its cabinet and ministers, to the army, to the intelligence services and to itself.’

Geraldine is right to call it a whitewash, a confidence trick and a sham. The British state, as represented by David Cameron, may well have given its apologies, just as it did over the Bloody Sunday massacre, but this was done without accepting any responsibility for the crimes. It is instructive that no charges against any living security personnel will be brought.

In fact, the British government and various levels of state bodies were up to their necks in the perpetration of these acts. Pat had represented many Irish Republicans in court and his success had made him a key target for the authorities. The Conservative minister, Hogg, had already led the charge and targeted him in a House of Commons speech as someone ‘sympathetic to the IRA’.

Against the background of a mass anti Unionist rebellion in Ireland, where Catholics had finally had enough of discrimination and harassment, the British government had already declared war on all those who fought for justice. British repression was wide ranging and included internment without trial, the subsequent torture inflicted on internees, Diplock non jury courts, a shoot to kill policy on the streets, curfews and mass raids in which whole estates were sealed off. Another ploy used by Britain was the setting up of the British Army’s undercover Force Research Unit (FRU).

FRU was a military intelligence unit. It was designed along the lines of General Frank Kitson’s counter insurgency theories. This recommended that armed groups could, and should, be subverted from within. The policy was combined with direct and indirect involvement in assassinations and a whole array of dirty tricks.

Throughout the Troubles in the north, British agents were specifically recruited from those who would turn against their old comrades and who would be operative within the armed groups. In particular, there was significant infiltration of the UDA and IRA. At the time of Pat’s murder, 29 members of the UDA were working for either the RUC’S Special Branch or FRU or, quite possibly, both.

Brian Nelson was the most high profile of British Army agents. He was a loyalist from the Shankill Road who was head of UDA intelligence. The brief from his mentors was to pass on information from the RUC concerning the movements and identities of Republicans to UDA murder gangs. He obliged, at the very least, as far as Pat was concerned. He was also involved in supplying two huge shipments of arms from South Africa to the UDA.

Pat was not the only victim. Neither was he a victim of a ‘few bad eggs’. As Michael Finucane has said ‘there were probably hundreds of others’ killed in similar circumstances. But Pat’s case was unique in that it highlighted the state and loyalist collusion which even the dogs in the street knew about but which Britain sought to conceal. It also was special to the extent that it showed up Britain as being quite prepared to suppress even legal challenges to its rule. Nothing was to be spared in the attempt to crush any resistance to the sectarian Orange state and its British backers.

Geraldine Finucane is right to be angry and has called for an independent inquiry into her husband’s murder. There is, however, no chance of that happening any time soon. If such an inquiry were ever to do its job properly, it would be bound to reveal collusion right up to the heart of government. As with the Saville Report and the Historical Enquiries Team, the British government wants to ‘move on’ and thinks that a few apologies, but no acceptance of blame, makes it alright.

It doesn’t make it alright, either for the immediate victims or for the future of ‘northern Ireland’. The sectarian dynamics of northern Irish society remain institutionalised and enshrined within the Good Friday Agreement. The Union Jack waving is part and parcel of a deeply engrained supremacist mentality that can brook no quarter from what is now not far off 50 per cent of the population.

Britain can now apologise at a relatively safe distance from the actual crimes but at the same time pursue its repression in other ways in the here and now. Political activists in the north continue to be rounded up on the most spurious of charges. Republican prisoners are beaten and strip searched in the jails. The absurd and dangerous spectacle of Orange marches passing through nationalist areas protected by the police is still an ongoing issue.

The peace process has not made any inroads into the sectarian divide that still permeates the north – it is not likely to either because the state itself is sectarian and as long as it exists it will continue to be so. The state was founded purely on the idea that Britain should rule in this corner of Ireland and all those who identify otherwise have no role to play in that corner. That is why the state is no ‘normal’ state but one where historic discrimination against nationalists is integral to its existence and why it is on a permanent war footing.

Bloody Sunday and Pat Finucane’s murder are just two examples of the lengths Britain will go to in order to safeguard its presence in the north of Ireland. They were not aberrations in British rule but formed a part of an overall, systematic regime of repression. The object of this was to smash republican resistance to the sectarian state in the north. Whilst Britain props up that state, it will never play a progressive role in Ireland. It is way past the time when it should pack up and go. Go now!