Dublin Government Told British Of Threat To Pat Finucane Two Months Before He Was Killed



In his report on the murder of Pat Finucane, Sir Desmond de Silva has this to say in relation to the RUC’s role in encouraging the UDA to target the solicitor (Par 73):

“The critical issue, in my view, was to determine whether RUC officers had been involved in inciting loyalists in custody to attack Patrick Finucane. Allegations that RUC officers had incited loyalists in this manner were first expressed privately by the Ambassador of the Government of Ireland to the Cabinet Secretary on 13 February 1989, the day after Patrick Finucane’s murder.”
In December 1998 I was the Northern Editor of the Sunday Tribune newspaper. During that month I had lunch with the late Tommy Lyttle, then the West Belfast Commander of the UDA. During the lunch he told me that RUC detectives at Castlereagh interrogation centre had recently suggested to one of his colleagues during an interrogation session that the UDA ought to consider killing three “IRA lawyers”, Pat Finucane, Oliver Kelly and P J McGrory. Tommy Lyttle’s words were that the RUC man had said that the UDA was wasting its time killing Catholics when there were real targets like these lawyers available.

Since Tommy Lyttle is now dead, as are the three lawyers at the centre of the story, I feel I am free to talk openly about this incident.

As a journalist covering a beat like the violence in Northern Ireland it was inevitable that from time to time I would come across evidence that suggested someone’s life could be in danger. While protecting source confidentiality has always been the highest priority to me I never hesitated in such circumstances to pass on a warning in such a way that the source is not revealed and the threatened person is able to take the proper precautions.

At the same time one had to be careful about how this was done. Motives can be be misinterpreted, actions misunderstood and the consequences could be dangerous both for yourself and your source. But there was no doubt in my mind that the three solicitors had to be warned. When a paramilitary figure as senior as Tommy Lyttle mentions such a possibility it had to be taken seriously.

Of the three lawyers, I was closest to Paddy McGrory who I regarded as a friend as much as a very valuable legal contact. I decided to tell him of the threat knowing that he would pass it on to the other two in a suitably discrete fashion. Shortly after my lunch with Tommy Lyttle, I went to his home and told him that the RUC was encouraging UDA gunmen to kill the three solicitors and that in my view he should take the warning very seriously indeed.

Paddy later  told me that he had contacted the office of the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey to tell him of the threat and that the Irish government in turn contacted the Northern Ireland Office to insist that security be stepped up at his home. This was done apparently under some protest from the NIO. What precautions, if any, were taken in regard to Oliver Kelly and Pat Finucane I do not know. Mr Haughey’s involvement in the affair and the NIO’s role in upping security precautions at Paddy McGrory’s home are checkable facts.

The Irish government was therefore aware of the UDA threat to Pat Finucane as well as the other lawyers some two months before the UDA struck and because of Mr Haughey’s intervention the British government was also aware of the threat long before Pat Finucane was killed. Sir Desmond de SIlva is therefore mistaken, or was misinformed. The British government was made aware by the Irish government of the UDA’s threat to lawyers long before February 12th, 1989.

14 responses to “Dublin Government Told British Of Threat To Pat Finucane Two Months Before He Was Killed

  1. Reblogged this on Tomás Ó Flatharta and commented:
    A gaping hole in the De Silva Pat Finucane Review

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  3. Lead Story on the RTE Morning Ireland Show 7-9 am today – half a million Irish listeners groggily tuning in to Cathal MacCoille’ s interview with Ed Moloney, many follow-ups including Geraldine Finucane and SF President Gerry Adams. More power to the Broken Elbow.

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  5. Excellent stuff, Ed. I posted a comment beneath the Irish Times account of what you say, making clear that the “interview” had its origins in your blog. I’m not sure I’d want to go a drink with the Cairo Gang OR Michael Collins’s boys. Harsh times.
    Ruth Dudley-Edwards made the point yesterday (basing much of her information on ‘Lost Lives’) that Finucane was, in effect, the Provos’ consiglieri. Would you go along with that? He didn’t deserve to die, and the role of the RUC and Army Intelligence was obviously disgraceful. But Finucane – from a well-known Republican family – must have known he was in the thick of the conflict.

    • Thanks so much Walter, hope you are well and best of season to you and family – on Pat Finucane and the IRA allegation: it is really well worth reading the de silva report in full because although it has been criticised as inadequate there is a lot of new and interesting information there. one chapter is devoted to something that i don’t see picked up yet by the media; according to de silva, MI5 ran a black propaganda campaign in the 1980’s partly designed tarnish the reputations of people they didn’t like. one of their targets was pat finucane and they spread it around that he was an IRA activist. unfortunately de silva deliberately avoids the issue of how MI5 did this but clearly access to the media had to be part of this campaign. to answer your question, i don’t know whether he was a member of the IRA although some of his brothers undoubtedly were. but in reference to ruth dudley edwards claim i am reminded of Claire Sterling’s famous book ‘The Terror Network’ which alleged that the soviet union was behind almost every international terrorist group. In fact Sterling was the victim of CIA black propaganda which had been circulated around the world’s media; its reappearance in the shape of books like Sterling’s is called blowback and I have read multiple admissions from CIA sources that this is exactly what happened, to the CIA’s great embarrassment. lots of people believed her however even Bill Casey, Ronald Reagan’s CIA chief who ordered his bemused underlings to get to the bottom of this huge plot. They eventually summoned up the courage to tell him the truth but even then he wouldn’t believe. the truth is that people tend to believe these things when they want to. in that context ref finucane, I wonder if ruth is a new claire sterling. I’ll just admit I don’t know but I am wary of the ruth’s of this world and their absolute convictions.

      at the other end of this spectrum lies our mutual friend niall o’dowd who pronounces on his website this morning with great authority and absolutely no evidence at all that margaret thatcher gave the order to kill pat finucane. his evidence, if such a word can be used to describe the drivel that he has written, is that pat finucane was about to take the case of the gibraltar three to the european human rights court and thatcher was so worried she had him bumped off. first of all, paddy mcgrory took that case to europe not pat finucane and secondly the british government of the time regularly ignored verdicts from the european courts so mrs thatcher would not have cared one way or another. by making such ludicrous, extravagant claims, o’dowd poisons the water for other, more reputable journalists. he should instead concentrate on what he does best, which is to suck up to irish-american millionaires and billionaires.

  6. Fair do’s. And Merry Wotsit to you and yours as well. It strikes me that if Finucane wasn’t Adams’s consiglieri, he was certainly the IRA’s go-to lawyer. Not that that would justify his murder. On that basis, Dessie Boal would have to have gone as well.

    I’ve taken issue with Niall already this morning. As we have agreed, he’s a terrible eejit. I also wrote a letter to An Phoblacht the other week to complain that in their recent gossip piece about us by Danny Morrison (gleefully repeated by O’Dowd), it was strongly implied that I was right-wing. So far as I know, the letter wasn’t used. Maybe they didn’t like the fact that I used to vote for the SDLP.

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  8. Oh Ed, you are so bitter!

    • ?? and you are such an idiot. but then living in strabane must be so utterly boring you need to do stuff like this to keep sane. so different here in a big city like new york, so exciting here you can find real things to do. bye.

  9. Interesting presentation by representatives of Pat Finucane Centre this weekend in Letterkenny, Donegal (Ireland) http://seanhillenblog.com/2015/01/19/raiders-of-the-lost-archives/

  10. Kevin Sheehy met Pat Finucane at Trinity College Dublin, they went separate ways, but remained great friends as Kevin entered the RUC as its first Catholic graduate and reached Detective-Superintendent. Sheehy has confirmed that Finucane was a member of PSF & viewed the armalite & the ballot box as a legitimate way to secure a united Ireland. Finucane’s brothers, John, a PIRA member, was killed in a car crash in the Falls Road, Belfast, in 1972. Dermot was suspected of a part in the killing of a prison officer; Seamus was leader of an PIRA unit in west Belfast before his arrest in 1976. It wouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to have suspected that the Loyalists would have wanted to murder him, they were after all assassinating members of PIRA/PSF regularly at that stage. He was actively under surveillance by 5 members of the UDA including one RC who followed him into the west belfast shebeens & saw him associating with senior republicans. There were at least 3 hit teams after him, 2 from different UFF companies made up of A & B, B & C plus a highly proficient UVF team.

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