UPDATED 14.05 EST
STATEMENT BY ED MOLONEY ON THE DE SILVA REPORT – Dec 12th 2012
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.