I was greatly saddened to hear yesterday of the death of Michael Lavery, one of the most distinguished, talented and comradely members of the Northern Ireland Bar.
I had known Michael almost as long as I have been a journalist; his encyclopedic knowledge of, and insights into local politics, his willingness to talk about important cases that he was involved in and his readiness always to offer a helping hand made him a good friend as well a greatly valued adviser.
Michael was my barrister when we challenged Scotland Yard’s subpoena attempting to confiscate my notes of interviews with the late Billy Stobie, the UDA quarter master and RUC Special Branch agent who had supplied the weapons used to kill Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
Stobie mantained that he had told his handlers about the UDA’s request for weapons from a dump under his control although he did not know until afterwards that the intended victim was Pat Finucane. But after the killing, he informed his handlers about the murder weapon’s movement. No effort was made by the police to interdict the gun.
Scotland Yard’s effort to force me to hand over the Stobie interview notes foundered when, at judicial review, Michael persuaded the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Carswell to deny the Scotland Yard subpoena on the grounds that the police do not have an automatic right to such information.
Michael was one of the last of a great generation of Northern Ireland lawyers, amongst whom one could count Desmond Boal and Paddy McGrory, all of whom are now dead. Michael’s passing marks the end of an era in the Belfast law courts. He will be sadly missed.