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British Army Aided In Killing During 'Troubles' Period

A review of one of the most notorious killings during Northern Ireland's Troubles, has confirmed that — in the words of Prime Minister David Cameron — there was a "shocking" level of collusion by agents of the state. Cameron made an extended statement in Parliament on Wednesday. Belfast Lawyer Pat Finucane was shot dead by Protestant loyalists in front of his family in 1989. Sir Desmond de Silva's report confirms what's been open knowledge in Northern Ireland for years — that members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland's British-backed police force, were involved in the killing and then obstructed the murder investigation. It was also revealed, for the first time, that Britain's MI-5 had spread disinformation about Finucane before the killing.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. British Prime Minister David Cameron stood up in Parliament today and apologized for one of the most notorious killings of Northern Ireland's sectarian troubles. But unlike past official apologies, this one may have reopened more wounds than it closed. Vicki Barker reports from London.

VICKI BARKER, BYLINE: In 1989, Pat Finucane was gunned down in front of his wife and three children in the kitchen of his Belfast home. The 39-year-old Catholic lawyer had defended a number of suspected Irish Republican Army operatives. A Protestant paramilitary group later claimed responsibility for the killing.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This morning, I had meetings with ministerial...

BARKER: In Parliament today, fresh from reading the third official report into Finucane's murder, this one by human rights lawyers Desmond De Silva, Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed what past probes had concluded and what many in Northern Ireland have been saying for years, that Finucane was killed with the support and encouragement of the British Army and of Northern Ireland's British-backed police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. And that the RUC then obstructed the murder investigation.

It also found the British Intelligence Agency, MI-5 had spread disinformation about Finucane.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: The collusion, demonstrated beyond any doubt by Sir Desmond, is totally unacceptable. We do not defend our security forces or the many who've served in them with great distinction by trying to claim otherwise.

BARKER: Cameron repeated in public the apology he'd already given Finucane's widow in private a year ago when he ordered the De Silva inquiry. In London, for the report's release, Geraldine Finucane called Cameron well-intentioned but too young to have any imaginative grasp of Northern Ireland's long and blood-soaked history.

GERALDINE FINUCANE: I've given them the benefit of the doubt and accept the apology, but it doesn't go far enough because I don't really know what he's apologizing for.

BARKER: He called the report itself a confidence trick, a mere recycling of material gleaned from earlier investigations. But in Northern Ireland today, Protestant lawmaker Ian Paisley, Jr. decried another kind of confidence trick, what he claimed was a growing tendency to paint the IRA as the heroes of Northern Ireland's story and the troops and police as its villains.

Another Protestant lawmaker, Paul Given(ph), says Cameron's apology was deeply hurtful to the families of soldiers, security forces, and ordinary Protestants who were killed in the troubles.

PAUL GIVEN: And many of those people are asking, where's my inquiry? Where is the police investigation into the loss of my loved one?

BARKER: The Finucane family and its supporters aren't giving up. The De Silva report concludes that the collusion in high places stopped short of conspiracy on the part of British politicians. But without an independent inquiry, the family asks, how can anyone say that with certainty? For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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