- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

LONDON, April 17 (UPI) — Some members of British military intelligence and Royal Ulster police conspired to help kill Catholics in conflict-torn Northern Ireland using unionist militants in the late 1980s, a report by Britain's top policeman has found.

The long-delayed but explosive findings also suggest the collusion of one unit of British army intelligence, the Special Branch of local police in Northern Ireland, and the loyalist paramilitary group Ulster Defense Association actually prolonged the decades-long bloodshed. Catholic republicans have fought to wrest free of the United Kingdom and unite with the Irish Republic; Protestant unionists are equally determined to remain with Britain, with whom their ancestral ties largely lie.

The series of inquiries trace back to 1989 — and as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens noted Thursday in his presentation to Britain's chief constable Hugh Orde, the so-called Stevens Three were as yet interim results.

Stevens One began six months after loyalist UDA militants shot and killed a prominent Catholic attorney in front of his family on Feb. 12, 1989. Pat Finucane's relatives accused authorities operating in Northern Ireland of being involved in his murder — a claim bolstered when loyalists distributed security documents in August 1989 to justify their killing of another man they said was a member of the Irish Republican Army.

Stevens, known for his straight talk and extensive police experience, was assigned to investigate the Finucane family's claim in September 1989. About two and one-half years later a suspect his team identified in the case — allegedly a member of British Army who was placed inside the UDA as an agent — was convicted for conspiracy to commit murder.

The British investigator has gradually expanded his inquiry to disconcertingly higher levels. Stevens Two continued into the mid-1990s and Three opened in April 1999.

Among the names, according to the Belfast Telegraph, is Brig. Gen. Gordon Kerr — now Britain's military attache in Beijing. As a colonel with the Force Research Unit in the late 1980s, however, Kerr was the man responsible for inserting the army's double agent into the UDA. That man, Brian Nelson, was the one sentenced and jailed for murder conspiracy after the Finucane killing.

Kerr testified on Nelson's behalf at his trial, saying, "He wished to help the army in its attempts to counter terrorism and to save life. He wanted to save life," the British Broadcasting Corp. quoted Kerr as saying.

Interim results or not, Stevens Three also raises questions about how much the government of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher knew about the 'dirty' ties, London's The Times reported in its Friday edition. A middle-level official in Britain's Home Ministry, Douglas Hogg, had met with RUC officials in late 1989, after Finucane was killed, the inquiry noted.

"The most senior police officer in the U.K. has now found that there was collusion in my husband's murder," the widow of Pat Finucane told the Times. "It is now time for Tony Blair to fulfill his promise." Geraldine Finucane said the current prime minister told her in 2000 that he would convene a public inquiry if it turned out authorities were involved in her husband's murder.

Over the past 14 years, Stevens' investigators have interviewed some 15,000 people, taken more than 5,500 statements and seized 6,000 documents, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

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