I am grateful to my colleague and I am also grateful to the clerk of the committee for the effort in facilitating this meeting today.
In October 2011, I sat in 10 Downing Street, along with my mother and the rest of my family, as we listened to the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, explain to us and apologise for the collusion which took place and occurred between the British state and the killers who came into our house and killed my father. That, for me, was one of the most significant points within our 31-year campaign.
If I can go back to February 1989, as a family, we sat, like many other families, enjoying our Sunday dinner around the kitchen table. I, my brother, my sister, my mother and my father were there when two gunmen burst in and shot my father 14 times and shot my mother once in front of us all. While I have spoken before about that incident and, in fact, losing a parent in any circumstances is life changing and traumatic, no matter what the circumstances, from the outset, as a family, we had questions to ask.
My father was a human rights lawyer. In the lead-up to his death, he had been threatened numerous times and this was relayed to him via his clients, who were held in infamous holding centres such as Castlereagh. While he maybe dismissed that as an interrogation technique designed to unnerve the client, things very much changed a matter of weeks before, when a British Government Minister, Douglas Hogg, made a statement in the House of Commons, having been briefed by senior members of the RUC, that there were a number of solicitors who were unduly sympathetic to the IRA.
My mother and father did not have any time to react to that statement. The significance of it hit home to them straight away but, within a matter of weeks, he was dead. He had been killed in front of us all. The context of the time meant that as a family we had questions. That is all we started off doing; we asked questions. Over time, more and more evidence arose, through the work of investigative journalists, our legal team and those who supported us from an early stage.
The term "collusion" evolved naturally from that campaign. "Collusion" is a neutral word, at times, to describe the activity we saw in front our eyes. My experience growing up in the 1990s in Belfast was that even to utter the word "collusion", you were viewed in a certain way. You were viewed as a republican propagandist. There was no such thing as collusion. It did not happen. That evolved into the idea that there were one or two bad apples in an otherwise healthy barrel.
To sit in front of the British Prime Minister in 2011 and have the collusion accepted at the highest levels of the British State was of a significance that can never be overstated. We no longer talk about allegations or suspicions of collusion; we talk about a practice that has been accepted at the very highest level. The support we have received throughout our 31-year campaign has been extraordinary.
I wish to use my platform today to thank everybody who has and continues to support us. I will not give an exhaustive list but any non-governmental organisation that has concerned itself with human rights on this island has backed our calls for an inquiry. Legal and human rights groups around the world have backed our calls for an inquiry. Political parties have backed our calls for an inquiry, as have political institutions. We have had judicial victories. Significantly, there has also been governmental support. I particularly point out and thank the Irish Government and successive Irish governments for their support.
That support led us on a journey that has had numerous investigations and I deliberately use the word "investigations", not "inquiries". We have had investigations under the authority of the UK's then most senior police officer, John Stevens, now Lord Stevens, who carried out three investigations examining security force collusion with loyalist killers. His third and final investigation led to the production of more than 1 million documents, yet the majority of that remains in secret. However, his conclusions were significant - that there was collusion and that agents were involved in crimes up to and including murder. Significantly, at the time he reported, he said with confidence that he had seen everything, that he had had access to all of the secret documents and that his report was the authoritative version of what happened to Pat Finucane.
Our journey then brought us much further on and became part of the Weston Park peace talks between the political parties on this island and also the British and Irish Governments. These governments, with no input from us, picked six cases to be examined by an international judicial figure. If that figure recommended an inquiry, then the relevant jurisdiction would have an inquiry. Of those six, five inquiries were recommended; of those five, one related to this State and four to the British state.
At a time this country was bordering on bankruptcy and had zero money, the Irish Government understood its duties. It understood the significance and importance of peace and reconciliation and that it needed to fulfil the promise it had signed up to. That led to the Smithwick tribunal. Of the four that were recommended to the British state, we have already had inquiries into the killings of Billy Wright, Rosemary Nelson, another human rights lawyer who was killed, and Robert Hamill. The fourth case, which remains outstanding, is the case of my father. It is the case that has met with the most resistance from the British state.
We then embarked again on a campaigning journey to force the British Government into doing something and finally grasping the very difficult issue that it faces in the murder of my father. That led us to where I started my comments today, which is October 2011, when the then British Prime Minister apologised for collusion. He explained to us that he was a young man in 1989, that he did not have any particular bias as to how he would approach this issue and that is why he felt the best way to look at this would be a review of the papers by a barrister. It is fair say that the meeting went sour at that point. We felt that while de Silva ended up being a very significant document, the methodology was flawed from the outset. Sir Desmond de Silva, no matter what his credentials were, did not have the power to force anybody to attend in front of him or to force anybody to provide documents. He relied solely on the goodwill and honesty of the very services and agencies we were accusing of murder, which, by that stage, had accepted that they were culpable in the murder of my father. The de Silva report, nonetheless, is a significant documentary. I urge members of this committee, if they have not already, to run their eye over that document. He had access to primary source material from the intelligence agencies. He came up with some shocking conclusions, including that more than 85% of all loyalist intelligence was security force documents. He confirmed what we already knew: the person who came into our house that evening was an agent of the state; the person who supplied the weapon was an agent of the state; and, in fact, the person who supplied the intelligence, not just for the murder of my father, but for the murder of many others was not just an agent of the state but had been recruited from Germany to go back specifically to carry out that role within the loyalist paramilitaries. That was a man called Brian Nelson, since deceased.
The conclusions of de Silva were shocking but where we differed from the British Government is that it felt there was very much a full stop after the name Pat Finucane as a result of de Silva report. We accepted that report was significant but it begs more questions and it answers. Our analysis, which was shared by our supporters, was that it was a significant stepping stone to what should be a full inquiry but the British Government was not for moving on this. They made it very clear that they would not re-examine the case of my father and, as such, we were left with no other option but to initiate legal proceedings. We judicially reviewed the Government's position in presenting us with de Silva instead of a full inquiry.
I do not need to take this committee through the entire history of those legal proceedings. We worked our way from the high court in Belfast to the court of appeal and, ultimately, the supreme court, which gave its judgment in February 2019. I imagine that most members of this committee will be aware, certainly with the news this week, that our supreme court judgment in 2019 was significant and it was a victory. The importance of that judgment is that the supreme court was completely unambiguous in saying that every single previous investigation that had taken place up to that point was not compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It did not meet the international legal and human rights obligations the British Government is bound by. It was significant because we say there is only one option left for the British Government, namely, to have the inquiry they promised to my family and to the Irish Government, the inquiry they have put all their time, efforts and considerable resources into resisting for 30 years.
The judgment issued in February 2019 to the British Government. It was a complicated judgment and we accept that but, as a family and with our lawyer, we were able to get our heads around it fairly quickly. The British Government said they needed time to consider and digest it. We allowed them some time and, in July last year, we were again forced - I think, quite cruelly - to go back to court to force the government to respond to a judgment of the highest court within their own jurisdiction. That led to commentary from the high court in Belfast at the beginning of this month. The judge, Mr. Justice Gerry McAlinden, was absolutely scathing of the British Government response. He described it as adding insult to injury: the injury being the very deliberate targeting and taking of my father's life and the insult being that we are forced to go to court to force the British Government to respond to the supreme court judgment.
It reminded me that when Judge Peter Cory presented his recommendations to the British and Irish Governments, the British Government refused to tell us even what his recommendation was. In an act that sums up that man and also shows his great sense of humanity, Judge Cory found that cruel and intolerable and he phoned our family to say that, while he could not discuss the contents of the report, he found it incredibly cruel that we had to go to court to find out what his recommendation was. He told us that he was firmly recommending an inquiry. However, 20 to 25 years later, we found ourselves in court again, forcing the British Government to do the most basic of things, namely, to respond to a judicial judgment from their own courts. At the beginning of this month, they accepted that they had delayed, they apologised for that delay and they committed to responding to the supreme court by 30 November.
That is a matter of days away and within that very short window, we have been trying to revisit our supporters who have been so firm and loyal in their support over the past 31 years. I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody. Dr. Farry from the Alliance Party is here. He signed the motion letter last weekend on behalf of his party. I also want to thank the Green Party, the SDLP, Sinn Féin, the British Labour Party and the Irish Government. Last night we saw yet another example of the Irish Government's firm support. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, was in the Seanad to debate a motion tabled by my colleague, Senator Ó Donnghaile, which received unanimous support in the House. I am grateful to those who signed that motion and to all who spoke in support of it.
On Monday of this week, we met Deputy Micheál Martin for the first time in his role as Taoiseach and, again, he was unequivocal and unambiguous in confirming his personal support. He had dealt with this matter when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs previously. Now, in his role as Taoiseach, he again confirmed his firm commitment to my family on this issue. He did not need us to explain to him the significance and importance of, and the need for, an inquiry into the murder of my father. He committed to engaging with the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on the issue and I understand has already done so.
We are now days away from the British Government announcing its response to the Supreme Court judgment. I have outlined today, all week and all month that our position remains the same. We want a fully independent, public judicial inquiry as a mechanism of last resort. It is the only mechanism in this case that can fully grasp all of the issues that led to the murder of my father. It would be remiss of me to focus my comments today solely on my father. If this system was put in place to kill one person, we would not be here 31 years later; this matter would have been dealt with a long time ago. Some people have suggested that the system was broken but I disagree. I think the system worked perfectly because the system was designed to do just what it did in our house on 12 February and in so many other houses. Make no mistake about it; collusion was not something that affected one side of the community and not the other. Collusion visited all sides of the community and, in fact, visited all parts of this island. This State has suffered from the effects of collusion, whether that is the Dublin-Monaghan bombings or the murder of my colleague in Donegal. Whenever the state's own actions are being questioned, it is incumbent upon that state, if it is serious about truth and reconciliation, democracy and moving a society out of conflict, to grasp that issue, no matter how difficult.
Legacy as a whole is a mess at the minute because we have a previous political agreement the British Government has reneged on. It is exceptionally cruel. No matter where in the world a family is from or who in the world their loved one was, if they mourn and demand answers for the circumstances surrounding the killing of a loved one, they deserve that. They deserve it, no matter who they are and no matter what the circumstances are. The sooner we deal with legacy in our society, the better. My mother has described it previously as a very deep wound and that is apt. Legacy remains a very deep wound in our society. One does not treat a deep wound by putting a sticking plaster over it. If one does that, the wound festers, gets infected, gets poisonous, bursts and seeps out. The way to heal a deep wound, no matter how painful, is to go to the root of the wound and treat it. Legacy will be the same. It will be difficult. Nobody underestimates how difficult it will be but believe me, my family is ready to deal with it. The other families that I speak to, who have suffered loss, are also ready to deal with it.
At this time it is incumbent on the British Government to heed the words of my family but if it continues to ignore my family, then it needs to listen to those around the world who continue to support us. Just this morning, a US congressional letter with 24 signatures was sent to the British Prime Minister. We are, again, very grateful for that support, which was forthcoming within a very short space of time. We have a president-elect who was previously the chairman of the US foreign relations committee when a motion that began its political life in this House worked its way across the Atlantic and received bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress, including from the then Senator, Joe Biden. The British Government needs to heed and read the room in terms of where this issue is going. It is not going away. As my mother said and as Senator Ó Donnghaile very eloquently put it in the Seanad last night, we are no longer interested in who pulled the trigger; we want to know who pulled the strings. It is now time for the British Government to live up to the promises it made previously.