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November 26, 2004

News 11/26/04 - Finucanes Threaten To Snub Inquiry

News about Ireland and the Irish

IO 11/26/04 Finucane Family Threatens To Snub Inquiry
UT 11/26/04 SDLP Hit Out At Inquiries Legislation
SM 11/26/04 Public Inquiries: Getting To The Truth?
RT 11/26/04 Bush Phones DUP Chief Paisely


Finucane Family Threatens To Snub Inquiry
2004-11-26 19:40:17+00

The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane tonight ruled out
taking part in the British government's inquiry into his controversial
killing if legislation setting it up remained the same.

Following the publication of a proposed bill setting up the tribunal, the
family expressed deep concern that it would not have the full power to
compel witnesses and documents.

The British government has insisted the legislation is needed to enable
the inquiry to go ahead because it will deal with sensitive matters of
national security.

When the legislation is passed, judges will be asked to probe allegations
that members of British army intelligence and the Royal Ulster
Constabulary colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in the murder of Mr
Finucane in his North Belfast home in February 1989.

Loyalist Ken Barrett was given a life sentence in September after he
admitted his role in the attack which was claimed by the Ulster Freedom

That conviction paved the way for Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy
to announce an inquiry.

However the Finucanes, nationalist politicians and human rights
campaigners have been disturbed by suggestions that the inquiry will
require new legislation and that much of its proceedings will have to
held behind closed doors because of sensitive matters of national


SDLP Hit Out At Inquiries Legislation

The British government was today accused of an attack on democracy after
it published draft legislation on the conduct of inquiries.

By:Press Association

The new laws will give ministers the power to hold public inquiries in
private on the grounds of national security.

They were flagged up by Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy, when he
announced the setting up of an inquiry into the murder of Belfast
solicitor Pat Finucane.

SDLP Policing spokesman Alex Attwood said the draft bill which was
published today confirmed his party`s worst fears.

"This legislation totally undermines the independence of inquiries. In
reality, it ends public inquiries as we know them," he said.

"In future they will be government-controlled and government-censored.
This is an assault on democratic values."

The West Belfast MLA said the legislation would affect all inquiries to
be held in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

"The SDLP is writing to all members of the House of Lords and House of
Commons to express our opposition. We hope to build a coalition against
this attack on openness, democracy and transparency," he added.

When the inquiry was announced in September, the Finucane family
expressed serious concerns about its independence.

They threatened not to co-operate with the inquiry if the British
government`s proposals were unacceptably restrictive.

Mr Finucane, 39, was shot dead in front of his family at his north
Belfast home by members of the Ulster Defence Association in February

The murder was one of the most controversial of 30 years of violence in
Northern Ireland, leading to allegations of collusion between loyalist
paramilitaries and members of the security forces.


Getting To The Truth ?

By Laura Scott, PA

Public inquiries have long been a thorny issue guaranteed to trigger
heated reactions on either side of the fence.

Some condemn them for being too long-winded and pouring taxpayers' money
down the drain.

High-profile probes in particular are criticised on the assertion many
are simply a "whitewash" carried out as a formality rather than to expose
the truth.

The Government has admitted that current legislation surrounding public
inquiries is an outdated "mish-mash" in need of an urgent makeover.

Today, the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) published their
answer to the problem.

The Inquiries Bill overhauls legislation dating back to 1871 and provides
a "simple framework" for inquiries into matters of public concern such as
rail crashes or police activities in a bid to stop them spiralling out of

Proposals include forcing public inquiry chairmen to avoid unnecessary
costs incurred by decisions to admit evidence, hold oral hearings, or
allow legal representation, and create new powers for inquiry chairmen in
England, Wales and Northern Ireland to compel people to give evidence.

A DCA spokeswoman said the Bill is paramount to ensure taxpayers' money
is not needlessly wasted and to bring the system up to scratch.

"We're saying we want to deliver good conclusions and reactions quickly
and at reasonable cost," he said.

"At the moment public inquiries are conducted under outdated legislation
so it's a mish-mash, a mess. Inquiries have been heard under so many
different pieces of legislation that it does mean they tend to take an
awfully long time and become very complicated.

"These proposals are going to streamline it by pulling everything under
one piece of legislation which will therefore make inquiries quicker and

"This is all about the accountability of the government to taxpayers. I'm
sure they would not thank us for writing a blank cheque for inquiries.
There has to be some eye kept on costs by the inquiry chairmen and
ministers need to keep an eye on inquiries."

The publication of the Bill comes in the week the long-running Saville
Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday entered its final stages.

Lord Saville opened his inquiry into the 1972 confrontation when Paras
killed 14 demonstrators in Londonderry in April 1998 - the final cost is
estimated at £150 million.

But, after six years, hundreds of hearings, witnesses and statements -
sometimes confusing and contradictory - the question on many minds is has
the truth been laid bare or was the inquiry just a sugared pill for IRA

Two major public inquiries this year have also had their credibility

The Hutton Inquiry, which took six months and cost £1.7 million, into the
death of Iraq arms expert Dr David Kelly was labelled a "whitewash" and
Lord Hutton was forced to publicly defend the way he handled it.

Next in the firing line was the controversial Butler Inquiry into
intelligence the British Government had about Iraq's alleged weapons of
mass destruction.

Lord Butler - a former top civil servant - was accused of being too close
to government and not willing to rock the boat during the inquiry. He was
also criticised for focusing on the BBC's "45 minutes" report.

Inquiries into Gulf War Syndrome, the "mysterious" suicides of several
young soldiers at the Deepcut army barracks in Surrey and several public
probes into rail disasters have also stirred emotions from angry families
claiming they do not go far enough.

The Southall rail accident inquiry in 2000 took 27 months and cost £2.25
million, while the Ladbroke Grove rail tragedy inquiry took a total of 31
months and cost £8.6 million.

Spiralling inquiry costs are another issue.

The ongoing inquiry into "Dr Death" Harold Shipman started in 2000 and
has so far cost more than £16 million, the three-year BSE inquiry cost
£26 million, the Stephen Lawrence murder probe took 19 months and cost
£4.2 million, while the Victoria Climbie inquiry took two years and cost
£3.8 million.

Professor Anthony Glees, a government advisor for the 1988 War Crimes
Inquiry into Nazis in the UK who has also written books on both the
Hutton and Butler inquiries, criticises the Bill.

He claimed it is a "retrograde" step which spells bad news for the truth
and is an attempt by the government to cover its tracks.

"I think the first thing is that we live in a political culture that is
committed to the rule of law and that costs money.

"The current Government has a very poor track record of cutting back on
things that are meant to promote justice.

"And it seems to me this Bill is entirely consistent with a government
that is trying to get justice on the cheap and perhaps a government that
does not want people to look too carefully at things it, or its
successors, might do.

"I think this is very, very unfortunate as I think it will make people
suspicious of the government's motives.

"These are the people who should be wanting to spend money on justice not
the other way around. It's what used to be called 'a 1984 doublethink'."


Bush Phones DUP Chief Paisely

Fri 26 November, 2004 22:02
By Alex Richardson

BELFAST (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush has tried to help break
a deadlock in the Northern Ireland peace process, telephoning Protestant
leader Ian Paisley as negotiations ground on in London and Belfast.

A White House spokeswoman said Bush also planned to press Sinn Fein
leader Gerry Adams by phone. That call is expected to take place as early
as Saturday.

Paisley, 78, the hard-liner who could decide whether the talks succeed or
fail, said he had spoken to Bush as rival Protestant and Catholic
politicians studied an Anglo-Irish plan to revive home rule in the

Britain and Ireland are trying to push Paisley's Democratic Unionist
Party (DUP) into agreeing to share power with the Irish Republican Army's
(IRA) political ally Sinn Fein -- a partnership previously considered

"I had a long and very useful conversation with him (Bush), I told him
I'd like to be in a position to make a deal, but that any deal must be
fair," Paisley told reporters in Belfast.

"I reminded the president of the fact that he would not have terrorists
in his government, and that we must be satisfied that IRA terrorism is
over and cannot return."

Bush has not carried on his predecessor Bill Clinton's enthusiastic
engagement in Northern Ireland, but the United States, which helped
broker the 1998 Good Friday peace accord, has continued to play a low-key
role in efforts to keep the process on track.

Speaking to reporters in Crawford, Texas, Bush said he was trying to get
Paisley's group and Adams's group to the table to close the agreement
they have been working on for some time.

"Hopefully it will help ... anything I can do to keep the process moving
forward, I'm more than willing to do," Bush said.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said later that Bush "plans to talk
to Adams, but not today," because of scheduling issues.


The 1998 agreement, which sought to end a three-decade political and
sectarian conflict which cost more than 3,600 lives, set up a power
sharing government in Belfast to run most of the province of 1.7 million
people's affairs.

But while the violence has largely stopped, political stability has been
elusive, with the vexed issue of the IRA and its guns dogging efforts to
sustain a Catholic-Protestant administration.

Britain suspended home rule in October 2002 after allegations of IRA
spying caused a final breakdown of trust between unionists and

London and Dublin's latest plan, which was given to the DUP and Sinn Fein
last week but has not been published, is aimed at securing the full
disarmament of the IRA, and so winning a promise from Paisley to share
power with Sinn Fein.

Sources involved in the talks say a potential deal breaker is the DUP's
demand that the IRA provides photographic evidence when it has destroyed
all its weapons.

The IRA, which called a cease-fire in its violent campaign against
British rule in 1997, has carried out three partial acts of disarmament
between 2001 and 2003 but, wary of anything carrying connotations of
surrender, insisted on strict secrecy.

Returning to Belfast after talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair in
London, Adams said his party would not seek any movement from its
guerrilla ally until a deal to restore power sharing was agreed.

--- News

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