Unionists should prepare terms of reference for a full international inquiry into the conduct of the Irish State and its agents in relation to the Provisional IRA, a former Ulster Unionist leader said last night.
Lord Empey was speaking in response to repeated calls from Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny for a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
The intervention of the UUP peer in an emerging row between unionists and Dublin is significant because Lord Empey is generally regarded as representing the thinking of mainstream unionism and is not associated with either the liberal or conservative wings of the UUP.
“I had hoped that we could turn to the future, but those in Sinn Fein who want to rewrite history are intent in stirring things up and sadly are being allowed to do so,” Lord Empey told the News Letter.
“It really is quite intolerable that we continue to face this one-sided demand for inquiries when there is obvious culpability in Dublin for action they took and actions taken by what was a ‘government within a government’ in the late 1960s and early 70s.”
Mr Kenny repeated his previous demands for a Finucane probe after Wednesday’s de Silva report, which confirmed state collusion in the 1989 loyalist murder of the Belfast solicitor.
And in The Sunday Times yesterday, the former Irish leader Bertie Ahern cited the 2001 Weston Park deal between Britain and Ireland for public inquiries to be set up in any cases recommended by Judge Cory, a retired Canadian justice.
“In five cases, Justice Cory recommended a public inquiry, including the case of the murder of Pat Finucane.”
Mr Ahern was quoted as saying that “the British government has always shown a marked reluctance to engage in public inquiries” when there had been allegations of collusion.
Lord Empey said he had been involved in, and a strong supporter of, “new institutions under the Belfast Agreement to facilitate a new beginning”.
“But enough is never enough. The pressure to ‘bash the Brits’ is relentless and the saddest thing I see is Enda Kenny’s support for the Finucane cause.
“The Taoiseach was very well received in Enniskillen at Remembrance time and this could foreshadow a new beginning in relationships, but equally this endless demand for one-sided inquiries risks destroying this progress.”
Lord Empey added: “It is only a personal opinion, but I think we should prepare terms of reference for an international inquiry chaired by a panel of internationally respected legal figures.”
Lord Empey said the then Labour government was prepared to hold a Finucane inquiry after Weston Park “but opposition from the family stalled the process for nine years”.
“In addition there were three criminal inquiries into the case, Stevens 1, 2, and 3. These were the largest police investigations in British history. There was also de Silva.
“What happened to Mr Finucane was wrong and unjustifiable. The de Silva report says so. HMG has admitted collusion and apologised. If there is anything in the report that could lead to further prosecutions then the appropriate authorities have the opportunity to follow this up.”
He added: “Furthermore, there are many people who also seek justice for their loved ones who were mown down by the thousand but who do not have well-funded campaigns to fight their cause.”
Meanwhile, the DUP MP Nigel Dodds said: “It is high time the Government started to press the Irish government about an inquiry into the role of Dublin in the creation and funding of the Provos and the deaths that resulted from the Republic’s refusal to allow proper extradition of terrorists to Northern Ireland for decades.”