Pat Finucane inquiry: Top intel figure speaks up in defence of undercover moles

A former top intelligence figure has spoken up in defence of those who acted as covert agents during the Troubles, after Labour’s Northern Ireland spokeswoman said many of them had strayed far beyond any legitimate remit.

Thursday, 29th October 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 29th October 2020, 9:29 am
A mural being painted in 1999 demanding 'the truth' about the murder of Pat Finucane (and Rosemary Nelson)

Norman Baxter was responding to the comments made by Louise Haigh, the 33-year-old Sheffield MP who acts as Labour’s Shadow NI Secretary.

Ms Haigh had come out in full support this week of a public enquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane – adding pressure to the government as it gets ready in the next few weeks to decide whether or not to order such a probe.

The 1989 killing has been the subject of three different reviews (in 2003, 2004 and 2012) by senior figures in the justice system, and all three reviews have cited evidence of state/loyalist collusion in the murder, via the use of undercover moles.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But the Finucane family aim to obtain a full public inquiry, which could hold open hearings and compel evidence out of witnesses.

In a follow-up interview on Radio Ulster on Tuesday, Ms Haigh also said: “Many, many times undercover agents during the Troubles went far beyond what they were authorised – and they were authorised to do far beyond what they were legally allowed to do.”

She also declared that a public inquiry into the Finucane killing is now “the only legal and moral thing” to do.

Mr Baxter is a retired detective chief superintendent, who served both with the RUC and PSNI.

He was also, prior to his retirement from the PSNI in 2008, Northern Ireland’s operational intelligence advisor, in charge of counter-terror intelligence.

He wonder whether there was any basis to Ms Haigh’s claim that “many, many” agents went too far in their activities.

He told the News Letter: “The use of agents was probably the most successful tool used by the security forces in defeating terrorism.

“They were very effective. And it’s extremely dangerous.

“It’s a current process usedacross the UK and Ireland, and it’s recognised in international law as a legitimate law enforcement activity.”

He added: “The Finucane family are entitled to justice, as every citizen is. I firmly believe that. But the granting of a public inquiry creates a heirarchy of victims, which is in itself an injustice.

“The Shadow Secretary of State is clearly playing politics in a matter in which it appears she doesn’t have a very deep understanding.”

His comments come after Kate Hoey – a former Labour MP for 30 years – warned her erstwhile party comrades not to side with people who want to “re-write” Troubles history.

The book Lost Lives says Pat Finucane was the 3,012th person murdered in the Troubles, with several hundred more after that.

Pat acted as lawyer to high profile republican figures and three of his brothers – John, Seamus, and Dermot – were involved in republicanism (John was an IRA man killed in 1972, Seamus was arrested with Bobby Sands in 1976 after a firefight, and Dermot was part of the 1983 IRA Maze breakout).

READ MORE FROM THE NEWS LETTER:

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe

Editor