Durkan: Finucane Findings Reveal Appalling Policy Of Army Immunity

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said new findings by the Pat Finucane Centre establish a clear level of engagement between the Attorney General Sir Basil Kelly and representatives of the British Army in 1971 which led to the "appalling decision" that any soldier should be immune from prosecution for actions taken in the line of duty.

Mr Durkan also said the findings, which follow June’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report into the killing of Billy McGreanery by the British Army in Derry in September 1971, once again throws up serious questions into the events of Bloody Sunday.

He said:

"It is quite clear from these findings that the Attorney General established a ‘going rate’ for army actions – that no soldiers were to be prosecuted for anything they did in the line of duty.

"They now show that the decision taken by the Attorney General was clearly arrived at after contact, liaison and meetings with the British Army itself.

"All along there was a suspicion that there was an attitude within the prosecution authorities of ‘let’s not go after the army’. The HET report in June showed that. Indeed, when that report came out we had a suspicion that there must have been more behind this. The latest finding by the Pat Finucane Centre – and they must be commended for their very assiduous work on this – showed that is exactly what has happened.

"This also sheds a very different light on the whole build-up to Bloody Sunday.  We had Billy McGreanery’s murder in Derry in September.  We also had 11 killings by the paratroopers in Ballymurphy in August and there were other army deaths as well, including in Derry.

"We had a situation where it is hard to believe that when the Attorney General made his very big decision in December 1971 – in effect that the army were going to be immune from prosecution – that this signal didn’t radiate down through the army.  Indeed, it is hard to believe that senior army officers, including paratroopers and people like Colonel Wilford, would not have been made aware of that decision which was almost a cue for ‘anything goes’.

"We need to remember that locally the RUC’s Frank Lagan formed the clear conclusion that Billy McGreanery’s death was an unlawful killing and that the soldier should be prosecuted. The HET report also showed that a senior officer in RUC Headquarters held the same view.

"We were told that the army was meant to be acting in Northern Ireland in support of the civil power – which was meant to be the police. But what we had here was senior police officers saying that the soldier in question should have been prosecuted. We now have the evidence that the Attorney General was in some form of dialogue with army representatives that basically led to the decision that there were to be no prosecutionsever of any soldier who committed any questionable act in the line of duty."