Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Peter Cory
Former Canadian Supreme Court Justice - Author of independent investigative reports requested by the Irish and British Governments as part of the Weston Park agreement


Remarks as delivered:

It always has been and it will always remain a bit of a mystery how I was appointed to this. The two charming people, the British high commissioner and the ambassador of Ireland, I'm sure in another life they were experienced and magnificent con-artists. They
convinced me with very little trouble that all my sins would be
forgiven me, as long as I undertook this inquiry.

And at a certain age, you've accumulated a good many sins. So
the prospect of atonement was certainly one that I welcomed.

The first case that I looked into, right at the outset, it
probably raised questions of my competence. The first case, I had to
go to look at sensitive documents; it was at New Scotland Yard. To
get into New Scotland Yard, you have to know the three-number code for
the elevators. When you get to the secure floor, you have to have a
four-number code to get in. When you get to the office, it's another
four-number code. And to get into the vault where the documents were,
is a six-number code.

And Scotland Yard doesn't allow the writing down of any numbers.
You're tested rigorously. I was able to scrape through for the day.

But at the end of the day, 6:30 to 6:45, when I went home and I
couldn't stand the thought of buying another pre-cooked dinner and
cooking for myself, I went to the tea shop. Before I could go there,
I had to go to the bank machine. And my friendly bank machine refused
me. I couldn't remember my PIN number. I tried four times and I
couldn't get the number right, and the people in the line behind me
were getting restless and suspicious, and it was a very difficult
beginning to the inquiry.

Mr. Chairman, you've outlined the sad facts with regard to the
tragic murder. All that I can add to that is that the documents which
I reviewed indicated that there is evidence which would warrant the
holding of a public inquiry. They break down into three categories.
They're referred to in the report.

One, an agent of the British Army Intelligence Unit, which was
called FRU, or Force Research Unit, engaged an agent by the name of
Brian Nelson who had been a member of the British Army. He had been
discharged. He had worked for the British Army as an agent for a year
and a half. There are some noisome aspects of it.

In any event, he left again and went to Germany. The army
followed him to Germany, and, if there is such a word, re-recruited
him as an agent and persuaded him to come back to Belfast with his

There are aspects of the work that are worrisome. First, it was
apparent that the agent was not complying with the law of the land.
Later on, in 1990, he entered a plea of guilty to 20 terrorist-related
offenses, five of which included conspiracy to commit murder or
attempted murder.

The army research unit that, based on the documentation, knew or
ought to have known, from what was said or done that this was
happening. They kept records, like all armies. These seem to be

There are two types, one called a CF, which was the
contact form, which was the briefing or debriefing of the agent.
Second, there was the telephone contact form which just set out what
took place over the telephone.

There are other aspects that are worrisome with regard to
testimony given by the commanding officer of this unit at the trial of
Nelson, obviously seeking a lenient sentence on the basis of his work,
which was alleged to have saved hundreds of lives.

There are other documents that indicate that known to others that
that was not correct, indeed it was false. And there are matters of
evidence, for instance it's alleged by a high-ranking police officer
of the London police, that he was giving evidence according to a
script. The commanding officer denied that.

But there is other evidence that indicated in the document that
that might have been the fact.

All of this is worrisome and indicates that there appears to be
evidence that warrants the holding of a public inquiry.

I couldn't make findings of fact. I wasn't empowered to subpoena
witnesses or to conclude findings of fact. I wasn't there as a trial
judge. And so the work and indeed what I understood it to be was to
review the documents, sensitive documents, and determine if there was
evidence which warranted the holding of a public inquiry.

That evidence alone with regard to the work of Brian Nelson in my
view warranted the holding of a public inquiry.

The work of the police which was then called the Royal Ulster
Constabulary, particularly special branch. They had recruited an
agent by the name of Stobie.

I must say, Mr. Chairman, if you're in Northern Ireland long
enough, you must almost come to the conclusion that 90 percent of the
population is an agent for one side or another, and indeed often an
agent for both sides.

But in any event, what happened with regard to Stobie was this:
He was a former quartermaster, a weapons expert, in the British army.
He was recruited then by special branch to report to them with regard
to the workings of a Protestant paramilitary organization.

There are aspects of the Stobie work which I cannot get into.
They were the subject of editing by the British government, quite
appropriately, on the basis of their interpretation of the need to
protect national security.

Suffice it to say that there is evidence with regard to Stobie
and his work with regard to weapons, the dispersal of weapons, the
collecting of weapons and what was done and not done with regard to
those weapons that leaves worrisome aspects. It certainly could be
considered to be collusive acts that warrant the holding of a public

To a lesser extent, there is the aspect of the security agency
know as Security Services.

They didn't run agents. They were available for
consultation and overview with regard to the work of some of the
agents, and what is worrisome there on the documentation as early as
1981, and again in 1985, and again in 1989 before this murder, there
are indications that Patrick Finucane was a target, that he was
imminent danger.

The troubling aspect is that Patrick Finucane was not warned in
light of this of the danger that existed to him for the purpose of
protecting the identity and the safety of the agent. That in itself
is evidence with regard to collusion. It warrants the holding of a
public inquiry on that aspect.

Mr. Chairman, there were four cases that were referred to the
British government. The next one I had nothing to do with the choice
of the murders. They were presented to me as the ones that I was
going to review.

The next one has to do, a man by the name of Billy Wright. Billy
Wright was a violent man. He was convicted at 15 of a terrorist act.
Been in and out of prison from that age. Obviously he had talent. He
was a leader and he influenced of people to follow him. When he
thought that other Protestant sects were not militant enough, he
formed his own and gathered a band of militants about him.

He was articulate. He was an able public speaker.

He was imprisoned in the Maze Prison. The Maze Prison was a
peculiar institution. Those that were there considered themselves to
be prisoners of war, and they dealt with the prison authorities
through their commanding officer in the jail.

The facilities consisted of a series of H huts. That's to say
there were two sides to the H, and in each side prisoners were
retained. The bar across for the H was where the guards were located.
There's no doubt that the prisoners ran that institution.

By the time Billy Wright was murdered, 28 guards of that prison
had been killed. Other guards and families had been threatened. And
it was not a place where you would get a good rating with a life
insurance agency if you were working as a guard.

Billy Wright had been a prison before he was transferred to the
Maze at a prison called Maghaberry. I don't know why it's called
Maghaberry, because if you spell it out, it says "Maccaberry." But in
any event, it's their place in Northern Ireland, and if they want to
call it Maghaberry, it should be called Maghaberry.

But there are all sorts of peculiar pronunciations that are
unique to Northern Ireland, I discovered.

The point of this is, that at Maghaberry, to the knowledge of
jail officials, three members of INLA, Irish Nationalist Liberation
Army, attempted to kidnap Billy Wright and to execute him. That was
an unsuccessful attempt, but it was known to the prison authorities.

Wright sought a transfer to the Maze Prison, thinking it would
give him greater political standing and status and that he and members
of his militant band would be together there.

It was granted, and at the same time, a transfer was
granted to members of INLA. INLA prisoner had said that they were
going to kill Billy Wright.

When they were transferred, they were then placed, INLA and the
LVF, the band of Billy Wright, in opposite wings of the H hut, a
building with a 9-foot ceiling. Even I was able to climb when I
inspected it within 30 seconds. And there they were, these two sworn
enemies, two groups who had to sign or to recognize the accord that
was then in effect with regard to violence.

On the 27th of December, three members of INLA would cut a hole
in the fence in the exercise yard because the guards had no control
over the exercise yard, climbed over the roof into the van where Billy
Wright was waiting to be driven to his visitors on Saturday and shot

The band members surrendered immediately after the shooting to
the authorities, took responsibility for the shooting and there it
was. In light of their pleas of guilty, the facts never really came
out. How did they get to weapons? How were they able to cut the hole
in the wire and a number of other things: One, the guard who would
that portion of the prison twice that morning had been asked to stand

It's denied by a governor who was on duty at the time, so it's a
matter of finding of fact. What cannot be discounted is the guard was
stood down twice on the morning of the killing. Two, the surveillance
cameras that overlooked this portion of the Maze Prison had been out
of order for at least a week before the killing, and no explanation
why or anything with regard to repairs.

There are other aspects of the -- something called the prisoners'
list, which was usually only given to prisoners of a particular unit.
On this occasion, the prisoners' list was given to INLA at the same
time that it was given to Billy Wright's band, which would tell them
the time of the prisoners' visitors and when he would be leaving.

Earlier documents indicated that they wanted to separate him from
his colleagues, that he would be an easier target at that time.

Why worry about Billy Wright, prisoner, a violent man, perhaps a
murderer? And I suppose you have to say if you believe in democracy,
you believe, no matter what, in the unique dignity of every individual
and the right that that be recognized.

And secondly, it was a state prison, thus the state
responsibility for the safety of Wright.

There's no doubt in my mind that the material indicated actions
that would constitute collusion. And I didn't make it up, the
definition. I simply took the definition of collusion that appears in
both the Oxford and the Webster dictionaries.

The most frequently used synonym is connivance, to turn a blind
eye, to cooperate secretly, and there's evidence in all of these cases
that meets with that definition.

The next case, in order of chronology, was Robert Hamill. Robert
Hamill was 25 years old.

He is a construction worker. He and his partner had two
children, beautiful little boys, four and two, and another child on
the way.

On Saturday night, in Portadown, it was known to the police that
there was an intersection that was known as a hotspot. Prior to
Hamill's murder and over the past six months, there had been incidents
on Saturday nights on no less than 17 occasions, incidents worthy of

And it comes about in this way: At the intersection of two
streets, south on the northside street is St. Patrick's Hall, where
the Catholic young people would gather for an evening of drinking,
dancing and a good time. Hamill was there with two of his cousins,
Girvan girls and the husband of one of them.

The Protestant youth usually gathered at rugby clubs. They are
taken by bus to the west of Portadown and then came back to Portadown.
They would go west. The Irish young people would go north. And often
enough, they met at the intersection. And there was regularly
brawling at the intersection.

I supposed that in the words of an American general, it depended
who got there firstest with the mostest, who outnumbered whom on a
particular evening.

But it's tragic to think that young people were getting into a
regular Saturday semi-riot. This Saturday was no different. As
Hamill and his cousins headed north, they saw on the intersection an
RUC armored Land Rover that were used by the police informally. In
Northern Ireland, they had to be armored.

And they placed their Land Rover at the north side of the
intersection, but unfortunately not in a place where they could see
the crowd coming from St. Patrick's Hall.

Someone who was passing by, rapped on the door of the RUC -- and
the officers agree with this -- told them that they should move the
position of the van so they could see the young people coming north,
because also there was a group of Protestants from the bus station
coming west.

And they moved it, but again, not in a very good position --
climbed in and drove to that intersection in a Land Rover. Because of
the armor, there's just a slit for the front windshield, very narrow
windows, little tiny squares, 6 inches on each side, similar to one of
the back, so that the vision isn't good. And because of the armor
plating, it's difficult to hear.

That leads to a point, because what happened was this: When the
young people, Hamill (inaudible) to there, there was a larger group,
perhaps four to one, of Protestants arriving there. The two men,
Robert Hamill and his companion, one of the two cousins, were knocked
down. They were both rendered unconscious. There's no doubt that on
evidence Hamill was kicked in the head a number of times while he was

And the question is: Should the police have intervened? Should
they have been able to see?

What then is the evidence of collusion in this case?

First, the senior officer -- and there are groups of four always
in these Land Rovers.

The senior officer in the Land Rover did this: He phoned
the father of a young man who was seen at the scene of the killing by
a number of independent witnesses. And according to one witness,
said: Get rid of his clothes, burn his clothes, get rid of them.

There hasn't been evidence. Assume that that officer will deny
that. That, in itself, would be evidence of collusion, the attempt to
destroy evidence that was vital to a murder inquiry.

It went further. The officer persuaded two friends to say that
they were at his house that evening and that it was they that called
the boy's parents.

The leader recanted, entered pleas of guilty to obstruction of
justice, and the husband did six months. And the wife, because she
was expecting a baby, child, was given suspended sentence.

That would be an indication again of the collusive act.

There were other aspects of it. A man who was identified as
being right at the scene and probably as kicking Hamill in the head,
was taken into custody by the officers and then released. Why has
never, never been explained. And if it turns out that was what
happened, and the independent statements appear to indicate that, it
is something that would have to be investigated, a public inquiry, as
would be the speed with which the officers, four officers in the van,
responded to the cries for help for the two Girvan women and to the
riot, which broke out, and this was the first aspect of it.

And that was the basis for the recommendation. This is a very
rough, very short summary.

And the next case was that of Rosemary Nelson. When she was
murdered, as she was just not quite a year older than Patrick
Finucane, she too was very active in the community. And like Patrick
Finucane, she had clients on both sides of the divide. And like
Patrick Finucane, she was very proud that she had that ability to act
for people on both sides.

Now, the aspects that are worrisome in her case, do not arise
from the investigation that was carried out of her murder. In that
case, the investigation was carried out thoroughly, without regard to
expense and without regard to the very long hours put in by police

The investigation was imaginative, thorough, complete and no
expense was spared, no time was spared of officers. The problems that
arise come about as a result of a failure to provide protection for
Rosemary Nelson. She was obviously a very brave woman.

She had acted for and gained the acquittal of a man alleged --
well, admitted to being a member of the IRA, Colin Dalphy (ph), who
was accused of the murder of two RUC officers.

She had a number of other prominent cases. She acted for the
Garvagi (ph) Road residents and their complaint was of the Orange
Parade passing through their district. And she took up the case on
their behalf.

What, then, were the aspects that indicated that there is
evidence of collusion that should be investigated at public inquiry?

First, there was reports from clients of hers of statements made
by RUC officers, for instances, to this effect, in one that's quoted
in the report: You shouldn't have her as your lawyer, she's going to
be dead.

Other remarks that were demeaning, crude and revolting, if they
were made.

Her clients reported those threats to her and eventually, as a
result of her complaint, there was an investigation with regard to
them, a difference of opinion with regard to the effectiveness of the

And finally, the investigation really turned on whether the first
investigation was proper, not whether or not the remarks were made.
If they were, there was evidence of an attitude within the RUC, and
perhaps more than an attitude, demonstrated an attitude that could be
taken as more than collusive but of encouraging others to violence
with regard to her.

There were as well reports of both threats and abuse when she
appeared in front of the police at the Garvagi Road (ph).

Again, those aspects -- because there is conflicting evidence --
need to be explored at a public inquiry or findings of fact be made.

Then there are two written threats. One is contained in a
pamphlet, "Man Without A Country," which refers to her in a way that,
certainly by independent of service, could be taken as threatening.

Next, there was on the June the 3rd a letter written to her which
was a direct death threat. That's June the 3rd of 1998. She was
murdered on the 15th of March 1999.

There were numerous independent agencies that spoke to the
Northern Ireland office and to the RUC with regard to the threats that
she had received.

They seemed to have been ignored.

The Northern Ireland office took the position there is no direct
threat. And yet, we have this sad situation.

The Northern Ireland office wrote to the RUC saying, "We need a
threat assessment. And there you are. We'd like to have it as soon
as we could." And they didn't enclose -- although they purported to
-- the letter of June the 3rd.

That might be simply a careless error. Or it might be found to
be something a little more worrisome and could constitute a collusive

The RUC received a letter, and although they saw the reference,
they apparently made no effort to get hold of the June the 3rd letter.

And then you have evidence that could be found to be a collusive
act, both on the part of the Northern Ireland office and the RUC with
regard to failure to provide the RUC with this material, because then
you would have a proper death threat assessment made.

The Northern Ireland office refused to take action on the
basis that there was not direct death threat and that there hasn't
been sufficient in the assessment.

Suffice to say that the evidence indicated that it was material
to say evidence that could constitute conducive acts that warranted
the holding of the a public inquiry in the case of Rosemary Nelson.

Those were the four cases for the Irish government. There were
of course the two cases in connection with -- or for the English
government, the two cases involving the Irish government.

Those two involved, first the murder of Justice Gibson and his
wife. That was the earliest point of time, it would have occurred in
1987. Justice Gibson had served a number of years as a senior judge
of the Northern Ireland court and sat on a number of cases, high-
profile cases.

It was thought in one case that he had, by his actions or his
words, in passing sentence on the acquittal of two RUC officers
charged with the murder of IRA members, who had failed to stop at a
checkpoint, that he was endorsing the shoot-to-kill policy.

When he learned that he issued an immediate statement that that
hadn't been his and that he was opposed to it.

He was taking a holiday in the spring of that year. He had been
warned by both the RUC and the Guarda in Southern Ireland that he
should take all proper precautions for his home security.

He had built a place as a holiday home for himself and his wife
in Donegal, by the coast. That home had been burnt. There was an
arson. And there was a sad scene in a way -- all of these murders
were so tragic, and they tear you apart.

But when the were torching the house, the last men told Justice
Gibson and his wife to leave. Justice Gibson's wife said, "Can I do
the dishes first?" They said, "No." And as they drove away, they saw
the flames of their home.

However, he did not pay attention to security when he took the
holiday in England. He, by this time was 74. He could have retired,
but felt that it was his duty to go on sitting.

He made all of the arrangements in his own names as Justice
Gibson. When he was coming back, he changed the ferry from Liverpool
to Belfast to Liverpool to Dublin. And when he got to Liverpool for
the Dublin ferry, he had them put his car first so he would be first

He was a commissioner for the Boy Scouts in Northern Ireland.
And his wife, who had served in the British military as a decoder,
telegraph operator for the British Navy, was commissioner for the
(inaudible), she did the driving.

They got off the boat first. They were met by four Garda
officers who led them out of Dublin.

When they got to the border, Justice Gibson got out of the
car to go and thank the Garda officers, shook hands with them. And
they crossed the border. And a quarter mile across the border, a car
bomb was triggered as the Gibsons went by. And really, it was like
looking at an X-ray to read the autopsy report. There was no means of
identification apart from the dental records.

As in all the sites, I went to where it was. For a radio bomb,
it has to be sight-triggered. I think I must have climbed the pole
that they climbed. And the car bomb was left on the side of the road
just 30 minutes before the Gibsons arrived there. It was triggered
and away it went.

However, as I say, there was just no evidence of collusion other
than the manner in which the bomb itself was set off and what would
have to be done to setting it off. There was no evidence of outside
collusion by members of the Garda or any government agency of Ireland.

The next is the murder of the two superintendents, Chief
Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan. Superintendent
Buchanan was the border officer, the chief border officer, for the RUC in the border country. That was a tough job, but he was a man who said, well, we have joint policing problems. Somebody has to see that we can work together. And he drove his own little red car -- and it was readily identifiable along the border -- and made frequent trips across the border, usually twice a week.

On one occasion, because of a matter that was of interest to both police forces and important to both police forces, north and south, he and his immediate superior, Chief Superintendent Breen attended at Garda offices on the south side of the border. They had two routes home after the meeting, one was a main road and one was a side road.

They took the side road. And the ambush took place in a place that couldn't be seen by any observation post. It's just (inaudible).

And the two groups that set up the ambush by placing of cars that were coming north and south so that only one line of traffic could get through from the south going north, very slowly. And when the car came containing the two officers, a van that had been following it, four men got out and shots were fired at the officers' car. I think as many as 27 shots entered the car.

Superintendent Buchanan was killed instantly. Chief Superintendent Breen thought because of the camouflage uniforms that it was an army patrol. And he staggered out. At that time, according to the autopsy, he had a bullet in his right lung that had collapsed. His right arm had a comminuted fracture with the bone showing through the clothing, and bleeding from that wound and a number of lesser wounds.

And he staggered out. And the gun men came up to three feet from him and pulled the trigger and -- I guess the autopsy said 18 inches -- and that was the death of Breen and Buchanan.

And there was evidence in the documents that indicated that there could be found to be collusion between a member of the Garda and the killers, which would account for the careful timing in the time that they took to set up the other and the fact that they were followed from the police office itself to the other side of the border.

Those, then, were the six cases, and those were the collusive acts in very summary form that gave rise to the finding that there was in the five cases evidence of collusion that should be pursued at a public inquiry.

And that is it as far as cooperation.

Sometimes some organizations needed reminding that I had this warrant to explore. And as long as I pushed, the other documents were made available. And it was just a matter of pushing in order to get everything, and often one document led you to another and to another and another to get the whole picture.

The Irish government made their report public before the Christmas of the year I gave it to them. Both governments received the report on the 7th of October -- I've forgotten -- 5th or 7th of October of last year.

And the British government made the report public the 1st of April of this year.

They tabled the report in the House.

And there it is.

The sadness of it is the beauty of the country and the beauty of the people, the depth of suspicion that is there on both sides, and the hatred that appears to be there on both sides.

For instance, in the Patrick Finucane case, I did say in the report that this was one of the rare instances where a public inquiry should take precedence over a prosecution if there is to be peace in the community.

In light of the suspicion that is there, it must be open. And if it isn't, then the suspicion grows like a cancerous sore and just will grow greater and greater until the exploration is made. And then people can get on with living and living together as a community.

I think that's about all the help I can give to you, unless there
are questions.

As a final word of warning: If a British high commissioner and
an Irish ambassador come calling, say you're out...


... that you're feeling unwell and just as soon not talk to them.