DUBLIN (AP) - British police and army agents planted inside Northern Ireland's major Protestant gang played a pivotal role in assassinating a Belfast attorney, a former United Nations war crimes investigator concluded in a damning report published Wednesday into one of the most divisive slayings of the entire four-decade conflict.
Sir Desmond de Silva concluded in his approximately 800-page report that the 1989 killing of Pat Finucane probably would never have happened without key input from state agents within the Ulster Defence Association, the militant group that killed the 38-year-old Catholic lawyer in front of his wife and three children.
De Silva, a human rights lawyer appointed by the British government in October 2011 to produce the report, said members of the Northern Ireland police's anti-terrorist Special Branch and the army's Force Research Unit knew Finucane was a target, and even recommended him to UDA assassins as one because he specialized in defending Irish Republican Army suspects. Both units since have been disbanded as part of wider security reforms and peacemaking efforts in Northern Ireland.
De Silva wrote that police and army handlers of agents within the West Belfast UDA probably could have stopped the attack but instead "actively furthered and facilitated his murder" and mounted "a relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice."
British Prime Minister David Cameron and leaders of Northern Ireland's Protestant majority lauded de Silva's findings as comprehensive and compelling, particularly his decision to publish hundreds of previously secret army and police reports, although in censored form blacking out all the names of officers and paramilitary contacts.
But Irish Catholic leaders and Finucane's family dismissed the findings as old news and a cover-up of the full picture.