THAT the fifth anniversary of Northern Ireland's Good Friday agreement should have coincided with the apparent inability of the IRA finally to renounce violence was depressing enough, but yesterday's publication of the Stevens report on collusion between elements of the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary to procure the murder of Roman Catholics by Protestant extremists was a cruel blow to those who continue to hope for a closure to the province's problems. The report by Sir John Stevens, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, concerns the murder of the solicitor Patrick Finucane in 1989 and represents an enquiry that he has pursued for more than a decade. It has taken this long because of cover–up and obstruction by many of those in the intelligence branches of the Army and the Ministry of Defence and in the RUC. As recently as last November Sir John received from the Ministry of Defence a considerable amount of new documentation which should have been provided years earlier. In the light of the Stevens report it will be difficult for the British government to refuse the judicial inquiry for which the family of Patrick Finucane and others have long been asking. Arguments about the expense and longevity of such inquiries are insignificant when set beside the need to establish clearly how and by whom the standards required of the police and armed services, even in the most difficult of circumstances, were breached. The collusion identified by this report was often alleged by Sinn Fein but always dismissed as politically motivated.


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