Loyalist gunman is released from jail early.

Loyalist gunman who killed Pat Finucane goes free after three years under early release pact

· Hain fails to overturn cut in UDA man's 22-year term
· Public inquiry into murder still awaited

Owen Bowcott, Ireland correspondent
Wednesday May 24, 2006
The Guardian

Ken Barrett was killed by a Loyalist member of the Ulster Defence Association during the Troubles.

Ken Barrett, the Loyalist gunman convicted of killing the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, was freed yesterday under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, after serving three years in jail.

Barrett, who had been sentenced to 22 years, walked out of Maghaberry prison, County Antrim, in accordance with the agreement, which enables those convicted of terrorist crimes during the Troubles to apply for early release.

The secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, objected but the sentence review commission found in Barrett's favour.

Finucane, 39, was shot dead at his north Belfast home on a February evening in 1989. He was having supper with his wife, Geraldine, and their three children when two masked Ulster Defence Association gunmen broke down the door with sledgehammers. They fired 14 bullets into him before escaping in a stolen taxi.

The murder ignited a political furore and led to the progressive exposure of links between British intelligence and Loyalist paramilitaries. The former chief constable of the Metropolitan police, Lord Stevens, held three successive inquiries into allegations of collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces.

The inquiries exposed the activities of Brian Nelson, a British army agent who became the intelligence officer of the loyalist UDA, where he was in effect in charge of pinpointing potential victims. Nelson, who had been working for the army's force research unit (FRU), was subsequently convicted of five counts of conspiracy to murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Finucane, a Catholic who had represented many senior republicans, had been identified as a nuisance to the establishment. Three weeks before the murder, Douglas Hogg, then a junior home office minister, told the Commons that certain solicitors in Northern Ireland were unduly sympathetic to the IRA.

Barrett, one of the UDA gunmen involved in the killing, later fled to Britain when a BBC Panorama team recorded him claiming that a police officer had told him Finucane was a senior IRA man. "The peelers wanted him whacked," he was recorded as saying. "We whacked him and that is the end of the story."

Barrett is believed to have carried out many more murders.

The Finucane murder still awaits a public inquiry. The government has so far been unable to find a judge to chair the proceedings, and his family has criticised the terms of reference of any hearing under the Inquiries Act. It is understood, however, that a venue for the inquiry in London could be ready for October.

Last Friday, US politicians in the House of Representatives urged the UK government to widen the scope of any inquiry into Finucane's murder. It is understood the Finucane family were not informed in advance of Barrett's release.

Sinn Féin's justice spokesman, Gerry Kelly, said yesterday: "Nobody believes the murder of Pat Finucane was planned, organised and carried out by Loyalists from the Shankill acting alone. Ken Barrett was himself a self-confessed British agent; so was William Stobie, the man who supplied the weapon, along with Brian Nelson, the man who supplied the intelligence.

"The case of Pat Finucane goes to the very heart of the British state policy of collusion with Unionist paramilitaries. We will continue to lobby the British government to act on this issue."

The SDLP's justice spokesman, Alban Maginness, said: "Whatever Barrett's role in the murder, it remains essential that the full truth behind the murder, the activities of the FRU and the approval for the FRU in and around government must be made public and acknowledged."


Ken Barrett, now 43, grew up on Belfast's ultra-loyalist Shankill Road. He became a trusted hitman in the Ulster Defence Association, carrying out numerous shootings, but avoided making a show of his paramilitary position. One detective described him as a compulsive gambler and one of the most cold-blooded killers he had met. In covert recordings played at his 2004 trial, Barrett described his emotions after killing Pat Finucane. "I lost no sleep over it. All is fair in love and war. I have to be honest, I whacked a few people in the past."



24 May 2006

THE unyielding figure of an Old Testament politician is the single biggest obstacle on the road to lasting peace in the UK's own Civil War.

As Tony Blair thrashes around for a legacy to distract historians from the catastrophic blunder that is Iraq, he could do worse than peer across the Irish Sea.

Progress on education, pension and health service reforms has been blunted, and crime is a disaster zone.

True, the economy is doing well, but that's Premierin-waiting Gordon Brown's patch.

That leaves Northern Ireland, where Blair deserved the plaudits he got for the Good Friday Agreement and the IRA's surrender of their guns. Yet a final settlement remains elusive, and the main blockage is the Biblebashing demagogue that is Dr Ian Paisley.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams's nomination of the hard-line DUP leader for the post of First Minister in a devolved Northern Ireland Assembly was partly opportunistic. Dr Paisley's response of "Certainly not!" was as predictable as it was succinct.

But the DUP and fading Ulster Unionist Party are being outflanked by Sinn Fein and the moderate SDLP.

Sinn Fein vice-president Pat Doherty rightly argues that the Unionists are a problem if they cannot accept the future is powersharing instead of one-community rule.

The PM and Ulster Secretary Peter Hain have set a November deadline to revive devolved government, suspended in October 2002 over allegations of a Republican spy ring in Stormont.

A peace process that doesn't move forward risks stalling, and the looming marching season by the Unionists' Loyalist allies will raise tensions.

Desperate Unionists dub Hain "Sinn Hain", a good joke that exposes their insecurity, disclosing a backs-to-the wall mentality when they should be searching for ways forward.

Blair is frustrated by the intransigence of Paisley and the Unionists and still suspicious of Sinn Fein and the IRA.

But the autumn will bring a renewed push for peace.

If he can get round the Old Testament roadblock, permanent peace in Northern Ireland would be quite an achievement for the PM before he retires next year.

The real shocker of the Bad Friday deal was the mass release of hundreds of Sinn Fein murder gang men, and the subsequent elevation of hoodlums like Martin McGuinness to ministerial office,rather like making Charlie Manson a justice minister.
Hogg was too right when he said some solicitors were soft on terror, and some priests too.
If you hang out with scum, you get dirty. And if you support killers, you may get killed.

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