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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
'Inquiries judge' may be appointed
Rosemary Nelson was murdered by a loyalist car bomb
Rosemary Nelson: Family campaigning for inquiry
The BBC has learned that an international judge may be appointed to consider unionist and nationalist demands for inquiries into a number of murders in Northern Ireland.

The idea was one of the issues discussed at last week's talks at Weston Park in Staffordshire, which failed to reach agreement on breaking the political deadlock in the province.

The proposed review would begin next year and may bring about judicial inquiries into a number of highly controversial killings.

If appointed, the judge would examine the loyalist murders of solicitors Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson and of Robert Hamill in Portadown.

They would also have authority to look at killings in which there have been persistant allegations by some unionist politicians of collusion between members of the Irish police force and the IRA.

Concerns

These include the murders of Northern Ireland High Court Judge Lord Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife in 1987, shortly after they crossed the border from the Irish Republic as they returned home from holiday.

Two years later, two senior RUC officers - Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan - were shot dead by the IRA as they returned home after visiting Garda colleagues in Dundalk.

BBC Northern Ireland's chief security correspondent, Brian Rowan, said a unionist delegate to the Weston Park talks had told him that if there was movement to meet nationalist demands on inquiries, there would also be movement to address unionist concerns.

If the proposal is followed through, the judge could also examine the shooting of the Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright, inside the Maze prison in 1997.

At this stage it is not clear if this option will be included in the plan the UK and Irish Governments intend to put to the parties in the near future.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's chief security correspondent Brian Rowan:
"These proposals cover a number of cases in which there are allegations of collusion"
See also:

14 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Families testify over murders
09 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Policeman vows to catch Nelson killers
08 Jan 00 | Northern Ireland
NI ministers support lawyer death inquiry
30 Jun 99 | UK
Chief rejects RUC criticism
31 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
'No collusion' in lawyer murder
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