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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 17:19 GMT
Pledge over Cory report
Judge Peter Cory
Judge Cory has had unprecedented access to files

A report into controversial killings in Northern Ireland will be published by the British Government as soon as legal issues have been resolved.

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy made the pledge in the House of Commons following accusations that the government wanted to edit the Cory report before making it public.

Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory has examined allegations of security force collusion in eight of the most controversial killings of the Troubles.

These include the 1989 murder of Pat Finucane at his north Belfast home, the killing of Catholic man Robert Hamill in Portadown in 1997, the murder of Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright in the Maze Prison in 1997 and the murder of Rosemary Nelson in Lurgan in 1999.

Pressure to publish the reports escalated after it emerged Judge Cory has told the four families that he has recommended public inquiries into the murders.

Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine has also lodged papers at the High Court in Belfast seeking an order compelling Mr Murphy to publish the report.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy
We have to deal with national security issues
Paul Murphy
Northern Ireland Secretary

On Wednesday, Mr Murphy was challenged in the Commons by SDLP MP Seamus Mallon and the Labour Party's Kevin McNamara.

Mr McNamara expressed suspicion that the government was preparing to edit the report and he asked how the Irish Government was able to publish its report from Judge Cory.

Mr Murphy said the British cases were more complex.

He added: "We are not yet in a position to publish, although we will, of course, as soon as possible.

"Because of legal advice, we have to consider the rights and safety of individuals.

"We have to deal with national security issues... and we have to give appropriate attention to Articles 2 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights which deal with the right to life and effective investigations."

Judge Cory, who was appointed by the British and Irish Governments in 2001, delivered six reports last October to the London and Dublin administrations on the eight killings.

The Irish Government has already published Judge Cory's reports into the murders of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan and the killing of Lord Maurice Gibson and his wife Lady Cecily in 1987.

Assessing papers

Last month, the Irish Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell announced a public inquiry into the IRA murders of the two senior RUC officers in 1989.

On Tuesday, solicitors for the Finucane family lodged papers at the High Court in Belfast seeking to have a judicial review held.

Geraldine Finucane is also seeking a declaration that she is entitled to a copy of the report or access to it.

The grounds for her application include the government's commitment to publish the report, and that its subsequent failure is a breach of her rights under the European Convention.

A judge is understood to be assessing the papers to decide whether to hold a leave hearing or to proceed straightaway with the judicial review application.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams has accused the British Government of a "cover-up" over its failure to publish the reports.

He said the refusal to publish the findings proved that Judge Cory had recommended public inquiries into Mr Finucane's killing and other cases.

Five human rights organisations have also called for the reports to be published.

On Wednesday, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission called on the secretary of state to authorise the immediate release of the Cory reports.

It said it was "highly regrettable" that the British government has not followed the Irish government's example in publishing the judge's reports.

Chief Commissioner Brice Dickson said: "The decision not to publish the judge's reports serves only to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland and adds to the ongoing distress caused to the families of those murdered."

BBC NI political correspondent Martina Purdy
"Paul Murphy cited human rights legislation and national security matters as the reason for the delay"

Dublin announces killings inquiry
18 Dec 03  |  Northern Ireland
Finucanes request murder report
01 Dec 03  |  Northern Ireland
Judge completes murder reviews
23 Sep 03  |  Northern Ireland
Unresolved deaths: A question of collusion?
02 Aug 01  |  Northern Ireland

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