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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Inquiries into 'collusion' murders
Pat Finucane
Legal issues will delay an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane
Individual public inquiries are to be set up into three controversial murders in Northern Ireland which involved allegations of security force collusion.

Separate inquiries will be held into the murders of Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill, Billy Wright and will "begin as soon as possible".

A fourth inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane will be delayed because of ongoing court proceedings.

The announcement was made by Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy in parliament, to coincide with publication of the reports by retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory.

He has examined claims of security force collusion in the killings.

Solicitor Pat Finucane was shot by members of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association at his north Belfast home in 1989.

Rosemary Nelson, also a solicitor, was killed in an under-car booby-trap bomb explosion in Lurgan in 1999.

The LVF leader, Billy Wright, was targeted and murdered inside the Maze Prison by jailed members of the Irish National Liberation Army in 1997.

Robert Hamill, a Catholic, died in hospital after being attacked by a loyalist mob in his home town of Portadown in 1997.

A man has been charged with the Finucane murder and he is due to go on trial in September.

On Thursday, Mr Murphy said Cory's reports raised matters that would cause "serious concern".

"The inquiries which I am announcing will have the full powers of the High Court to compel witnesses and papers. These are the same powers as inquiries set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, under which the Bloody Sunday Inquiry is operating."

Mr Murphy said that the Nelson inquiry would examine the actions of the police and the Northern Ireland Office.

In concluding his statement he added: "I firmly believe that the only way we can put the past behind us in Northern Ireland is by seeking to establish the truth. But that must be the truth about the actions of all those who have been involved in the tragedy of the past 30 years."

He later told the BBC that he would look at the wider issue of truth and justice in murders over the past 30 years.

Pat Finucane: no announcement on any inquiry until the ongoing murder trial is concluded
Billy Wright: inquiry to start as soon as possible
Rosemary Nelson: police investigation is continuing but public inquiry would not prejudice this - inquiry to start as soon as possible
Robert Hamill: inquiry to start as soon as possible

Pat Finucane's widow, Geraldine, said she was angry at the government's decision not to hold an immediate public inquiry into her husband's death.

"This is a very disappointing, but expected statement, the British Government continue to cover up the truth about the death of my husband with their delaying tactics," she said.

Diane Hamill, sister of Robert Hamill, said her family was pleased the government would act on Judge Cory's recommendation.

"For the last seven years this is all we have tried to get from the night that my brother was attacked and allowed to be murdered," she said.

The family of Rosemary Nelson said in a statement that she might be alive today if she had been treated with the "respect and dignity her professional position deserved".

They said: "We are both horrified and saddened, if not entirely surprised, by the graphic description of the abuse and vilification of Rosemary by members of the RUC contained within this report."

The family of the late Billy Wright has welcomed Judge Cory's recommendations.

In a statement they said: "Judge Cory has raised a number of serious questions about the conduct and actions of the Prison Authorities and Intelligence Agencies."

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "It is important that we do try in Northern Ireland to move beyond the past.

"I don't know whether necessarily a truth and reconciliation commission is the right way to do it, but there needs to be some way of trying to both allow people to express their grief, their pain and indeed their anger in respect of what has happened in Northern Ireland without the past continually dominating the present and the future."

Last October, Judge Cory delivered six reports to the London and Dublin administrations about a total of eight killings on both sides of the border.

The retired Canadian judge was appointed by the British and Irish Governments in 2001.

The BBC's Denis Murray
"All the inquiries will cost the same as the bloody Sunday inquiry"

Cory reports: what was said
01 Apr 04  |  Northern Ireland
Murphy's response to Cory reports
01 Apr 04  |  Northern Ireland
Reports court case adjourned
01 Mar 04  |  Northern Ireland
Dublin announces killings inquiry
18 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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