Rosemary Nelson, a lawyer who had acted in several high profile republican cases, was killed by a car bomb at her home in Lurgan, Co Antrim in 1999. The Red Hand Defenders claimed responsibility. Threats on her life had been made for a number of years. Clients of Ms Nelson’s had long alleged that members of the RUC had threatened them. Many allegations were made of Security Forces being involved in her killing, including allegations of collusion. In 2004 Judge Cory in his report called for an inquiry into her death. That inquiry was established in 2004, chaired by Sir Michael Morland with the following term of reference (as amended in 2005):
“ To inquire into the death of Rosemary Nelson with a view to determining whether any wrongful act or omission by or within the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland Office, Army or other state agency facilitated her death or obstructed the investigation of it, or whether attempts were made to do so; whether any such act or omission was intentional or negligent; whether the investigation of her death was carried out with due diligence; and to make recommendations.”
Yesterday the report was published. At 465 pages we couldn’t begin to analyse it in any depth so quickly and it will take time for all the parties concerned by these events to digest what has been found. Most significantly, the report has found that there was no collusion on the part of state agencies but they could not rule out that a rogue member or members of the RUC had been involved in the bombing. It was found that through publicly abusing and assaulting Ms Nelson, members of the RUC had legitimated her as a target. There was a leakage of information from the RUC which placed her in greater danger. The inquiry also found that members of the RUC abused her to clients of Ms Nelson’s which also legitimated her as a target. Both the Northern Ireland Office and the RUC made admissions which placed her at greater risk.
The Secretary of State, Owen Patterson has apologised for admissions by the state which made her more vulnerable. The Shadow Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, has expressed concerns about the findings of the NIO and the RUC. Matt Baggot, Chief Constable of the PSNI, has apologised to her friends and family on behalf of the Police Service. Groups such as the NI Retired Police Officers Association and the RUC George Cross Association have welcomed the finding that there was not collusion. CAJ, on the other hand have issued a statement which is critical of the definition of collusion adopted by the Panel, suggesting that had Judge Cory’s definition of collusion then they might have found collusion in this instance. They also criticised the failure of the inquiry to make recommendations which was part of the terms of reference. The inquiry adopted the view that changes of such a level had been made that recommendations were not necessary. However given that the Inquiry was established and this term of reference included after many of these changes were made (such as the move from RUC to PSNI) this seems difficult to accept.
Further preliminary discussion can be found at Slugger O’Toole