Gerry Adams welcomes 'MI5 offer' to disclose files on Pat Finucane murder

Sinn Féin president says existence of files on murder of Finucane, who was shot dead in 1989 by loyalist gunmen working with members of the security forces, is significant

Gerry Adams welcomed the disclosure that MI5 is prepared to hand over files on a high-profile murder.

The Sinn Féin president said the existence of MI5 files on the murder of Pat Finucane, the civil rights lawyer who was shot dead in 1989 by loyalist gunmen working with members of the security forces, could be significant.

"The assertion that MI5 were prepared to disclose files on Pat Finucane is a more pertinent story," Adams told the BBC as he dismissed separate claims in the US cables about his alleged links with the IRA.

"If there is any credibility in the report from the MI5 chiefs that they are prepared to disclose files this is proof that they have files and those files should of course be disclosed."

Michael Finucane, the murdered lawyer's son, told RTE: "Questions about its alleged involvement were always met with the standard MI5 line – namely that they don't comment on intelligence or security matters. So the confirmation from within MI5 that papers do exist is a significant one."

Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland secretary, will decide in the new year whether to hold a full public inquiry into the murder of Finucane, who was shot dead in front of his wife and three young children in 1989 by gunmen from the Ulster Freedom Fighters, aided by members of the security forces.

Shaun Woodward, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, told the BBC: "It is now incumbent on the coalition government to set out what they intend to do. Simply doing nothing would be a very serious mistake."

The MI5 offer is reported in a cable from June 2005, written by the US ambassador to Dublin, James C Kenny, which reported on a meeting between the head of MI5 and Mitchell Reiss, the US special envoy to Northern Ireland.

In an account of the meeting between Reiss and former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, the ambassador wrote: "Reiss briefed him on his talks in London, including with the head of MI5 [then Eliza Manningham-Buller], who committed to turning over all evidence her agency has to the inquiry, but she was adamant that the inquiry will proceed using the new legislation."

Adams also hit out at Bertie Ahern, the former Irish prime minister, who is reported in the cables as saying that he and his colleague Martin McGuinness negotiated with him to save the Northern Ireland peace process while knowing that the IRA was planning to carry out the Northern Bank robbery in December 2004.

Adams attacked Ahern for making the "reprehensible" claims, which were part of an "intense rivalry" between Sinn Féin and the former taoiseach's Fianna Fáil party.

"I repudiated it then, as did Martin. We both denied it very, very strongly," the Sinn Féin president said. "It isn't true. I then spoke to the taoiseach privately about this matter."

Adams indicated that the disclosure of Ahern's private remarks, which are similar to criticism he made of Sinn Féin in the Irish parliament at the time, would intensify the rivalry between their parties in the forthcoming Irish general election.

Contributor

Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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