The Blair government's handling of Judge Peter Cory's calls for judicial inquiries into British collusion in the sectarian murders of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in Febraury 1989, totally innocent Catholic Robert Hamill eight years later, Billy 'King Rat' Wright shortly thereafter in retaliation in the Maze Prison by the Irish National Liberation Army, and Rosenary Nelson, another solicitor, two years later is nothing less than shocking. The Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Paul Murphy are waiting for the murder of Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair when he gets out of prison in a few months to help solve the whole mess.
Adair, leader of the Ulster Defence Association's Company 'C' in West Belfast, was the Force Research Unit's (FRU) killer of choice when it came to getting rid of troublemakers on either side of the sectarian divide. When Captain Simon Hayward aka Captain James Rennie was set up on a drug smuggling charge in Sweden in March 1987, and his conviction was being reviewed on appeal the following October, Adair was one of the assassins assigned to take out 'Steak Knife' (aka DOOK and apparently Padraig Wilson) when his evidence threatened to affirm Hayward's conviction - what the Ops Officer of the 14 Intelligence Company's South Detachment had apparently attempted by informing Adair's superior, John McMichael, of the needed assignment.
When the FRU's Sergeant Margaret Walshaw aka 'Mags' got wind of the target, she got UDA intelligence officer Brian Nelson to redirect the assassination at Francisco Notarantonio's expense. He was just a convenient scapegoat, and she was most desirous of keeping 'Steak Knife' alive, and content as his help was essential in capturing the Eksund, filled with Libyan weapons needed for the Provisionals' long-awaiting 'tet offensive' - what was expected to trigger the British finally being driven from the province. Adair was one of the four-man squad when it killed Notarantonio, and when McMichael was suspected of being a PIRA mole for letting 'Steak Knife' escape, Adair placed a bomb under his car, blowing him to smithereens.
When several UDA attempts to assassinate Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams failed, and Nelson was suspected of having foiled them, he was tortured in August 1988 by Adair's UFF people in a house outside Lisburn, suspected of having leaked information to the Provisionals. When Nelson persuaded his tormentors otherwise, they settled for killing James Pratt Craig instead. He had worked with 'Steak Knife' on occasion to get rid of troublemakers both loyalists and republicans considered a menace, especially another 'Mad Dog', McGlinchey, back in the summer of 1982 when he threatened to ruin Hayward's revenge campaign in the province after the nail bomb attacks in Hyde Park the previous July.
When the UDA finally decided that Finucane was the legal custodian of all 'Steak Knife's 'state secrets', and the Thatcher government, through the parliamentary statement of Home Office Minister Douglas Hogg, indicated that Finucane no longer enjoyed solicitor's privileges, Adair and sidekick Brian Robinson, with Ken Barrett's and Brian Nelson's assistance, shot him to pieces in front of his family. When Nelson's role in the whole murderous process started to unravel, Walshaw led an FRU squad in killing Robinson to minimize problems after Robinson had murdered a few more people to make his murder most appreciated among the nationalist community.
In the '90s, Adair led the loyalist killing-spree among nationalists, intended to force the PIRA to the negotiating table, and to lay down its arms. In the process, he shot off his mouth so much about who he had murdered that the government was finally forced to prosecute him for terrorism in 1995, resulting in his being imprisoned for 16 years. While in prison, Adair might have even been involved in Wright's murder because of his opposition to the peace process.
Of course, as part of the Good Friday agreement, he was released in 1998, along with other terrorists, but two years later, it was revoked because of his increasingly murderous disputes with other UDA companies. When he was released again in May 2002, he merely continued where he had left off, ultimately murdering his favorite enemy, John Gregg, and an associate, who had been involved in the attempts to kill Adams, when they returned from Glasgow after seeing a Celtics' football game.
While back in prison, Adair continued his bitter disputes with his former UDA colleagues, and relations are bound to "hit the overhead" when he is again released from prison, just when the Director of Public Prosecutions has finally gotten round to trying Barrett for his role in the whole, rotting mess of 15 years' duration. And Downing Street is using this pretext to prevent the judicial inquiry into Finucane's murder, contending that one might prejudice Barrett's trial.
Of course, what is really prejudicing Barrett's final day in court is the fact that Adair isn't in the dock with him - what would soon bring Britain's 'dirty'war' crashing down on its head. Adair's prosecution could connect the most important Shoot-to-Kill murders since 1982. Now the postponement of the Finucane inquiry is being used as an excuse for not having the others on the basis that they might prejudice trials yet to be determined.
The government has made this crystal clear by not stopping the release of information from the Stevens' inquiries to the Finucane family which justifies the whole delaying process, and what it has legitimized by contesting the limited character of the release - what the Metropolitan Police Commissioner himself was willing to explain to SF Leader Gerry Adams the other day, and now Chief Constable of the PSNI Hugh Orde is volunteering to do. The question is: when will Britain stop looking for excuses, and talking about palliatives, and do something really constructive?
It all reminds one of Agatha Christie's murder mystery And Then There Were None, though this time it is true, and with little mystery in the process. If successful, it will all sound more like Waiting for Godot.