The report into the killing of Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson by the loyalist paramilitary group, the LVF leaves many questions unanswered. The inquiry team was charged with investigating if “any wrongful act or omission” by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), British army or British intelligence services, and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) were a contributing factor in her death. Upon publication of the report, Owen Patterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland told the House of Commons that those “looking for evidence that the state conspired in, or planned, the death of Rosemary Nelson will not find it in this report”. This report will however be viewed by many as another whitewash that failed to expose the “dirty war” activities of certain state forces.
Rosemary Nelson rose to prominence as the legal adviser to the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition led by former republican prisoner Brendan McKenna. She also represented leading republican Colin Duffy when he was acquitted of the IRA killing a UDR soldier in 1993 and again when the case against him collapsed for the killing of two RUC officers in 1997. This was at a time when Lurgan and Portadown were the epicentre of the developing sectarian polarisation in the North, with the annual Drumcree stand off sparking an upsurge in rioting, sectarian street clashes, hijacking, arson attacks and shootings. During the first Drumcree stand-off in 1996 the Mid-Ulster UVF led by Billy Wright broke ceasefire and split to form the LVF, launching a brutal campaign of sectarian killings throughout the late 90’s.
Given that McKenna and Duffy were then, as today, hate figures to loyalists, she was an obvious target and the report finds that RUC members contributed to her vilification with one incident on the Garvaghy Road “having the effect of legitimising her as a target.” The report also states that “there was a corporate failure by the RUC to warn Rosemary Nelson of her vulnerability and offer her security advice.”
The Enquiry doesn’t however in any way attempt to explain how senior RUC special branch or British intelligence agency personnel could not have at least known about such a high profile operation. It is widely known that by the time of the killing many informers were in place within the LVF, an organisation heavily involved in the drug trade and other such activities. The report simply states that RUC Special Branch “failed to take into account all the intelligence and the open information available to them” and that it “cannot exclude the possibility” a rogue member or element of the security forces in some way assisted the LVF.
Under capitalism, the whole process of the law and justice is incapable of being truly independent of ruling class interests, particularly so when the activities of state forces themselves are in question. The inquiry team itself consisted of individuals such as retired judge Sir Michael Morland, Dame Valerie Strachan and former chief constable of South Wales police Sir Anthony Burden – all establishment figures. In the context of the states’ “dirty war” in Northern Ireland many questions about Rosemary Nelson, Pat Finucane and countless other killings remain unanswered.