Friday 24 November 2017

Date set for report on collusion in murder of solictor

Steven McCaffery

The report of the public inquiry into allegations of security force collusion in the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson is to be published on May 23.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson confirmed the date for the report's release in a statement at Westminster.

The 40-year-old solicitor was killed when a bomb exploded underneath her car as she left her home in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in March 1999.

The attack was carried out by loyalist splinter group the Red Hand Defenders, but the solicitor's longstanding claims of police intimidation fuelled allegations of security force involvement.

Police have denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Paterson said: "I am pleased to inform the House that the report of the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, chaired by Sir Michael Morland, will be published on Monday May 23."

He added: "With the permission of the Speaker, I confirm that I will allow an opportunity for members of the family of Rosemary Nelson, as well as the other represented parties at the inquiry, to see the report privately, and be briefed by their lawyers on its contents, some hours before the report is published."

The inquiry sat during 2009 and held public hearings into the murder, which was one of the most infamous of the latter stages of the Troubles.

Mrs Nelson, a married mother of three, represented a number of high-profile republican suspects.

She was also legal adviser to the nationalist Garvaghy Road residents' group which opposed Orange Order marches at the infamous Drumcree parades stand-off.

Drumcree was the focus of years of tension and sparked widespread violence.

The lawyer's involvement in such high-profile cases, at what was a key period of the peace process, saw her rise to prominence.

Her claims of intimidation by police, soldiers and loyalist paramilitaries came to international attention when human rights groups, including representatives of the United Nations, raised her allegations.

A major police investigation, which was led by a senior police officer from England after objections to the probe being led by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, failed to charge anyone for the murder.

The subsequent inquiry was one of a number ordered by the British and Irish governments.

The cost of inquiry is understood to be £46.1m (€52.3m).

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