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St. Michael's College

Publication Date

Fall 2006

Program Name

Ireland: Peace and Conflict Studies


When I began to develop my topic I knew I wanted to study government collusion. The problem with that topic is the enormous undertaking it would require and the research only allows for three weeks. Another that I did know was that I wanted to know more about the work that the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) does and how they deal with the families that are looking for answers concerning the deaths of their loved ones. I decided to ignore the paper topic for the time I was in Derry and focus on making the PFC the center of my attention while I was there. I did this because I realized I might never get the opportunity to work in the PFC ever again and that while I was there I should put my entire focus into the work. . This paper is now a report on the work I conducted while at the PFC. Included in my report on the PFC is a study on specific cases of collusion that exemplify the need for spaces such as the PFC to push for investigations into state injustices. The cases I have studied are the Dublin-Monaghan Bombings and the activities of British Army Captain Robert Nairac in the John Francis Greene murder. The reason these two cases have been chosen is because they exemplify the act of collusion. In each case loyalists paramilitaries, security force members and members of either the British government or Irish government have played a role in the act of violence or protecting the guilty party. I have let my experiences in Derry guide the focus of my work. For the past three weeks I have been interning at the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), an organization based in Derry that works for human rights in Northern Ireland. The PFC is named after the solicitor who was murdered by the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) with help from a member of the Force Research Unit (FRU), an undercover British Military Intelligence unit. From their founding the PFC have been working with families of victims to help them gain more information into the deaths of loved ones, which could possibly lead to prosecution, however unlikely. It has also developed into a broader human rights organization, which means helping people file complaints against the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and working against state injustices in Northern Ireland and abroad, as I quickly discovered. The PFC is run by Paul O’Connor, who is, as everyone has said to me, a one man show. He has every case in his head and knows in such detail each case that it is hard not to be amazed. Also in the office is Minty Thompson, whose mother, Kathleen Thompson, was murdered by the British Army in 1971. She keeps the office organized as Paul flies in and out on the phone, going to meetings and generally in a hurry. Her work there keeps the office in order, which is an impossible task with the amount of cases and paper work that they have to handle. In addition to Paul and Minty is Alan Brecknell, a man from Armagh who lost his father during the Troubles. He is a researcher for the PFC and handles most of the cases from the Armagh/Tyrone area, which is no small feat. Also, there are sometimes students like me and Louisa, an Italian student, who are assisting Paul and Minty in the office doing tasks to help keep the office running. While interning at the PFC I was welcomed by everyone that entered. Families that met with Paul were happy to have students interested in the cause; people from other offices were interested in what you were studying and what you thought of Ireland. Also, people I met on my free time were extremely friendly and open to talking about the troubles, but strictly on conversational level, they did not want it to end up in a paper. While I was there I was given the opportunity to work on a campaign against a former British Army officer, Tim Spicer. I gladly accepted this challenge but I did so knowing that my project would now develop into something much different than I had planned. From that first day I decided that the PFC would become my focus of study more than collusion itself. The information I learned from working there cannot be left out of this paper because it is too important. I believe that it would be better to keep an open mind to the topic of this paper then to refuse to adjust and change to new opportunities that arise during the time in the field.


Peace and Conflict Studies | Public Policy


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