The Associated Press

LONDON -- Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday condemned actions by British agents in the 1989 death of a Belfast lawyer, one of the most bitterly disputed killings of the entire Northern Ireland conflict.

Cameron cited a long-awaited report on the slaying that said there was a shocking level of state collusion with an outlawed Protestant group in the murder of Pat Finucane, who specialized in defending Irish Republican Army suspects.

Two gunmen from the Ulster Defense Association shot him more than a dozen times in his Belfast home as he was having Sunday lunch with his wife and three children. Employees of the state and state agents played "key roles" in the murder, the report says.

"It cannot be argued that these were rogue agents," Cameron said. He declined to order an inquiry, however, saying more was learned from the report by human rights lawyer Desmond de Silva than would have been gained through a public inquiry.

Previous investigations already have confirmed that both the British army and the anti-terrorist unit of Northern Ireland's police had agents and informers inside the Ulster Defense Association involved in the killing.

Cameron said de Silva concluded that Finucane probably would not have been killed were it not for the actions of British agents in the Ulster Defense Association.

"Sir Desmond is satisfied there was not an overarching state conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane," Cameron said. "But while he rejects any state conspiracy he does find, quite frankly, shocking levels of state collusion."

Finucane specialized in defending IRA suspects and had three brothers in the outlawed group. Two gunmen from an enemy paramilitary group, the Ulster Defense Association, shot him 14 times.

De Silva's report shed new light on the role that Northern Ireland's forces of law and order played in influencing the UDA, a working-class Protestant gang committed to terrorizing the Catholic minority. But his findings may not spur new prosecutions, in part, because key UDA players are already convicted or dead.

One police informer, senior UDA gunman Ken Barrett, pleaded guilty to killing Finucane and received a life sentence in 2004. He was paroled two years later under terms of Northern Ireland's peace accord, which offered early freedom for all convicted members of paramilitary groups observing cease-fires.

The UDA killed more than 250 people before calling a 1994 cease-fire, renouncing violence in 2007, and disarming in 2010.

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