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The family of Pat Finucane, sons John and Michael, daughter Katherine, and wife Geraldine, pictured in London in 2012 Stefan Rousseau via PA Images
Pat Finucane

Supreme Court rules that there has been no valid inquiry into Pat Finucane's killing

Pat Finucane was murdered in front of his three children and wife in February 1989.

LAST UPDATE | 27 Feb 2019

THE UK SUPREME Court has “vindicated” the family of Pat Finucane in their “relentless campaign” for justice, the family’s solicitor has said.

Finucane, a 39-year-old human rights solicitor, was shot dead in front of his three children and wife Geraldine, who was also injured, on 12 February 1989.

The Court has decided that a paper review held by Sir Desmond de Silva was not an effective investigation into Finucane’s murder. This paves the way for a new inquiry, his family said today. The court did not order a new inquiry. 

The judgement concludes:

I would therefore make a declaration that there has not been an Article 2 compliant inquiry into the death of Patrick Finucane. It does not follow that a public inquiry of the type which the appellant seeks must be ordered.

“It is for the state to decide, in light of the incapacity of Sir Desmond de Silva’s review and the inquiries which preceded it to meet the procedural requirement of article 2, what form of investigation, if indeed any is now feasible, is required in order to meet that requirement.

The appeal should otherwise be dismissed.

The Court also decided that the UK government has not complied with its obligations pursuant to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to hold an effective investigation into the murder.

This article refers to the ‘right to life’: “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.”

The family has thanked the Supreme Court Justices for their “careful and respectful” consideration of the case.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that “in the light of the judgment in the UK Supreme Court and the British Government’s political commitments made in 2001, a Public Inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane must be established”.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Finucane’s son John said: “It has been a great result today for our family and I think that the British government have for years tried to give us police investigations, they’ve tried to give us paper reviews, and I think really they’re running out of road and they’re running out of options.”

In a statement, their solicitor said:

Two main factors led to the Court’s conclusion. First, all investigations to date have lacked the power to subpoena witnesses and, secondly, no one has been identified as being responsible for the collusion found by previous investigations and admitted by the government, i.e. conduct of State Agents who facilitated and furthered the murder.

They added: 

The only lawful decision open to the government that can rectify this state of affairs is a decision to hold a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act that has the statutory power to subpoena witnesses and order the disclosure of all relevant documentation.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has also called for a public inquiry.

“In keeping with our long standing position, we are calling on the British government to fulfill its obligations to the family, and to the wider public, through a full and public inquiry.”


While the UK government in 2011 finally admitted to collusion between the loyalist paramilitaries who killed Finucane and British intelligence services, no member of the security services has ever faced prosecution.

Finucane’s widow Geraldine Finucane was granted permission last year to take an appeal to the Supreme Court questioning the decision of the UK Court of Appeal to deny the family a full inquiry.

She took a case calling for a full public inquiry into the crime to the UK Supreme Court on 26 June 2018

Finucane’s family had previously accused former prime minister David Cameron of reneging on a promise to hold an inquiry into accusations of state collusion.

Cameron apologised to the Finucane family in the wake of the 2011 review of the murder, and said Finucane could still be alive today had it not been for state involvement.

Geraldine Finucane, however, said the 2011 report had been drawn up without any input from her family.

- with reporting by Cianan Brennan. Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing

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