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Pat Finucane PA Images
Pat Finucane

British government will not order public inquiry into 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane

Finucane was shot by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his family in Belfast in 1989.

LAST UPDATE | 30 Nov 2020

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT has announced that it will not hold an immediate public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. 

The news was confirmed this afternoon by the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

Finucane, a 39-year-old solicitor who represented both republican and loyalist paramilitaries during the Troubles, was shot dead in his family home in north Belfast in February 1989 by the Ulster Defence Association in an attack found to have involved collusion with the state.

Finucane’s widow Geraldine and the couple’s three children have been campaigning for decades for a public inquiry to establish the extent of security force involvement.

His son John said on Twitter that the response from the British government today is “nothing short of insulting”. 

The proposal falls “far short” of what is required in the case, a statement issued on behalf of Geraldine Finucane said.

“In failing to establish a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, the British Government have not only set themselves against my family but also the Irish government, local, national and international political parties, political institutions, legal and human rights groups domestically and internationally,” the statement said.

His son Michael spoke on RTÉ radio’s Drivetime programme, saying his family will not stop campaigning for a public inquiry “on the basis of this utterly ludicrous, juvenile inadequate” decision.

In a statement, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was “disappointed” by today’s decision. 

Martin met with Geraldine Finucane, and her son John, last week, a statement issued on behalf of the Taoiseach said. 

“Following their meeting, he wrote to Prime Minister Johnson about the case.  He also spoke with the Prime Minister by phone last Friday, to set out to him directly the compelling case for holding a public inquiry.

“The decision today will come as a further blow to Geraldine and her family, who have been pursuing truth and justice for three decades with great dignity.

“The Taoiseach noted that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland did not rule out a public inquiry taking place in the future.  He added that the Government would reflect on the steps outlined by the British government today, but that it remained strongly of the view that a public inquiry was needed.

The Taoiseach noted “that dealing more broadly with legacy issues from the past was a shared challenge.  In this context, delivering on prior commitments, however difficult, was important in terms of building public confidence and trust.”

Earlier today the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement called for a full inquiry into Finucane’s murder. 

Brandon Lewis said the murder was “an appalling crime that has caused tremendous suffering”. He said he met the Finucane family today to inform them of the decision. 

“It is in the public interest to allow the police and ombudsman processes to proceed before taking any decision on whether the state’s Article 2 [duty to investigate deaths] obligations have been discharged or whether further steps are required.”

Lewis reiterated previous British government apologies over the killing.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said police “need to decide if a further review is merited given all the previous investigations into this case”. 

“Once we have determined that, we will inform the Finucane Family,” Byrne said in a statement. 

The PSNI added that it does not believe it is resourced or best place “to deal with the pain of our troubled past”. 

Labour MP and former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said “yet again” the British government has “failed the family and justice has been denied”. 

“A cowardly disgrace,” he said.

Reacting to the news in the House of Commons, leader of the SDLP Colum Eastwood said Lewis “failed miserably” to do right by the Finucane family today. / YouTube

Supreme Court 

Last year, the Supreme Court said all previous examinations of the death had not been compliant with human rights standards.

The court acknowledged Geraldine Finucane had been given an “unequivocal undertaking” by the government following the 2001 Weston Park agreement that there would be a public inquiry into the murder.

However, the Supreme Court judges found that the government had been justified in later deciding against holding one.

The court said it was up to the government to decide what form of investigation was now required, if one was feasible.

Amid a government delay in responding to the judgment, Geraldine Finucane took fresh judicial review proceedings against the state.

Last month, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis’ lawyers gave a High Court judge in Belfast a commitment that a decision would be announced by 30 November, which is today.

Includes reporting by Press Association and Orla Dwyer 

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