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'We won' - Family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane lose court challenge over public inquiry but wins important declaration

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Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, arrives at the Supreme Court in central London Photo: /PA Wire

Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, arrives at the Supreme Court in central London Photo: /PA Wire

Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, arrives at the Supreme Court in central London Photo: /PA Wire

The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has lost a Supreme Court challenge over the decision not to hold a public inquiry into his killing, but won a declaration that an effective investigation into his death has not been carried out.

Mr Finucane was shot dead in front of his family in February 1989 by loyalists in an attack found to have involved collusion with the state.

The 39-year-old was shot 14 times while enjoying Sunday lunch at home with his family.

His widow Geraldine claimed the Government unlawfully "reneged" on a promise to hold a public inquiry into the killing - one of the most notorious of the Troubles - when former prime minister David Cameron instead ordered an independent review.

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Michael Finucane, Geraldine Finucane and John Finucane, the family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, outside the Supreme Court in central London, after the family lost a Supreme Court challenge. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Michael Finucane, Geraldine Finucane and John Finucane, the family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, outside the Supreme Court in central London, after the family lost a Supreme Court challenge. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Michael Finucane, Geraldine Finucane and John Finucane, the family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, outside the Supreme Court in central London, after the family lost a Supreme Court challenge. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

An investigation by former UN war crimes prosecutor Sir Desmond de Silva QC found "shocking" levels of state collusion involving the army, police and MI5, but ruled out an "overarching state conspiracy".

On Wednesday, just over 30 years on from her husband's murder, the Supreme Court in London ruled that Mrs Finucane had been given "an unequivocal undertaking to hold a public inquiry into Mr Finucane's death", but that the "change of heart on the part of the government" was made in good faith.

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Pat Finucane

Pat Finucane

Pat Finucane

Giving a statement outside the Supreme Court in London after the ruling, Geraldine Finucane said: "This is a historic moment. I stand before you today outside the United Kingdom Supreme Court with one simple message: we won."

She added: "The British Government now knows that it cannot conceal the truth any longer. They have now been told this by the highest court in the land.

"It is time for the murder of Pat Finucane to be properly and publicly investigated in a public inquiry. Nothing less will suffice."

Giving the judgment of the court, Lord Kerr found that the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the murder was a matter for the Government's "political judgment".

He also dismissed Mrs Finucane's contention that the decision was predetermined, stating: "There is simply no sustainable evidence that the process by which the decision was taken was a sham or that the outcome was predetermined."

But the court also ruled that the de Silva review was not compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which required the investigation to be provided with "the means where, if they can be, suspects are identified and, if possible, brought to account".

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Lord Kerr declared that there has not been an effective investigation into Mr Finucane's murder, but added: "It does not follow that a public inquiry of the type which (Mrs Finucane) seeks must be ordered.

"It is for the state to decide... what form of investigation, if indeed any is now feasible, is required in order to meet that requirement."

At a hearing in June, Barry Macdonald QC said Mr Finucane was a victim of "a policy of systemic extra-judicial execution that was as cynical and sinister as can be imagined".

He told the UK Supreme Court that "loyalist terrorist organisations were infiltrated, resourced and manipulated in order to murder individuals identified by the army and the police as suitable for assassination".

Mr Macdonald said this policy was "widened" to include lawyers such as Mr Finucane, who represented a number of high-profile republicans.

He concluded: "The police, the army and the security service, MI5, are all implicated in a policy that entailed identifying lawyers with their clients and legitimising them as targets for assassination."

He added: "In other words, state-sponsored terrorism."

The Irish government still wants an independent public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, despite today's decision by the UK Supreme Court.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney told the Dáil: "The Irish government’s position is clear and remains very clear and consistent that an independent public inquiry should be established into the Finucane case"

He said this was commitment was made by the British and the Irish governments at Weston Park in 2001.

Mr Coveney added: "This has been confirmed and reaffirmed by the Taoiseach and myself when we met the Finucane family in recent months. So that is still our position and it’s not going to change regardless of this legal decision."

His remarks came in response to a question from Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins who said his party wants to see a public inquiry take place.

Mr Coveney said today's Supreme Court decision will have to be studied before the government can make an informed commentary about its implications.

But he said: "On the substantive issue, the Irish government’s position remains very consistent and very firm.

"There was an agreement here that there would be a full public inquiry established and that agreement has not been followed through and I think it should be.

"That position isn’t going to change."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "The Finucane family and the British government will wish to consider this judgment in full. The Government will also be examining the judgment closely."

He also said the Government’s position is that an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane should be established.

Mr Varadkar said: "The Government has made this position consistently clear to the British Government, and will continue to do so."

He added; "I have met with the Finucane family in recent months, as has the Tánaiste, to confirm the Government’s ongoing support for their search for truth and justice.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in ongoing contact with the family at this time."

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