Wednesday 21 March 2018

Finucane family hit out at David Cameron over inquiry

A masked gang from the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) shot Pat Finucane in front of his wife and three children as they ate dinner in their north Belfast home in 1989. Photo: PA
A masked gang from the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) shot Pat Finucane in front of his wife and three children as they ate dinner in their north Belfast home in 1989. Photo: PA

Michael McHugh

Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused by the family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane of reneging on an agreement to order a public inquiry into his death.

His widow Geraldine Finucane branded Mr Cameron "dishonourable" after he established a review led by a lawyer into the killing, which involved state collusion with the loyalist killers.

A masked gang from the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) shot the solicitor in front of his wife and three children as they ate dinner in their north Belfast home in 1989. It later emerged the security forces were linked to the murder.

Mr Cameron told the family of his decision at Downing Street on Tuesday.

Mrs Finucane said: "Not only were my family and I forced to listen to the Prime Minister of Britain renege on a promise made by the British Government, we had to hear him tell us, over and over, what it was that we really wanted, how we wanted to achieve it and what our ultimate response would be.

"It was clear within minutes that we had been lured to Downing Street under false pretences by a disreputable Government led by a dishonourable man."

When he was prime minister, Tony Blair agreed to establish an inquiry, but a fresh investigation did not begin after a dispute with the family over the government's powers to control it.

It followed reports by former Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir John Stevens and Canadian judge Peter Cory which concluded that collusion had occurred.

Mrs Finucane led a press conference in Belfast today with her son John and lawyer Peter Madden.

She said the family had no confidence in the process which Mr Cameron had established.

"We cannot be expected to take the British Prime Minister's word that it will be effective when he is reneging on a Government commitment in order to establish it," she said.

"His actions prove beyond doubt that the word of the British Prime Minister is not to be trusted.

"The case of Pat Finucane shows that British prime ministers no longer keep their promises."

Lawyers for the family, including Mrs Finucane's sons, John and Michael, attended meetings over the last year with Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson and his officials.

Mrs Finucane said the Government was keen to know if the family would participate in an inquiry and, if so, under what conditions.

They had opposed a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 because the widow said a Government minister could impose a restriction notice on the inquiry at will.

Mrs Finucane said the Baha Mousa Inquiry into the death of an Iraqi created a precedent for the Government not to use the powers.

The family told the Government that an inquiry operated along the same lines as Baha Mousa would be something they could participate in.

The widow added: "Although it was made clear that the minister would make the final decision on an inquiry, the indications from Government officials were encouraging.

"At no time were we advised that an alternative to an inquiry was also under consideration."

She said that, during a recent telephone conversation between a senior Northern Ireland Office official and her lawyer, Mr Madden, he was told the Prime Minister was confident they would be happy with what was on offer.

"We could not bring ourselves to believe that we were being invited as guests to the Prime Minister's home just to be refused the public inquiry promised many years ago," she said.

"The fact that David Cameron did so, and in such a public fashion, ranks as one of the most cruel and devastating experiences of my life."

Mr Cameron appointed Sir Desmond De Silva to carry out the review. He has extensive experience dealing with the aftermath of conflict in Serbia and Sierra Leone.

Mr Paterson has said he will have access to official documents on the case, witnesses and more than a million pages of material compiled by the Stevens probe.

Mrs Finucane said: "Although he will be permitted to speak with relevant persons, this will be done behind closed doors, my family will not be permitted to participate.

"We will see nothing for ourselves, hear nothing for ourselves and say nothing for ourselves. If anyone refuses to speak with Mr De Silva, he has no power to compel them."

The family are holding an urgent meeting with Irish Premier Enda Kenny next Monday.

Members of the US Congress have criticised the decision and former Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward has also lent his support to the relatives.

Mrs Finucane said: "My family does not believe that a public inquiry into Pat's murder would elevate his case above the deaths of others.

"We believe that a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane would be a force for good and not a long-running, open-ended waste of money.

"It would clear a lot of the very poisonous air that has been left behind.

"Most of all, we do believe that the British Government should honour the promise they made."

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