‘Credible and effective’ public inquiry is still the Finucane family’s priority

Informed sources last night revealed that the family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane used a private meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair a fortnight ago to “bluntly restate their desire to participate in any credible and effective public inquiry” into the controversial affair.

And the source says that Mr Finucane’s family are refusing to be sidelined, despite growing concerns over the British government’s attitude to establishing an inquiry.

The disclosures come just days after the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) publicised the composition and remit of inquiries into three other controversial killings – those of Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright.

Mr Finucane was assassinated in front of his wife and young family on February 12, 1989, after a UDA death-squad – armed by British Intelligence, and directed by Special Branch and the British Army’s notorious Force Research Unit (FRU) – burst into his North Belfast home.

Due to the sinister element of state collusion, Canadian Judge Peter Cory independently reviewed Mr Finucane’s case, along with the cases of Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill, who was kicked to death beside an RUC Land Rover; Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson, who was murdered by a loyalist booby-trap bomb; and leading loyalist Billy Wright who was shot dead by the INLA inside Long Kesh prison.

In each of the cases, Judge Cory recommended an independent inquiry when he submitted a final report to the British government in October 2003.
The Finucane family have consistently re-stated their demand for a credible and effective public inquiry to which they could lend support and, on this basis, Judge Cory’s recommendation was welcomed.

However, after a delay of several months Mr Finucane’s widow, Geraldine, was forced to launch High Court proceedings over the NIO’s subsequent refusal to publish Judge Cory’s report.

And while the Nelson, Hamill and Wright inquiries are now being established under the terms of existing legislation – namely the 1998 Police Act and the 1953 Prison Act – the British government have refused to use any existing legislation for the Finucane inquiry, not even the 1921 Tribunal Act which was used in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

Instead the British government have stated that due to “national security interests” the Finucane inquiry must be set up under new legislation.
This new legislation is essentially designed to permit lesser – not greater – transparency.

And it could mean that the British government will be able to withhold sensitive and embarrassing details about the Finucane affair, even before an inquiry gets a chance to consider them.

Human rights groups have already expressed significant concerns over the implications of the British government’s latest attempts to gag any inquiry.
Despite this, the Finucane family maintain that, having waited 15 years for the British government to establish an inquiry, they are not willing to be sidelined at this stage.

During the past month, the Finucane family have been involved in an intensive round of meetings with representatives from the SDLP, Sinn Féin, the British government, the Irish government and a range of independent organisations.

The purpose of the meetings has been to focus attention on the family’s key concerns over the proposed new British legislation and any resulting inquiry.
Speaking last night, an informed source stressed the Finucane family’s desire to secure “a credible and effective inquiry”.

“This is not just an issue about bringing closure to the personal grief of the Finucane family. Given the nature of Pat Finucane’s murder – which serves as an exemplar of the British policy of state collusion – the need for an inquiry that the family, and the wider community, can support should not be underestimated.

“All along the Finucane family’s approach has been reasonable and consistent. Getting to the bottom of a scandal such as the murder of Pat Finucane isn’t just about one case. It is about ensuring that a state policy of collusion can never be allowed to happen again by putting new safeguards, recommendations and principles in place.”

The source disclosed that during a meeting in Downing Street on November 2, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was arrogant and abrasive and refused point-blank to answer key questions from the Finucane family.

And it is now thought that Tony Blair’s personal attitude during the November 2 meeting – taken together with the British government’s general attitude to the establishment of an inquiry – has created significant worries for the Finucane family.

“On the one hand the British government say they want to get to the truth of this issue in an inquiry. Yet on the other hand, they say that they will adjudicate all of the contentious issues that may arise.

“The other question is, why is new legislation required at all? So much has already been made public that it is difficult to see how gagging material could achieve anything, unless there is worse yet to come. The question that has been uppermost in many minds is, what is it that the British government wants to hide?

“There are some in the British administration who may believe the Finucane family can be treated like second-class citizens and made to accept a second-rate inquiry. This will not be allowed to happen.

“The Finucane family are very serious about getting an independent, public inquiry – as recommended by Judge Cory – that they can have confidence in and can fully contribute to,” added our source.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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