Daily Ireland

**article published 12 February 2005

Festering wounds will never heal over

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Sixteen years ago today, the kitchen of the Finucane home in north Belfast was the bloody scene of a murder that continues to haunt Geraldine Finucane, her family and the entire British political and security establishment.
The jury is currently out on whether the Finucane family will co-operate with the inquiry due to delve into the murky waters of collusion between loyalists and British military intelligence/RUC Special Branch.
Its terms are still being discussed in London and if they mean secrets will remain hidden from the tribunal, the Finucanes won’t be having anything to do with it. But the family desperately wants an inquiry set up as soon as possible - before any more witnesses die or papers become “lost”.
“We’re not naïve”, says Geraldine Finucane. “We know not everything will come out in public. But we do insist that the tribunal decides what’s published and what isn’t. Not some British minister or bureaucrat.
“We must have confidence in the terms of the inquiry. Not just for our own sakes but for the sake of the people of Ireland. We want to participate, but we won’t settle for half measures”.
That clarity of purpose, and flinty determination, is typical of the woman who was herself shot in the foot on the day, 16 years ago, when her husband was murdered in front of her.
As blood flowed from her own wound, the stench of gunsmoke in her nostrils, knowing that Pat lay dead, she was told to get into an ambulance.
Geraldine Finucane, however, as we all now know, is no quitter and refused all medical help until her mother arrived to care for children John, Katherine and Michael (then aged eight, 12 and 17).
Geraldine wants to make it clear, though, that the past 16 years have not only been a struggle to vindicate her dead husband’s memory. Her battle is also for all the dozens of other bereaved who are fighting for the truth about collusion.
“This is a very, very personal battle for us, because Pat was so precious to us, but we know we have another massive responsibility on our shoulders on behalf of others.” The British state doesn’t like admitting its faults, she says, but if they can crack the Finucane case open, others will surely follow.
Although today is an anniversary of his death, it won’t be “special”, she says. “I don’t need an anniversary to think of Pat. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.”
She has learned to control her loss, however. “If I dwelled on what happened in the house that night, I’d go under. You can’t afford to be too emotional”.
Although she had always suspected collusion in Pat Finucane’s murder, it wasn’t until the British/Irish Rights Watch report drew all the evidence together that her fears were backed with concrete facts.
“I said to myself ‘Oh my God. This was a policy. It wasn’t just Pat. It affects everybody’”.
All of this was a million miles away when Geraldine first met Pat as a student at Trinity College, Dublin. “We lived all over the city, north and south of the river. We were young and it was a wonderful time”, she says.
They married before they left college. She was from a Protestant background, he was a Catholic and, back home in Belfast, storm clouds were gathering.
Pat Finucane’s youngest brother was aged just eight when the family was forced from their Falls Road home by a loyalist mob. Hard times force people to take a stand and Pat found his stand in the law.
“Pat saw what was happening. He was an intelligent man, the law could help people. It was a very simple thought.” Pat began a course at Queen’s University, Geraldine taught English.
Pat then set up a law firm with a friend, Peter Madden. One of the young lawyer’s most gratifying victories was in the case of Nora McCabe, a mother of three, murdered with a plastic bullet.
In 1981, Mrs McCabe was walking to buy cigarettes in west Belfast. She was struck on the head by a plastic bullet and died in hospital the following day from a fractured skull.
Pat Finucane obtained video evidence from a Canadian film crew that showed there had been no rioting. The inquest jury found that there was no evidence of any legitimate target and that Mrs McCabe was an innocent victim.
More than seventy MPs demanded a public inquiry. The McCabe family won compensation. The senior police officer involved was promoted. The rules on inquests were changed.
As Pat’s reputation grew, he became an increasingly sharp thorn in the side of the British authorities especially after he won the acquittal of senior Belfast republican, and former hunger striker, Pat McGeown.
He also acted for the families of some of the shoot-to-kill victims of the 1980’s that led to John Stalker, a senior Manchester police officer, investigating claims of a cover-up.
Before long, the threats began. The police would tell his clients that “You’ll not be having Finucane as a solicitor for much longer”, and “We are going to get him” but, Geraldine says they were never really frightening.
Pat continued to love his work. “He didn’t invent the law, but people weren’t using it. They believed it wouldn’t get them anywhere. All Pat did was to use the law. It was very exciting at the time to see ordinary people win cases, and the more cases they won, the more people began to come forward”.
Everything, however, changed for the Finucanes in early 1989 when a junior British home office minister, Douglas Hogg, told the House of Commons “that there are in Northern Ireland a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA.”
Hogg’s comments were immediately condemned by the SDLP’s Seamus Mallon, who said that “it would be on the minister’s head, and on the heads of the government, if an assassin’s bullet did what his words had done.”
Within four weeks Pat lay dead.
“The shooting was not the result of a ‘rogue unit’ - it was a systematic and deliberate strategy of murder. This isn’t now about Pat Finucane alone. Who knows how many others also died? They also need to lay their ghosts to rest”.
How high up the British chain of command does she think it went? “I think it could have gone right up to cabinet level. This went on for more than ten years. Those involved were promoted and given British royal honours”.
“There are some wounds that can be treated and will heal.
“Others are left to fester and cannot heal”, she says. “These cases of collusion must all be investigated thoroughly”.
Whether the truth will ever come to light is unknown. What is known, however, is that the Finucanes will be there to see it through.

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