The Inquiries Bill to limit the scope of public inquiries has been rushed through the London parliament after the British general election was called last Tuesday.
The new legislation allows parts of the inquiry to held in private if it could jeopardise Britain’s national interests. In particular, it will deny the family of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane access to vital information surrounding the 1989 murder.
The Finucane family are not now expected to take part in the inquiry porposed for the killing, when Mr Finucane was gunned down in his home by unionist paramilitaries acting under the direction of the British Army’s murderous ‘Force Research Unit’.
In announcing the proposed Bill late last year British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy admitted that aspects of the murder involved British ‘national security interests’.
“For this reason the government is unwilling to subject the events surrounding the murder to public scrutiny” he said.
The British government signed an inter-governmental agreement with the Dublin government at Weston Park that they would abide by the findings of the report of Canadian Judge Peter Cory on the affair. Judge Cory has himself blasted the legislation which he said rendered a genuine inquiry impossible.
The Dublin government has accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair of reneging on his commitments under the Good Friday Agreement in regard to the matter.
Today the Pat Finucane Centre, a Derry-based human rights group named after the murdered lawyer, accused the British government of appearing “determined to cover up the murder of Pat Finucane in 1989. This is perhaps understandable given the involvement of the Force Research Unit of the British Army, the Security Service (MI5) and RUC Special Branch in the murder and subsequent cover-up.”
“In reality this Bill will convince many people in Ireland, Britain and throughout the world that this government will go to any lengths to hide the truth about the operation of what was essentially a state sponsored death squad. None of this occurred on your watch. But the cover-up continues on your watch.
“PM Tony Blair MP made a clear and unambiguous commitment at the Weston Park talks. He lied.”
British officials were accused of believing that “the defence of the realm was more important than publicly and independently inquiring into state run death squads.
“General Pinochet would have been proud of this government.”
The SDLP yesterday joined the family in accusing the British of a cover-up. The SDLP’s Alex Attwood revealed a statement by the British ambassador to the UN, Nick Thorne, indicating that most of the hearings into the murder would be held behind closed doors.
Over a dozen human rights organisations have aso attacked the Bill, pointing out that it could also affect inquiries into issues like the war in Iraq.