Irish Republican News · April 26, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

The family of Pat Finucane has announced that they cannot take part in the proposed public inquiry, if it is held under the terms of the draft legislation published by the British government today.

The Belfast defence lawyer was shot dead in his west Belfast home in 1989 by a gang of British military and police agents.

The family has described the new legislation as a considerable departure from what was agreed in talks over three years ago.

The new laws will give ministers the power to hold public inquiries in private on the grounds of “national security”.

In a statement, the Finucane family said they were concerned about the independence and the powers which the inquiry would have.

“Judge Cory recommended a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Pat’s murder and identified the ‘basic requirements’ for a public inquiry,” said the family.

“One of these requirements was stated to be that ‘the tribunal should have full power to subpoena witnesses and documents together with all the powers usually exercised by a Commissioner in a public inquiry’.

The family said that Clause 17 of the bill was a “wholesale departure” from the Weston Park Agreement in 2001 and the Cory Recommendation because it gives the British government the overriding power to determine when the inquiry sits in private and what material is to be withheld.

“These are self-evidently amongst the most important powers exercised by inquiries,” said the Finucane family.

It added: “In addition, and in order to be truly independent, the tribunal will have to be international in character and be composed of judges of standing equivalent to Judge Cory.

“The Finucane family cannot take part in any inquiry established under these conditions.”

The nationalist SDLP party also said the draft legislation had confirmed the party’s worst fears.

“This legislation totally undermines the independence of inquiries. In reality, it ends public inquiries as we know them,” said party Assembly member, Alex Atwood. “In future they will be government-controlled and government-censored. This is an assault on democratic values.”

The West Belfast MLA said the legislation would affect all inquiries to be held in the North of Ireland Ireland and Great Britain.

“The SDLP is writing to all members of the House of Lords and House of Commons to express our opposition. We hope to build a coalition against this attack on openness, democracy and transparency,” he added.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News