The British government is being strongly pressured by human rights groups, Irish nationalists, the Irish and US governments, a former senior United Nations representative and its own appointed investigator to give the go-ahead to a public inquiry into the 1989 killing of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane.

Following the publication of the reports by Canadian judge Peter Cory calling for four public inquiries, the British government last week announced that three inquiries would be established into the murders of Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright.

But British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy said an inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder was pending the outcome of criminal proceedings against a unionist paramilitary, Ken Barrett, who was currently in custody.

The British government had committed to acting on the Cory commendations, and has been strongly criticised for reneging on this commitment.

Judge Peter Cory told Irish radio today a public inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder should be held without delay and could be facilitated in conjunction with ongoing court proceedings.

Speaking this morning, Judge Cory said that the Irish and British governments had agreed that if an independent judge recommended the holding of a public inquiry then there would be such an inquiry.

``I am disappointed,'' he said. ``It's unfortunate that the decision has been made that the public inquiry must be delayed.

``For the family, the murder was so long ago I just thought there should be some final resolution with regard to it as soon as possible.

``This is one of those rare instances where it's more important to have the public inquiry for the good of the community as a whole, than the prosecution.''

He dismissed suggestions made by Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble that Mr Finucane and Lurgan lawyer Rosemary Nelson had `a clear terrorist connection'.

``At the coroner's inquest, the RUC officer in charge of the investigation made it clear there was no tie that he knew of between Patrick Finucane and the IRA and that he was simply a solicitor doing his duty,'' Cory said.

``That would seem to be quite clear and strong evidence.''

PSNI police chief Hugh Orde has also rejected Mr Trimble's allegations, which have infuriated the Nelson and Finucane families.

There have been numerous calls on the British to hold a public inquiry into the murder of Mr Finucane.

The US State Department intensified pressure after an official yesterday said Washington was concerned about plans to delay an inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder.

A US State Department official said Washington was concerned about plans to delay an inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder until all criminal prosecutions had been completed.

He said it was his department's view that prosecutions should be conducted as ``quickly as possible''.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International described the government's failure to establish an immediate public inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder as ``shameful''.

Meanwhile, a former senior United Nations representative, Param Cumaraswamy has repeasted a call for a public inquiry into the killing first issued in his official 1998 report.

Speaking on BBC Radio, Mr Cumaraswamy said the victims of those concerned had suffered enough.

``Judge Cory was correct in saying that if we wait for this prosecution it could continue and be delayed for another two or three years,'' he said.

``That is unreasonable, and as I mentioned before, justice delayed is justice denied.

``A great deal of injustice would be done to the victims in this whole thing.

``The family of Pat Finucane have had this crusade going on for the last 14 years or so for this initial inquiry.''

Mr Gerry Kelly of Sinn Féin said today the ``double standards and contradictions in the position of the British government are obvious''.

``They are deliberately attempting to conceal the truth around the policy of collusion and the murder of citizens. Judge Cory's remarks today increase the pressure on the British government to grasp the reality and end the policy of concealment and proceed with the inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane,'' he said.

Reports today indicate that the British government is to announce some form of peace and reconciliation commission shortly after Easter in an effort to deflect criticism over the Finucane decision and its handling of other truth and human rights issues.

  • Meanwhile, Ken Barrett, awaiting trial for the murder Pat Finucane, has been moved to an unspecified jail in England. Barrett was transferred on Thursday when the Cory report was released by the British government. His trial begins in September and could take two or three years.

    The move was reportedly at his own request, but has raised suspicions. Almost all of those who took part in the plot to kill Mr Finucane have since died violent deaths or in mysterious circumstances, and it is possible that Barrett is merely concerned for his own safety.

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