Letter calls for Finucane inquiry

U.S. Congressman Chris Smith has circulated a letter to be sent to British PM Tony Blair urging him to immediately hold a Public Inquiry in the murder of Pat Finucane.

U.S. readers are being urged to call their member of congress’s Legislative Assistant or Aide to sign on.

The following is the text of the letter.

Dear Colleague:

While all parties continue to work for peace in Northern Ireland, unresolved issues from the past continue to hamper this process.

Thankfully, both the government of Ireland and Great Britain have agreed to hold public inquiries into several high profile murder cases. But unfortunately, Great Britain has thus far refused to hold an inquiry into the violent death of attorney Patrick Finucane, who was shot more than a dozen times while eating dinner with his family in his home more than 15 years ago.

Prime Minister Blair stated he would follow through with a Public Inquiry if Peter Cory, the judge appointed to investigate the allegations of collusion in the Finucane case and five others, recommended further action. In his report, Judge Cory stated evidence of possible collusion by Army intelligence and the RUC in the Finucane case.

However, following the conviction in September of Ken Barrett for the murder of Patrick Finucane (who received a life sentence but will be released next year under the early release provisions of the Good Friday peace agreement), the British government seemed to walk away from its commitment in a Sep 23 statement by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Murphy, in which he indicated it would be necessary to pass new legislation before an inquiry could be held.

Further delays only feed speculation that the government is continuing to resist an impartial, full investigation into the murder. The prompt holding of a Public Inquiry is a necessary confidence-building measure for the whole Northern Ireland peace process and to see justice accomplished in this important case.

Please join me in signing the attached letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, urging him to immediately hold a Public Inquiry in the murder of Patrick Finucane. Such an inquiry will go along way in healing old wounds as well as giving the people of Northern Ireland confidence in their government that justice can and will be served.

To sign on this letter, please contact George Phillips in my office ( george.phillips@mail.house.gov / x53765). We will be collecting signatures until COB Friday.


Member of Congress

November 19, 2004

Rt. Hon Tony Blair, MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

We are writing to urge the immediate holding of a Public Inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane, and to ask for clarification regarding the September 23, 2004 statement by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Murphy on this subject, which raised questions about the commitment of your government to conduct such an inquiry.

As you may be aware, the United States Congress has been extensively involved in the promotion of human rights and policing reforms in Northern Ireland for several years. There have been nine Congressional hearings on this topic, each one of which included discussion of the Finucane case, including the courageous testimony in1998 of Rosemary Nelson which tragically preceded her murder six months later. During the most recent Congressional hearing in May 2004, Judge Peter Cory presented testimony indicating that evidence in five of the six high-profile murder cases in Ireland and Northern Ireland pointed to possible collusion by Army intelligence and the RUC. In the Finucane case, Cory stated that documentation showed the attorney was a prime target of paramilitary forces for nearly a decade before his killing, but that no steps were taken to warn him of the direct and imminent threat against his life. Cory urged that public inquiries be held on all these cases.

Additionally, Congress has passed three separate pieces of legislation concerning these issues. In 1999, Congress adopted H.Res. 128, which condemned Rosemary Nelson’s murder and called on the British government to launch an independent inquiry into the Finucane murder and an independent investigation into the Nelson killing. In September 2002, Congress passed and President Bush signed legislation (Public Law 107-228; section 701) stating U.S. support for independent judicial public inquiries into the Finucane and Nelson murders as a way to instill confidence in the Police Service of Northern Ireland. In Rosemary’s memory Congress also adopted legislation (Public Law 106-113) which suspended U.S. law enforcement training and exchanges with the RUC until vetting procedures were established to ensure that the programs do not include policemen who may have committed any human rights violations including “any role in the murder of Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson or other violence against defense attorneys in Northern Ireland.”

The failure to resolve the crime of Patrick Finucane’s murder fifteen years ago continues to deeply disturb us. We believe the recent successful prosecution of Kenneth Barrett was an important step forward, even though under the early release provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, he will likely serve only a small portion of the 22-year life sentence recommended by the trial judge.

However, the question of your government’s commitment to a Public Inquiry is still unclear. At Weston Park, you gave a clear pledge that you would follow through with a Public Inquiry if the judge appointed to investigate the allegations of collusion in the Finucane case and five others made recommendations for further action. At that time, we welcomed the commitment that you made: that “in the event that a public inquiry is recommended in any case; the relevant governments will implement that recommendation”. [1][1] Yet we are concerned to note that Mr. Murphy’s September 23 statement does not reflect that commitment, but refers only to an “inquiry,” not a Public Inquiry. We firmly believe that nothing less than a Public Inquiry will restore public confidence in Northern Ireland and demonstrate your dedication to transparency and accountability.

We are also concerned that the September 23 statement makes reference to uncovering the “full facts.” Our understanding is that the “full facts” of the actual murder are already in the public domain. If by this reference you mean uncovering any collusion, evaluating any policies and practices which made such collusion possible, and ascertaining who should be held responsible for what happened, we are in full agreement.

Moreover, we welcome your assurance that all powers and resources necessary for the task to be completed will be given. We do not understand, however, why there is a need for new legislation in order to hold a Public Inquiry in the Finucane case. Your government recently announced inquiries into a number of other controversial deaths -- but no change in legislation was required in those cases. We fear the move to enact new legislation to address the Patrick Finucane case will cause further delay and will only feed speculation about the government’s motives.

In sum, we emphasize that the prompt holding of an independent Public Inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane is a necessary confidence-building measure in light of the Northern Ireland peace process, and we urge you to hold such an inquiry without further delay.




Member of Congress

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