Canadian judge Peter Cory has said an independent inquiry into the murder of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane would be impossible under new restrictions being imposed by the British government.
Judge Cory investigated allegations of state collusion in a number of high-profile cases in the North, recommending four public inquiries. However, the British government has continually sought to evade its obligations in this regard, particularly in respect of the Finucane killing.
Britain is currently attempting to limit the scope of inquiries and to give British ministers the power to order evidence be heard in private, and to bar the production of some evidence to protect British national interests.
Legislation to this effect is now making its way through the Westminster parliament in London.
Judge Cory said yesterday: “I don’t know how any self-respecting Canadian judge would be part of it in light of the restrictions on independence it would impose.”
The judge may attend a Congressional hearing organised by Republican congressman Chris Smith in Washington on Wednesday into the 1989 killing of Mr Finucane by the UDA.
The 1921 legislation, said Judge Cory, offered “sufficient protection” to the British government “for all the things that might deal with the security of the realm”.
Disagreements were reported on Friday in London between officials from the Dublin and London governments.
The Government has pushed for the Finucane inquiry to be held under the 1921 Act, or, at least, the dropping of Clause 20 of the Inquiries Bill so that British ministers would not be able to force hearings to be held in private.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his cabinet have been attempting to re-establish their nationalist credentials following months of wrangling with republicans.
Ahern has said he will raise the matter with President Bush and other senior US figures on Thursday.