Canadian Judge Peter Cory has described the British government’s approach to the Pat Finucane case as “Alice in Wonderland”.
Judge Cory also said he would “be inclined to agree” with the family of the murdered defence lawyer over their objections to the British government’s controversial Inquiries Act.
Mr Finucane was murdered by a death squad of paid British agents in front of his family 17 years ago.
As a result of the 2001 Weston Park multi-party agreement, Judge Cory conducted an independent review of Mr Finucane’s murder.
Judge Cory’s report - which was published in edited form in 2004 - recommended an independent, public inquiry to investigate prima facie evidence of state collusion in Mr Finucane’s murder.
However after the Cory report, the British government tabled controversial new legislation entitled the Inquiries Act which would give a minister - rather than an independent tribunal - control over any inquiry. Despite the strong objections of the Finucane family, the British government is attempting to establish an inquiry under the new law.
Judge Cory told reporters in Belfast last night that he would “be inclined to agree” with the Finucane family’s objections to the British government’s approach.
“My goodness, when you look at it, in the middle of everything, you move the goal posts and you change the rules of the game. I just don’t think its the way to run a railroad, but I’m not running the railroad, and its the prime responsibility of any government to protect their citizens.
“I recommended a public inquiry, but I cannot tell you and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to tell you if the government is acting appropriately or not because I don’t know what their basis is.
“I was asked to do it. I did it to the best of my ability. I made the recommendations I did. I stand behind those recommendations.
“If you told me at the beginning, ‘no matter what you do we’re going to change the rules’, then any self-respecting person would say, ‘thank you, no, I’d just as soon not, this is Mickey Mouse - it’s Alice in Wonderland’. But you don’t know that at the time,” Judge Cory said.
Describing the British government’s reliance on national security to avoid an independent inquiry as “sad”, Judge Cory said he had hoped that his recommendations could help the process of healing and truth recovery in the North.
“I got access to everything that I think was warranted for me to come to a conclusion that, without any doubt, there was evidence that should be explored at a public inquiry,” Judge Cory said.
“There were differences of opinion obviously and only that can be taken care of at a public inquiry where evidence is tested by cross-examination ... and until that is done you cannot say if there is collusion.
“But there is evidence, such that I thought there should have been a public inquiry with regard to it - public inquiry as was understood at the time of the [Weston Park] accord.
“I haven’t got the facts from the government side as to why it would be necessary to say that this now involves matters of state security. I do not know because I cannot get behind it at this stage and say why is it a matter of state security,” Judge Cory said.