The public inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane has been secretly blocked for nearly two years, it has emerged.
In 2004, following a fifteen-year campaign for justice, retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory recommended a public inquiry into Crown force collusion in the murder.
However, following his recommendation special legislation was rushed through parliament allowing government ministers to block evidence from an inquiry.
Earlier this month his widow, Geraldine Finucane, received a letter from the British government which disclosed that in 2006 the then Direct Ruler, Peter Hain, quietly decided to halt preparations for an inquiry.
His family has expressed outrage at the revelation, saying they believed the British government never had any real intention of opening a proper inquiry.
In the letter, dated April 7, a British official revealed Mr Hain’s decision that “in the light of the Finucane family’s continuing opposition it was no longer justifiable to continue to devote public money to preparations for an inquiry which the family would refuse to accept under the terms of the Inquiries Act”.
“Therefore the restriction notice has not been completed,” it read.
An angry Mrs Finucane said: “We were not informed of this decision at the time.
“The letter stated that the decision was taken because my family refused to accept ministerial control of an inquiry under the notorious Inquiries Act 2005.
“They appear to be saying that, unless we agree that British government ministers should be allowed to control what information the inquiry is permitted to examine in public, there will be no inquiry at all.”
The Finucane family’s opposition to the Inquiries Act was supported by Judge Cory himself, as well as some of Britain’s leading judges, including Bloody Sunday Tribunal chairman Lord Saville.
Last year the Dublin parliament passed a unanimous motion calling on the British government to allow a proper independent inquiry.
Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey accused the British government of continuing with their policy of concealment and cover-up in relation to the murder of Pat Finucane.
“In the years since the murder of Pat Finucane the British government have consistently frustrated every effort to get to the truth,” he said.
“They have deliberately sought to cover up the role of British State Agencies in this murder.
“At Weston Park in July 2001 the British government finally committed to holding an inquiry into this murder. Since then they have attempted to use the Inquiries Act to limit the scope and nature of this inquiry. This is clearly unacceptable to the Finucane family.”
The Finucane family yesterday [Thursday] met the 26-County Taoiseach and told him that they would continue to pursue an independent inquiry into his death.
Following the meeting Mr Ahern said he had reiterated the Dublin government’s continuing support for a public inquiry.
“Geraldine and the Finucane family have travelled a long and difficult road in their search for the truth,” he said.
“I reiterated the government’s continuing support for a public inquiry into Pat’s murder.
“That position has full all-party support in Dail Eireann.”
Mrs Finucane criticised the current British Secretary, Shaun Woodward, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for conspiring in the fraud.
“I have long doubted whether the British government had any real intention of ever establishing a genuinely independent public inquiry into Pat’s murder. This letter confirms my worst suspicions,” she said.
“They have misled my family, the Irish government and they have misled the European Court of Human Rights.”