The family of murdered Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane have said they will not give up despite the rejection of their legal challenge against the British government’s refusal to hold a public inquiry.
His son John Finucane said they had not yet decided whether to appeal a judgment which upheld David Cameron’s controversial 2011 decision to renege on the British government’s previous agreements to hold an inquiry.
Delivering his reserved judgment to the High Court in Belfast, Justice Stephens rejected the family’s judicial review application, saying a statutory inquiry would be costly and protracted and could not be confined to narrow issues surrounding the loyalist shooting over 20 years ago.
Mr Finucane was shot dead in front of his wife and three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989 by a loyalist death squad believed to be operating under the direction of British military intelligence.
The high-profile case, which was heard last month, was taken by Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine, who said the family had a legitimate expectation that a statutory inquiry would be held.
John Finucane said: “What is clear and what the court has found is that there was a clear, unequivocal promise made to my mother; made to my family as a result of Weston Park.
“The court has felt restricted and limited in interfering in what was a political decision but I think the public can make their own minds up that when an unequivocal promise is made to our family by the government and that is changed quite cruelly - I think they can decide for themselves what lies behind that.”
Mr Finucane said the family’s campaign had continued for 26 years with “numerous setbacks and numerous successes” along the way.
“We see today not as a setback which would end our campaign once and for all. There are certainly comments and material within that judgement, even with an initial viewing, that would cause us hope.”
The 26-County government has also pledged to continue the push for a full public inquiry for Mr Finucane.
Sinn Fein spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Padraig Mac Lochlainn said the British government could no longer deny that collusion with unionist paramilitaries was a systemic and deliberate policy. He said it was used as a method of killing Irish citizens “or, indeed, anyone who got in their way, including Human Rights lawyer, Pat Finucane.”
CORONER URGES INQUIRY
Meanwhile, the children of a murdered couple have called for a public inquiry after a coroner admitted he did not have enough resources to conduct a collusion probe.
The double murder is part of “a cesspit of collusion” between the state and loyalist paramilitaries in Mid-Ulster, the court heard. Charlie and Tess Fox were shot dead by the UVF at their home in Moy, County Tyrone, in 1992. The killings have been linked to 28 other murders and attempted murders by the UVF’s Mid-Ulster gang.
Peter Corrigan, who is acting for relatives of Mr and Mrs Fox, said false information had been used to sabotage the investigation into their deaths.
He said key suspects -- including then UVF leader in Mid-Ulster, Billy Wright, and Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton -- were never interviewed, and and questioned whether Wright and Fulton were working for the state at the time.
Mr Corrigan recalled a conversation with what he described as a senior member of the now-defunct police Historical Enquiries Team.
“He said clearly and unequivocally that the murders in Mid-Ulster amount to a cesspit of collusion, involving the security services, security forces, UDR, state agents, [which] is rotten to the core,” the lawyer added.
“The families want a public inquiry - they want the truth,” Mr Corrigan added.
The hearing was told a public inquiry, funded by the British government, may be the family’s best hope of a full examination of the case. Relatives believe an over-arching probe examining the other 28 crimes is the only way they can get to the truth.
Senior coroner John Leckey said the Coroners’ Service did not have the resources to conduct such a major investigation.
Outside court, Mr and Mrs Fox’s son Anthony welcomed the coroner’s remarks. “There should be a public inquiry,” he said. “That is what is needed with the mid-Ulster UVF.”
DONEGAL JUSTICE CAMPAIGN
Separately, the family of a County Donegal teenager murdered by loyalists is to take legal action against the British Ministry of Defence.
Sixteen-year-old Henry Cunningham from Carndonagh, was killed in August 1973 when UVF gunmen ambushed the van he was travelling home from work in. Henry’s brothers were also in the van but were not seriously hurt.
In 2008, an Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report said that one of the guns used was stolen from a base of the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment.
It is thought the killers mistakenly identified the brothers as Catholics. Speaking to BBC Radio this week, Herbert Cunningham described the moment when they were attacked.
“I saw the three boys on the flyover. I can still see them yet. They were sitting up on the railing of the flyover firing at me.
“I didn’t know what it was. They burst tyres and I was shouting to the boys in the van, I thought they were all dead.”
Herbert said that by the time he realised his brother had been shot, it was too late to seek help.
“Henry says to me “I’m hit” and he just slumped over. That’s all he said. I went on almost three miles with busted wheels until I couldn’t go no further.
“We were afraid they were coming after us. We didn’t know what was happening.”
Robert Cunningham said their case against is about justice. “This is not about money, this is justice we’re looking for and we know we didn’t get it at the time.”