by Jude Collins (judecollins.net)
I was at the annual Pat Finucane memorial lecture last night in the Europa Hotel. In some ways it was a moving evening, in some ways disappointing and in some ways enraging.
There was a fairly large audience, but far from lan go doras - completely full. Professor Bill Rolston, who was the MC, made the point that through Twitter and Facebook and Periscope, this was an event that was being shared throughout the world. And indeed there were tweets from all sorts of people appearing on the big screen, which consisted of old black-and-white photos of the Finucane family life when Pat was alive.
It was a moving evening. As the event began, the south’s Minister for Foreign Affairs (No, Virginia, don’t use words like that) Charlie Flanagan, Pat’s widow Geraldine, her family and members of their families - three generations - entered the room. It is twenty-eight years since Pat Finucane was shot dead in his own home, but the Finucane struggle for truth continues, even onto the third generation.
It was an enraging evening. Charlie Flanagan spoke of the need for accountability for all unlawful killings; he complimented the Finucane family on their unyielding search for the truth, set back yet again this week. In 2011 the British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected the appeals for a public enquiry. Three Court of Appeal judges rejected the family’s challenge to that on Tuesday. Last night Charlie Flanagan committed the Dublin government to pressing the British government for a full public inquiry. Mark Thompson, of Relatives for Justice, led the applause at that mid-speech moment when Flanagan made that commitment. Bill Rolston nailed it down further by underlining the public inquiry commitment when he thanked Mr Flanagan for his contribution.
After Mr Flanagan had spoken, Geraldine Finucane delivered a short speech. I’ll copy that speech so you can read it yourselves.
And enraging? Well, to be quite honest, I had assumed the room in the Europa would be bursting with people. It wasn’t. Time hasn’t healed Geraldine Finucane’s pain but it appears to have dulled the indignation of many to the Belfast lawyer’s killing. I suppose we should be grateful rather than enraged by Mr Flanagan’s commitment to a public inquiry, but it was hard not to wonder “What took you so long?” Twenty-eight years, to be precise, before the Dublin government finds the will to call on Britain to deliver a full public inquiry.
Most enraging of all, of course, is the reason behind Britain’s refusal of a full public inquiry. Virtually everyone now acknowledges that Pat Finucane’s death was an act of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the’security’ forces. The British government knows that, and knows that a public inquiry would drag out documents which they have for twenty-eight years been desperate to keep hidden.
There are people who would - and do - say that Pat Finucane’s death is just another killing, one of thousands from the time of our Troubles. That’s true, except that it involved a man being shot dead as he sat down with his family to an evening meal in his own house. What’s more, that man was one who as a lawyer helped those seeking justice. For that he was referred to by the unspeakable Douglas Hogg in the House of Commons, with his comment on some lawyers here “being too close to their clients”. And three weeks later, with the assistance of state agencies, Pat Finucane was shot dead. It sounds like something from Pinochet’s Chile. It wasn’t. It was here in our unhygienic little North-East nest, and there are people who pride themselves as champions of lawful behaviour who have done all they can to block the truth of what happened from emerging. Why? Because the trail almost certainly leads to Number 10, Downing Street.
Just one more killing among thousands? I think not.
Pat Finucane Memorial Lecture
Unfinished Business: A Public Inquiry into the Murder of Pat Finucane
Address by Geraldine Finucane, Thursday, 23 February 2017
Mr. Chairman, Minister Flanagan, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am honoured to be able to address you tonight, some 28 years since the murder of my husband, Pat, a solicitor, who was born and bred here in Belfast. He was murdered by Loyalist paramilitaries, in our home, on Sunday, 12 February 1989.
I would like to say that the passing of the years has made Pat’s death easier to bear but his would not be true. In fact, the more time that passes, the more difficult it is to bear his loss. This is partly because of how much we miss him as a person but it is also because of what we now know about the circumstances surrounding his murder.
We know, beyond any doubt, that Pat was murdered with the active assistance and participation of the former NI police force, the RUC, the British Army and the British State.
There was a time when we did not know as much as we do now and the claim that Britain was involved produced scepticism in many quarters.
Politicians in government and officials in state positions at home and abroad disbelieved our suspicions entirely. Some even poured scorn on our allegations of state collusion and said the ideas were fanciful.
In a response to a 1993 report by a US human rights organisation, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, which raised serious questions about collusion even then, a Deputy Chief Constable of the RUC responded to their work in a letter, which said: “... there is a repetition of unsubstantiated allegations, as if these constituted evidence of Security Forces or official misconduct... It is a pity that... the end result should be so flawed.”
On 26 June 2015, Mr. Justice Stephens delivered his ruling on our application for judicial review in Belfast High Court. In the opening paragraphs of his judgment, he said the following:
“[Geraldine Finucane] ... was convinced from the beginning that servants or agents of the state were involved in the murder of her husband. The government has accepted that there was state involvement and has apologised for it. It is hard to express in forceful enough terms the appropriate response to the murder, the collusion associated with it, the failure to prevent the murder and the obstruction of some of the investigations into it. Individually and collectively they were abominations, which amounted to the most conspicuously bad, glaring and flagrant breach of the obligation of the state to protect the life of its citizen and to ensure the rule of law. There is and can be no attempt at justification.”
Sadly, Mr. Justice Stephens concluded that the decision of the British Government was not unlawful and so he was unable to order an inquiry. We appealed this decision and on Tuesday, the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal delivered its judgment on our case for a public inquiry. Sadly, we were, once again, unsuccessful but there may yet be grounds for a further appeal.
Where, then, does the case for a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane rest? The courts have concluded that they cannot order an inquiry. The British Government has determined it will not hold one.
Perhaps all that can be done has been done already ...?
Perhaps the murder of Pat Finucane is simply, ‘old news’ ...?
I do not think that the controversy surrounding the murder of Pat Finucane has been properly resolved.
I believe I am right in this, not just because of a broken promise by the British Government but because of the unanswered questions that arise from Pat’s murder and the fact that no-one within the British establishment has ever been made accountable for it.
I believe I am right because the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs is here tonight and has spoken, on behalf of the Irish Government, of their continued support for a public inquiry.
Most of all, I believe I am right because of the unwavering support my family and I have had from the people of Belfast and beyond for the last twenty eight years.
I see many people here tonight who have stood with us for all of those three decades, helping us out, urging us on. I meet them often, at events such as this or just when I am out and about my daily business. I am constantly approached by people who wish me and my family well. They tell me we are doing great work.
Some people even tell me that they have known tragedy in their lives but were unable to follow through on it, for various reasons. But they gain comfort and some degree of closure by knowing that someone is holding the British State accountable for their actions.
But everyone ends by telling me the same thing:
“Keep going. It’s important.”
This is why we do what we do. This is why we keep going. It isn’t easy. Many times, over the years, we have felt like we have no more left to give. Like we are fighting an unbeatable enemy. Like the obstacles before us are insurmountable.
It is at times like those that my family and I take strength from two things. One, is the path that lies behind us, which helps put the obstacles ahead in perspective.
Because of what we have uncovered, the High Court in Belfast now declares, as a fact, that Pat’s murder was an “abomination” and that it amounted to “the most conspicuously bad, glaring and flagrant breach of the obligation of the state to protect the life of its citizen.”
Of course, this is not the first time there has been official recognition of the true nature of Pat’s murder. Others have said similar things, over the years.
But I believe that the statement of Mr. Justice Stephens in the High Court in Belfast is significant. It is where Pat himself worked, where he plied his trade, where he represented his own people. And it is perhaps the recognition that would have brought him the most satisfaction because convincing people in your own back yard is often more difficult than anywhere else.
However, we did not have to convince everyone that we were right.
This is the second thing that keeps us going: the people who believed us, right from the start, who knew there something rotten in the British State, and who have supported us for so many years.
Pat’s friends; Pat’s community; Pat’s own people.
We have been encouraged and supported and helped by so many people when the going got tough.
And the reason we keep going and can keep going, is because of all that help and support and because there are so many people who want us to. There are so many people, who, like us, want to find out the truth behind Pat’s murder.
It is unfinished business for them. It is unfinished business for us.
I want to know, why. I want to know, how. I want to know, who.
I want to ask my own questions and I want to hear the answers for myself. I want to read the documents and understand the frameworks. Most of all, I want to be able to show them to the entire world so that everyone can know and learn what can be done by governments in the name of the people if we are not vigilant.
Most of all, I want to share that accomplishment with you, Pat’s own people, so that, together, we can turn unfinished business into finished business.
I owe you all a great deal for your support over the years. I would very much like to share the final achievement with you also.
Thank you very much.