Finucane candidacy electrifies north Belfast election contest
Finucane candidacy electrifies north Belfast election contest


In a significant political development, the youngest son of murdered defence lawyer Pat Finucane is to fight the North Belfast Westminster constituency for Sinn Fein.

John Finucane, now a human rights lawyer, launched his bid to become North Belfast’s first nationalist MP at a selection convention at the Lansdowne Hotel on the Antrim Road, just yards from where his father was gunned down by British agents in front of his family.

The brutal killing, one of the most notorious of the conflict, was carried out by a loyalist paramilitary death squad under the guidance of British military intelligence, MI5.

Mr Finucane, a father-of-four, was announced as a candidate in the British general election by Sinn Fein’s long-standing North Belfast representative, Gerry Kelly, to a cheering crowd.

Speaking about his father’s death, the renowned campaigner said his family continue to fight for justice. “I remain as resolute as ever that some things are worth battling for,” he said.

“That is a conviction that I have taken from my father’s life and death, and from the strength I have witnessed at first hand in my mother and my family.

“I am the product of a mixed marriage. Of a Catholic father from west Belfast, and a Protestant mother from east Belfast. I have relatives who are Protestant and Catholic, and I have relatives who are unionist and republican.”

He said he learned about equality from his family.

“I have been brought up and lived my life in an inclusive family environment where difference and diversity is embraced and celebrated, and I am proud of that,” he said.

“My upbringing has shown me that everyone deserves to be, and must be, treated equally.

“It is this message of equality which I have tried to continue in my professional life in the way I represent my clients as a practicing solicitor.

“And it is this message of equality and inclusiveness that has made me decide to put my name forward to stand for Sinn Fein here in North Belfast.”

Mr Finucane’s family were present for a development which is the biggest of the campaign so far. But the scale of the challenge -- finding thousands of Sinn Fein votes in a DUP stronghold -- cannot be underestimated.

Mr Finucane said he was confident he could win the seat for the party.

“I have heard some tell me that it would be impossible for me to win the MP seat for North Belfast. Unfortunately for them I love a challenge,” Mr Finucane said.

His speech was met with bitterness from the DUP, who described it as an attempt by Sinn Fein to capitalise on the “victim status” of the the Finucane family.

Supporting the nomination, Mr Kelly said the election was a contest between “those who want the north to remain in Europe, who stand for equality for rights and for Irish unity -- and the DUP who support a hard Brexit, support Tory cuts and who have set their face against equality and rights.”

He said Sinn Fein was the only party which can take this seat from the DUP.

“I am confident that in John Finucane we can return a nationalist MP for the first time in the history of North Belfast and between now and June 8th we will be pulling out all the stops to make this possible.”

He said the momentum from the party’s strong result in the Stormont Assembly election in March “is still there”.

“John’s decision to run has increased that momentum and it still needs hard work.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s Pat Doherty, who has held the West Tyrone seat for 16 years and a former Vice President of the party, has announced he will not seek re-election. He is to stand down and will be replaced by Barry McElduff.

Sinn Fein’s Paul Maskey, the MP for West Belfast, was also selected to stand again in the constituency, where his biggest rival will be socialist Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit.

Michelle Gildernew is to stand again in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, bringing her into direct opposition with Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott for the second time in two years. The constituency has been one of the closest-fought in the north and is likely to be a top target for Sinn Fein in the June 8 election.

Other candidates selected for the party in recent days include Chris Hazzard in South Down; Elisha McCallion in Foyle; Mairtin O Muilleoir in south Belfast, Mickey Brady in Newry and Armagh; John O’Dowd in Upper Bann; Mairead O’Donnell in East Belfast and Oliver McMullan in East Antrim.

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