The widow of murdered Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane has said she is optimistic that the Supreme Court in London will finally rule in favour of a full public inquiry into her husband’s death.
Mr Finucane was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries at his north Belfast home in 1989 in front of his three children and his wife, Geraldine, who was also injured during the attack. Several members of the death squad are understood to have acted in concert with British military intelligence.
Speaking as she and her children arrived at the court, Geraldine Finucane said she wanted the court to decide that there should be an inquiry, saying it was a promise made to her and her family, and to the Dublin government.
Speaking outside the court with sons John and Michael, daughter Katherine and 15-year-old grandson Piaras by her side, Mrs Finucane said governments should be held to account.
“They can’t just change their minds when it suits them to prevent justice,” she said. “So we are here for justice, and the inquiry.”
Peter Madden of Mr Finucane’s old law firm, Madden and Finucane Solicitors, has said the only way that the full truth about the murder can be firmly established and the extent to which a policy of extra-judicial assassination was authorised by government, is by a “full transparent public inquiry” where witnesses and documents are subject to intense scrutiny.
“We will seek to persuade the Supreme Court at the hearing of this appeal that David Cameron acted unlawfully in refusing a public inquiry and that the court should quash his decision.”
The Supreme Court will examine a number of issues including whether the failure to establish a full inquiry contravenes European human rights legalisation.
In 2011 the then British Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned a review of Mr Finucane’s death.
The Finucane family dismissed the findings of the review as a whitewash and accused the British government of reneging on previous commitments to hold a full tribunal into allegations of state collusion in Mr Finucane’s murder.
Mrs Finucane was granted permission in July 2017 to appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Court of Appeal to hold a full inquiry.
A panel of five Supreme Court justices, headed by the court’s president Lady Hale, considered her appeal against that ruling during a two-day hearing.
Opening Mrs Finucane’s case at the Supreme Court, Barry Macdonald QC said the background to the proceedings was “complex and sinister”.
The case, he said, was “notorious for good reason”, and was one which had attracted widespread local and international concern.
He added: “The available evidence suggests that agents of the state responsible for law enforcement devised and operated a policy of extra-judicial execution, the essential feature of which was that loyalist terrorist organisations were infiltrated, resourced and manipulated in order to murder individuals identified by state agents as suitable for assassination - in other words, a policy of ‘murder by proxy’ whereby the state itself engaged in terrorism through the agency of loyalist paramilitaries.”
Mr Finucane, who enjoyed a reputation as a committed human rights lawyer prepared to challenge perceived abuses of state power “was a victim of this policy”.
The QC said: “All investigations into Patrick Finucane’s death have clearly established that he was no more than a solicitor intent on doing his job and doing it very well, albeit at the expense of attracting the adverse attention of elements of the state.”
In written argument before the court opposing the appeal, the British Direct Ruler in the north of Ireland insisted that the lower courts considered the case correctly and that the decision-making process relating to the public inquiry was a “thorough, genuine and lawful” one.