The British government has again refused to establish a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, the 39-year-old defence lawyer shot dead in front of his family in Belfast in 1989 by paramilitaries acting on the direction of the British Armed Forces.
The assassination came shortly after a Home Office minister, Douglas Hogg, expressed his concern to the House of Commons about lawyers “unduly sympathetic to the IRA”.
In February, the British government had been ordered to hold a proper, independent investigation by the Supreme Court in London. However, Britain’s Direct Ruler in Ireland, Brandon Lewis (left), today revealed at the Westminster parliament that his government intended to effectively defy that ruling.
He told the Commons the levels of collusion in the case were “totally unacceptable” and reiterated a previous apology by the former British prime minister, David Cameron. However, despite several court decisions rejecting its independence, he insisted a policing investigation should continue.
“It is important that we allow the PSNI and Police Ombudsman processes to move forward, and that we avoid the risk of prejudicing any emerging conclusions from that work,” he said.
He also said he believed the London government’s obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights could be met “through a series of processes”, and but without further explanation.
Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine said Mr Lewis’s proposal “falls so far short of what is required in this case that it beggars belief,” adding that it made a “mockery of the decision” regarding a public inquiry by the Supreme Court in London.
“It is yet another insult added to a deep and lasting injury,” she said. Mrs Finucane said the family would continue to campaign for a full public inquiry.
Mr Finucane’s son John, who is the MP for North Belfast, told reporters in Belfast immediately after the announcement that his family was “angry” and given all that had been established about collusion in his father’s murder, it was “insulting” and “disgraceful” that after more than 30 years that Mr Lewis was still “not ruling out” a public inquiry in the future.
The British government previously committed in 2001 to hold a public inquiry into his killing, and again in response to the outcome of the Cory Collusion inquiry in 2004, but after several years delay former British prime minister, David Cameron, finally commissioned a “review” of the murder by British state lawyer Desmond de Silva.
In 2012, de Silva reported that agents of the British state were involved in the murder and that it ‘should have been prevented’. However, his report was dismissed by Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine as “a sham... a whitewash... a confidence trick”.
In response to this year’s Supreme Court ruling that a proper independent investigation had indeed never been held, the British government made a commitment that by the end of November it would give a definitive statement as to whether a full inquiry would finally go ahead.
But today’s announcement calling for further police investigation instead has baffled legal experts. The PSNI Chief Simon Byrne admitted this evening “there are currently no new lines of inquiry” but that a decision would be made “if a further review is merited”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD, said only the independent public inquiry agreed by Britain under the Weston Park talks deal in 2001 would provide a satisfactory outcome to the case. He said his government was “disappointed” that the opportunity was not taken today to establish such an inquiry.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted that “only a full public inquiry can get to the truth. That’s why successive British governments have refused to establish one.”
The following is the full text of a statement issued this evening by the Finucane family.
Today the British Government has declined to hold a public inquiry into the murder of my husband, Pat Finucane. Instead, the Secretary of State proposes to leave the case in the hands of the PSNI and the NI Police Ombudsman for further investigation.
This proposal falls so far short of what is required in this case that it beggars belief. It makes a mockery of the decision by the UK Supreme Court and the forthright comments of Belfast High Court. It is yet another insult added to a deep and lasting injury.
The UK Supreme Court made it clear that none of the previous investigations, including police investigations, had uncovered the identity of British security force members who engaged in collusion or the precise nature of the assistance they gave to paramilitaries. The Court highlighted the absence of compulsive powers in the De Silva Review and its inability to test the truthfulness of witnesses. The Supreme Court made it clear that an effective investigation had not yet taken place.
In response to this, the current Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, proposes that we should engage with the local police as a potential solution. He proposes that we should engage with the local police complaints bureau to address a case that involves proven collusion by the British State in the murder of a solicitor. This is a farcical proposal. The issue before the British Government - as Mr. Lewis and his colleagues in government know only too well - is the involvement of a multitude of British State agencies in the murder of Pat Finucane.
There is only one reason to ask the local police to investigate a case that involves the British Army, the Security Services and former members of government: that reason is to ensure they will be untouchable. It is this internalisation of the issue to Northern Ireland that has allowed those responsible for the murder of Pat Finucane to do so with impunity.
In failing to establish a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, the British Government have not only set themselves against my family but also the Irish government, local, national and international political parties, political institutions, legal and human rights groups domestically and internationally.
The murder of Pat Finucane has been described as not just an attack on one lawyer but an attack on the rul e of law itself. The Secretary of State has shown us today that the attack is continuing. They have clearly set themselves against the rule of law in ignoring the highest court of their own jurisdiction. They remain in breach of their international legal obligations, a shameful and inexcusable position for a sovereign government to take.
They have again shown that they have no intention in admitting their role in the conflict here. Colluding with killers did not just result in my husband’s murder, but many others. The extent and depth of this political policy is what the British government fear being exposed. The outcome of our meeting today confirms that once again.
We are grateful for the enormous support we have received. We will continue to campaign for a full public inquiry. The questions that demand answers around Pat’s murder are not going away and neither is our campaign for truth and justice.”