Widespread opposition to British government's broken promise over Pat Finucane murder

  • 22 March 2006
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The British government's plan to push ahead with a limited inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finuca...ne has caused widespread anger in political and legal circles.
The family of the murdered man said that they will not cooperate with the inquiry, which will be partly held in private and presided over by a government minister who will decide what information will be released to the public.
The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said on 21 March that he believed the British government was intent on pushing ahead with the inquiry and the reason for the delay was that no judge was yet willing to become involved in it.
The international legal community and Amnesty International have advised judges not to participate in the inquiry, which breaches internationally accepted norms for public inquiries.
The decision to pursue the inquiry is in direct opposition to the wishes of the Finucane family, Irish government, human rights groups and the judge appointed by the British government to look into the murder. They are all calling for a full, independent public judicial inquiry.
The opposition to the British government's plan has gathered momentum in recent months with critics accusing Downing Street of seeking to cover up the true extent of state collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane by effectively changing the rules for a public inquiry.
In February Judge Peter Cory, who recommended a public inquiry into the murder after examining it on behalf of the British government, said he would never have become involved if he had known the British government would change the definition of an inquiry. He described it as “Alice in Wonderland stuff” and urged members of the judiciary in England to stay away from the proposed inquiry.
At the start of March a motion condemning the British government's plan to push ahead with the inquiry received all-party support in the Dáil. So far the British government has made no official comment on Bertie Ahern's claims.
At political talks held in Weston Park in 2002 the British government promised that a full public inquiry would be held into Pat Finucane's and five other murders if Judge Peter Cory believed there was sufficient evidence to warrant such an inquiry. All parties to that agreement, with the exception of the British government, believe this commitment has been broken.
Pat Finucane's murder at his north Belfast home in February 1989 is one of the most controversial of the Troubles. The solicitor was shot dead by a loyalist gang which included at least four agents working for the Special Branch and the MI5.
The alleged gunman, quarter-master, intelligence officer and commander of the gang that carried out the assassination were all in the pay of the Intelligence services and gave their bosses direct warnings that the murder was going to happen beforehand. The information collected from these agents was collated by the Joint Intelligence Committee who then presented the data to a select group of the British cabinet in Downing Street.
Colm Heatley