Irish state broadcaster RTE reported last night the growing diplomatic row between Britain and Ireland over David Cameron’s refusal to establish a judicial inquiry into the notorious murder of Belfast solicitor, Patrick Finucane, in 1989, writes Kevin Meagher
The Irish government is unhappy at the prime minister’s decision to backtrack on the British government’s previous commitment to a judicial inquiry, first made in 2006 by Tony Blair.
Last month David Cameron met Finucane’s widow, Geraldine, and her family in Downing Street to announce a watered-down review of the case notes by Desmond de Silva QC.
Geraldine Finucane walked out of the meeting, calling Cameron “a dishonourable man” for reneging on the assurances they had received that he was set to announce a judicial inquiry.
“I asked David Cameron what part the family would play in this review and he said: ‘Oh no, no, you don’t do anything.’ His tone was: ‘Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. When the QC finishes he’ll tell you what went on.’”
Presenting Mrs Finucane with an award in Belfast yesterday, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has now promised he will be raising the case with American and European political leaders in a bid to convince David Cameron to change his mind.
“I repeated to Geraldine and her family that I would raise it again directly on every occasion that I have the opportunity with the British prime minister, and in due course with other European leaders when the current crisis facing the eurozone has been dealt with…”
Pat Finucane’s murder was one of the most infamous of the Troubles for two reasons.
Firstly, he was a solicitor targeted because he represented republican suspects.
And secondly because two investigations into his murder have concluded collusion took place between elements of the British security forces and the loyalist terrorists who broke into his family home and shot him 14 times at close range in front of his wife and children.
He was targeted because some of his work involved representing Irish republican suspects, (although his practice had represented loyalists too). Yet this fact alone was enough, in the warped thinking of his murderers, to justify his killing.
As the Independent’s well-respected Ireland correspondent David McKitterick puts it:
“A former senior government official privately admits that it was, among Belfast’s many security and intelligence controversies, “the smelliest of them all”.”
A thorn in the government’s side, Finucane had two test cases against the British government before the European Court of Human Rights at the time of his death and was a frequent speaker on human rights issues at legal conferences around the world.
Just before his murder, then Conservative home office minister, Douglas Hogg, caused uproar in the Commons by infamously claiming some solicitors in Northern Ireland were “unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA”. Finucane had recently helped get an IRA suspect off a high profile charge.
Three weeks after Hogg’s reckless remarks, Finucane was dead.
There is no question collusion took place. Two previous investigations – by former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens and Canadian judge Peter Cory – found as much, but their investigations were hampered by the wall of secrecy that surrounds the case.
The government’s review of the case promises a “full public account” of the circumstances surrounding Finucane’s murder and that Desmond de Silva will carry out his work “completely independently” of government.
However, being “free to meet any individuals who can assist him in his task” is not the same as de Silva being able to compel witnesses and papers and report directly to parliament.
That is why a full judicial investigation is still needed.
• Anger over UK government’s refusal to hold inquiry into murder of Pat Finucane – Week outside Westminster, October 21st 2011
• Irish government prepares formal complaint over Finucane murder review – Ed Jacobs, October 18th 2011
• UK government rules out full inquiry into Finucane’s death – Week outside Westminster, October 14th 2011
• Bloody Sunday’s unfinished business – Kevin Meagher, September 23rd 2011
• “There will always be questions about Rosemary Nelson, about Pat Finucane and about hundreds of other killings” – Week Outside Westminster, May 28th 2011