The country’s most senior civil servant has questioned the wisdom of the prime minister reneging on previous commitments to hold a full, judicial-led inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
In his report to establish the full facts behind the case, published in December, Desmond De Silva QC pointed to what David Cameron described as “shocking” levels of state collusion in Finucane’s murder.
Declaring the report to be a “sham” and a “whitewash”, his widow, Geraldine Finucane, said of the report:
“What’s most hurtful and insulting is that this report is not the truth. It’s a report into which we have had no input. The British government has engineered a suppression of the truth behind the murder of my husband.“
The family’s ongoing legal battle over Cameron’s refusal to launch a full judicial inquiry into the murder, however, has now revealed one of the prime minister’s closest aides, the powerful Cabinet Secretary, Jeremy Heywood, questioned the wisdom of not proceeding with a full inquiry.
Opening the Finucane family’s application for discovery of the documents related to the case, Barry Macdonald QC said the case was about past and present abuse of state power. He went on to quote an email sent from Heywood to Simon King, a private secretary to the prime minister, ahead of a ministerial meeting in July 2011.
The message, Macdonald said, read:
“Does the PM seriously think that it’s right to renege on a previous government’s clear commitment to hold a full judicial inquiry? This was a dark moment in the country’s history – far worse than anything that was alleged in Iraq/Afghanistan.
“I can’t really think of any argument to defend not having a public inquiry. What am I missing?”
A reply said the prime minister “shares the view this is an awful case, and far worse than any post 9/11 allegation”.
Speaking to Left Foot Forward, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker said:
“A proper investigation in to the murder of Pat Finucane and the circumstances surrounding it is fundamental to agreements made between the two governments. The findings of the De Silva report were shocking and appalling. They provide a step in getting to the truth, but cannot provide the whole truth.
“Labour stands by its position that only a public inquiry will do that.”
While a Downing Street spokesperson told us:
“The government considered this very carefully. Given that we had already accepted that there was collusion in this case our priority was to establish a full public account about what happened as quickly and effectively as possible.
“Experience has shown that public inquiries into the events of the Troubles take many years and can be subject to prolonged litigation, which delays the truth emerging. We would not have been able to guarantee that a public inquiry would have concluded within a reasonable timeframe.
“This Review was a means of getting as much information into the public domain as possible as quickly as possible.”
• Comment: Finucane, state-enabled terror and Britain’s ‘colonial blind spot’ – December 13th, 2012
• De Silva’s report is welcome, but a judicial inquiry is still needed into Pat Finucane’s murder – December 12th, 2012
• Finucane family’s campaign for justice set to challenge Cameron in court – 7th December, 2011
• Cameron’s refusal to open full inquiry into Finucane murder stokes row with Dublin – 18th November, 2011
• Irish government prepares formal complaint over Finucane murder review – 18th October, 2011