The promise made by the Blair government in 2001, to hold a public inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, has been broken yet again. Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, announced in Parliament yesterday (Monday 30 November) that no inquiry would be held.
Mr Finucane, who was 39, was shot in front of his wife and children by Ulster Defence Association gunmen who forced their way into his home on 12 February 1989. It later emerged that Brian Nelson, the UDA member who directed that organisation’s attacks, was an agent controlled by the British army’s Force Research Unit, a secret section of the Intelligence Corps. Following on the murder, other links between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries were exposed.
Acknowledging that there had been state collusion in the murder of their husband and father, Mr Lewis nevertheless ruled out the public inquiry demanded for decades by the Finucane family. He said “it is plain that the levels of collusion in the Finucane case, made clear by previous investigations, are totally unacceptable.” However, he has decided against a public inquiry because the Police Service of Northern Ireland now plans to review the circumstances of the murder, and the police ombudsman is also going to examine the case.
This decision has been met with almost universal disbelief, followed by outrage. Amnesty International UK have said that it “will add fuel to the fire of suspicion that there is and continues to be a sinister cover-up of the full extent of official involvement in this murder.” It has been roundly condemned by those who have supported the Finucane family in their calls for the truth to be known, including the Labour Party and, in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party. Calls for a public inquiry have also been supported by the Irish Government, and 24 members of the US Congress.
Mr Finucane’s widow, in a statement released on Monday, said that the government’s announcement “beggars belief”. She said “it is yet another insult added to a deep and lasting injury.” Her son, John Finucane, who is the Sinn Féin MP for North Belfast, said:
I thought it was exceptionally arrogant and cruel of the secretary of state on behalf of his government.
The British government, at every opportunity, will continue to make the wrong decision, and will put all of their efforts into ensuring that the truth as to what happened with the murder of my father – the full truth – will not see the light of day.
Mr Lewis’s announcement follows a ruling by the UK Supreme Court, in February last year, that there had never been an adequate investigation into the murder. The court stopped short of ordering a public inquiry, leaving that to the judgement of the government.
Mr Lewis has said that the PSNI now intends to begin a process of review into the murder of Mr Finucane early next year. PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne is reported by the BBC as saying that there were “currently no new lines of inquiry”, and that the PSNI would now determine if a further review “was merited given previous investigations”.
“A review itself is not an investigation. Any decision to investigate would only be made following the review process”, Mr Byrne said.
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