The full truth about the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane may never be revealed under the terms of a British government inquiry set up to examine the assassination, Canadian Judge Peter Cory claimed tonight.
And as he confirmed serious reservations about how the authorities have handled his recommendation for a probe into a loyalist paramilitary killing shrouded in allegations of state collusion, Mr Justice Cory suggested that with hindsight he may not have become involved.
He said: “If you told me at the beginning no matter what you do we are going to change the rules then any self respecting person would say thank-you and I’d just as soon not.
“This is Micky Mouse, it’s Alice in Wonderland. But you don’t know that at the time.”
The retired Canadian Supreme Court Judge recommended inquiries into Mr Finucane’s killing in 1989 and three others in Northern Ireland involving alleged security force collaboration.
But the lawyer’s family have refused to co-operate with the tribunal proposed for their case, insisting it would suppress what really happened.
The hearing, under the planned Inquiries Act would allow crucial evidence to be omitted from publication on the grounds of national security, they believe.
Mr Justice Cory stressed that he could not put himself in their position, but admitted that he would be inclined to agree with the stance they took.
“In the middle of everything you move the goalposts and you change the rules of the game,” he said.
“It’s like playing hockey and instead of six to 18 you have one team with eight and one with four. See how you do for 10 minutes and then we’re going to change.
“I just don’t think it’s a way to run a railroad, but I’m not running a railroad and it’s the responsibility of government to protect their citizens.”
Mr Finucane was gunned down at his North Belfast home by the Ulster Defence Association in one of the most controversial murders during 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
Even though UDA hit-man, Ken Barrett, was jailed last year after pleading guilty to the shooting, the solicitor’s family and human rights organisations have continued to campaign for a full independent hearing into what really happened.
Their long campaign, which ran alongside three separate investigations by former Scotland Yard chief, Lord Stevens, into the murder was strengthened when Judge Cory reported in April 2004 that there was enough cause for concern to warrant a tribunal.
But while the inquiries into three other murders he studied, loyalist terror boss Billy Wright, Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson and Catholic man Robert Hamill, have been advanced, the Finucane case remains bogged down in a stand-off between the Government and family.
Asked if the proposals for holding an inquiry could make it impossible to establish the truth, Judge Cory, who was in Belfast to give a lecture at the city’s Queen’s University, claimed: “It may be.”
Revealing that he worried about the chances of finding out what really happened, he added: “If all the ministries involved said yes you can have everything you wanted, we’re not going to frustrate anything and there will be no motions with regard to it then I think you could (establish the truth).
“That may be beyond the realms of reality. I don’t know, but it’s possible.”