The legacy of the Troubles can only be settled if justice is delivered in controversial murders such as the killing of solicitor Pat Finucane, his widow said today.
Geraldine Finucane addressed a conference in Dublin's Trinity College marking the 20th anniversary of her husband's murder in 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries who acted in collusion with security forces.
An international panel of speakers said the state was implicated in Mr Finucane's murder and called on the British government to agree to a fully independent public inquiry.
"The 20th anniversary of the murder of Pat Finucane reminds us all that the residue of our unresolved past continues to cast a shadow over our society, one that is desperately trying to extract itself permanently from conflict," said Mrs Finucane.
A review group chaired by Robin Eames and Denis Bradley recently presented proposals for dealing with the legacy of decades of violence.
Despite the controversy over the issue, Mrs Finucane said dealing with the past was a vital step towards a new future.
"The debate that rages over whether to look into the past or leave well-enough alone, consumes the airwaves," she said.
"High profile killings like that of Pat Finucane are debated as either special cases or preferential treatment.
"Recent efforts to find mechanisms to address the past underline how important it is that we build our future on solid foundations."
She added: "The society that forgets its past, or worse, tries to pretend it never existed is doomed to repeat it.
"I believe that the inquiry we seek, which is the only mechanism capable of getting to the truth in this case, will help society understand its past, learn from it and eventually move beyond it with confidence and free from fear."
Her husband Pat, a 39-year-old father-of-three, was shot dead by the loyalist Ulster Defence Association in front of his family at their north Belfast home on February 12, 1989.
Mr Finucane's clients included high-profile republicans and he began to receive threats after successfully representing IRA suspects.
In the immediate aftermath of the killing, allegations of a security force role were made by the Finucane family who said their loved one was killed for simply doing his job.
And while the collusion claims were rejected by security forces, disturbing details behind the assassination later emerged.
Army agent Brian Nelson was found to have planned the killing, while RUC agent Billy Stobie was found to have provided the weapons.
Six years ago loyalist Ken Barrett pleaded guilty to the charge of murdering Mr Finucane. In a TV documentary he had been secretly filmed claiming police urged loyalists to shoot the solicitor.
Police were found to have failed to act on tip-offs before the crime and did not properly investigate the murder after it happened.
In 2003 former head of the Metropolitan Police Lord (John) Stevens released extracts from his own review of the case and confirmed security force collusion in the killing.
Stevens, who carried out three inquiries into various allegations of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the North, has confirmed some of his findings.
He said his investigations uncovered evidence of "collusion, the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder".
His full findings, however, have never been made public or shown to the Finucane family or their lawyers.
The British government has offered a public inquiry into the Finucane case, but insisted it must take place under new legislation which has been criticised for giving undue influence to ministers.
Speakers at today's event repeatedly called for a full independent probe into the case.
Those addressing the conference included former UN investigator Param Cumaraswamy and Canadian judge Peter Cory, who have both examined the Finucane case.
Short films played to the conference in Trinity's Edmund Burke Theatre carried contributions from senior European and US political figures.
Mrs Finucane praised the work of London-based human rights group British Irish Rights Watch and its director Jane Winter for championing the Finucane case.
The murdered solicitor's widow told the conference that she was from a middle-class Protestant background in East Belfast and Pat was brought-up in a Catholic family of eight on the Falls Road in the west of the city.
She said they would never have met in their native city, but as students in Dublin's Trinity college they became friends and married.
Mrs Finucane said her husband had worked for a better future and insisted that with the same goal in mind, her family would continue to push for a fully independent inquiry.
She added: "In the words of another former Trinity undergraduate, Edmund Burke, whose name adorns the theatre in which we stand today: 'All that is required for evil to triumph, is that good men do nothing'."