Finucane family criticises inquiry delay

The family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane has accused the British government of stalling on a decision to hold a public inquiry into one of the most infamous killings of the Troubles.

Finucane family criticises inquiry delay

The family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane has accused the British government of stalling on a decision to hold a public inquiry into one of the most infamous killings of the Troubles.

The murdered lawyer's widow, Geraldine Finucane, said Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson had earlier this year promised he was close to a decision on the case, but she said the issue had been delayed without proper explanation.

The Army, police and intelligence service have been implicated in the 1989 murder, which was carried out by loyalist paramilitaries who included security force agents among their ranks.

In a surprise move, it emerged in January that Mr Paterson had initiated talks with the bereaved family in a bid to bring closure to the long-running case.

But Mrs Finucane said: "The Secretary of State, Owen Patterson, told me in March this year that he would make his decision after the Northern Ireland Assembly elections [in May] as he was in the final stages of taking that decision."

She said she was disappointed by his handling of the issue and accused Mr Paterson of failing to keep "his promise".

The Secretary of State, however, has repeatedly said he wants to work closely with the family as he charts the way forward.

But Mrs Finucane said: "I am also very unhappy that no reason has been provided to me for this delay.

"Neither correspondence nor contact has been made to the family's legal representative or me informing us that the decision has been put back and will be dealt with after the House of Commons recess.

"It is an untenable and insensitive situation and confirms my belief that the policy of delay continues."

Mr Finucane was a high-profile solicitor in the North in the 1980s and his clients included defendants accused of involvement in the IRA.

Sections of the security forces and loyalists labelled him a republican sympathiser, or even an IRA member.

The claim was rejected by the murdered man's family and by a police officer who gave evidence at an inquest in the wake of Mr Finucane's killing.

Members of the loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a covername for the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), shot the solicitor 14 times in front of his wife and three children as they ate dinner at their north Belfast home in February 1989.

But security forces are accused of inciting the killers and using agents to carry out the murder, before then covering their tracks.

Concerns over the killing were raised by international human rights groups and by United Nations investigators, before in 2003 the former head of the Metropolitan Police Lord Stevens confirmed he had found "collusion evidenced in many ways" in the case.

The solicitor's murder has become a touchstone for collusion allegations linking security forces to large numbers of paramilitary killings. Campaigners have claimed the case could have major ramifications if it was opened to public scrutiny.

During political talks on securing power-sharing government between unionists and republicans in the North, the Irish and British governments made a commitment to review six infamous cases, promising public inquiries where evidence of security force collusion with the killers was found.

Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory was asked to carry out an initial review of the cases. In April 2004 his report on the Finucane murder made a series of findings, including that security forces knew of three plots to kill Mr Finucane but failed to warn him.

The army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch and MI5 were said to have known of UDA plots in 1981, 1985 and seven weeks before he was murdered in 1989. It was said security forces chose not to warn Mr Finucane for fear of jeopardising the life of their undercover agent, Brian Nelson.

Nelson, who has since died, was central to the plot to kill Mr Finucane and had also been linked to illegal loyalist arms shipments from South Africa in the late 1980s.

While inquiries have proceeded into other killings where collusion was alleged, the last Labour government was accused of failing to fulfil its pledge to hold an inquiry into the Finucane case.

An eventual offer to set up a probe under the 2005 Inquiries Act, which critics claimed allowed undue influence by government, was rejected by the Finucane family as falling short of their demand for a fully independent probe.

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