Failure to order Pat Finucane probe will hit confidence in rule of law: O’Neill

Failure to order a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane will have profound implications for confidence in the rule of the law, Sinn Fein has warned.

The UK Government will tell the Finucane family on Monday how it will respond to a court judgment that found it had failed to hold an “effective investigation” into the Belfast lawyer’s death at the hands of loyalist paramilitaries.

Mr Finucane, a 39-year-old solicitor who represented both republican and loyalist paramilitaries during the Troubles, was shot dead in his family home in north Belfast in February 1989 by the Ulster Defence Association in an attack found to have involved collusion with the state.

Sinn Fein vice president and Stormont Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said Monday would be a “day of reckoning” for the Finucane family.

“The British government’s approach of delay and denial has literally run out of road,” she said.

Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine and the couple’s three children have been campaigning for decades for a public inquiry to establish the extent of security force involvement.

Last year, the Supreme Court said all previous examinations of the death had not been compliant with human rights standards.

The court acknowledged Mrs Finucane had been given an “unequivocal undertaking” by the Government following the 2001 Weston Park agreement that there would be a public inquiry into the murder.

However, the Supreme Court judges found that the Government had been justified in later deciding against holding one.

The court said it was up to the Government to decide what form of investigation was now required, if one was feasible.

Supreme Court Finucane ruling
The Finucane family have long campaigned for a public inquiry into the murder (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Amid a Government delay in responding to the judgment, Mrs Finucane took fresh judicial review proceedings against the state.

Last month, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis’s lawyers gave a High Court judge in Belfast a commitment that a decision would be announced by Monday November 30.

Mr Lewis will inform the Finucane family of his intention on a virtual call on Monday afternoon.

Ahead of that conversation, Ms O’Neill said: “It is a matter of huge public interest that there is full and maximum disclosure around questions about who ordered the killing, about who knew what, and when.

“Those involved must be held accountable. Until now there has been virtual impunity for the British state agencies and actors involved in the killing.

“Any attempt by the British government to ignore the family, political and wider public demands for a public inquiry will have profound and fundamental implications for confidence in the rule of law, the administration of justice and the wider approach to legacy.

“Now is time for the British government, and the British Secretary of State Brandon Lewis, to finally listen to the Finucane family and call a public inquiry as a matter of public interest. There can be no further delay.”

Pat Finucane report
Ex-prime minister David Cameron makes a statement to MPs in the House of Commons on the Pat Finucane killing in 2012 (PA)

Former prime minister David Cameron decided not to hold a public inquiry into the murder, but instead ordered a review of all the files related to the case by former UN war crimes prosecutor Sir Desmond de Silva QC.

Sir Desmond found significant levels of state collusion involving the Army, police and MI5 but said there was no evidence of an “overarching state conspiracy”.

His findings prompted Mr Cameron to apologise to the Finucane family for “shocking levels of collusion”.

However, Mrs Finucane branded the de Silva report a “whitewash”.

Last week, three other Stormont parties – the SDLP, Alliance and Greens – joined Sinn Fein in writing to Mr Lewis to demand a public inquiry.

The Irish Government also called on its UK counterparts to order a probe, as did 24 members of the US Congress.

Mr Finucane’s son John, a solicitor and Sinn Fein MP for North Belfast, tweeted on Sunday evening: “Tomorrow my family & I will hear the British Govt response to our Supreme Court victory regarding an inquiry into my father’s murder.

“In advance I wish to thank everyone across Ireland & internationally, for the incredible support you have given us. We deeply appreciate it.”

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