Northern Ireland: 25 years after Finucane killing, failure to hold inquiry not only cruel, but positively sinister

Twenty-five years after the killing of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, Amnesty International said the UK government’s failure to hold an independent public inquiry into the circumstances of his death is 'not only cruel, but positively sinister'.

Finucane, a prominent criminal defence and civil rights lawyer, was shot 14 times by loyalist paramilitaries at his Belfast home on 12 February 1989. The attack took place in front of his wife and three children.

The Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF) claimed responsibility for the attack. Since then, though, extensive and compelling evidence has emerged which shows that security personnel colluded with loyalist paramilitary groups in his killing.

In 2011 the UK government ordered a paper-based review of the available evidence by Sir Desmond de Silva QC. The de Silva report identified a number of ways in which the State and its agents colluded in the Finucane killing, including: leaking information to loyalist paramilitaries, amongst them the UDA; failing to act on information that Finucane was under threat of attack by loyalist paramilitaries; playing “key roles” in the actual killing, including by facilitating access to the murder weapon; refusing to investigate, arrest and prosecute UDA operatives at the time, despite evidence of their criminality; and covering up collusion in the killing for over two decades.

In December 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged 'shocking levels of State collusion' in the killing of Patrick Finucane, and apologised publicly to the family. Notwithstanding these acknowledgments, the UK government has continued to refuse to allow a public inquiry into the killing, repeatedly invoking a supposed fear of 'costly and open-ended inquiries'.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International Programme Director for Northern Ireland, said:

'The continued refusal to air this case in public and get at the truth of allegations is not only cruel, but positively sinister.

'By anyone’s definition, this was a murder with collusion written all over it.

'It is vital for public confidence that this anniversary prompts a rethink over denying the Finucane family an independent public inquiry.'

Patrick’s son, John, now also a lawyer, told Amnesty:

'It is twenty-five years since the murder of my father Patrick Finucane. In that time, our family’s campaign, tirelessly assisted by Amnesty International and many other human rights groups, has shown that he was murdered as a result of the British State colluding with loyalist paramilitaries. This fact was accepted as such by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in December 2012.

'Whilst so much is now known that was previously hidden, it is clear that the full truth and circumstances surrounding my father’s murder have yet to be revealed.

'The past remains a divisive and caustic issue in our society today. The British government have added to this deep sense of mistrust when they continue to renege on their promise to enact a full public inquiry into his killing.

'We continue to feel the deep personal loss even after twenty-five years, yet we remain convinced the best way to honour what my father stood for in life, and in death, is to continue our campaign for truth and justice.'

The government’s failure to establish an inquiry into the Finucane killing is symptomatic of a wider failure to effectively address the past in Northern Ireland and ensure accountability for the human rights violations and abuses committed by all sides during three decades of violence.

Read the full statement:
Still no public inquiry twenty-five years after the killing of Patrick Finucane

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