Northern Ireland: 26 years after Finucane killing, failure to hold inquiry ‘dishonest and dishonourable’

Twenty-six years after the killing of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, Amnesty International says the UK’s failure to hold an independent public inquiry into the circumstances of his death risks fatally undermining public confidence in Britain’s commitment to deal honestly with the past in Northern Ireland.

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:

“In the Stormont House Agreement, the UK and other parties signed up for a human rights compliant process to deal with thirty years of killings in Northern Ireland. It is vital for public confidence in that process for Britain to honour its previous commitment to an independent public inquiry.

“At this point everyone accepts that this was a brutal murder of a lawyer, carried out in partnership with the UK state.

“Yet the continued refusal to air this case in public and get at the truth of allegations risks fatally undermining public confidence in Britain's commitment to deal with the past in Northern Ireland. Given the commitments made in the British-Irish Weston Park Agreement in 2001, anything less than a public inquiry is both dishonest and dishonourable.”

Background and 2014 statement:
Still no public inquiry twenty-five years after the killing of Patrick Finucane

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