John Finucane: I'm confident Sinn Fein can make history and win North Belfast seat
Live from the Sinn Féin North Belfast Selection ConventionPosted by Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday, May 3, 2017
John Finucane has launched his bid to become the first nationalist MP for North Belfast saying he is confident he can create history and win the seat for Sinn Fein.
Mr Finucane, a solicitor with a high media profile, will take on the sitting MP for North Belfast, the DUP's Nigel Dodds. The UUP has said that the party has taken a "unilateral decision" not run for the constituency.
Speaking at the selection convention in the Lansdowne Hotel on Wednesday evening the Sinn Fein candidate for the Westminster seat said the party is the only one able to deliver a rights-based agenda.
Mr Finucane said: "An Ireland in which political persuasion, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or skin colour make no difference as to how a citizen is treated.
"Sinn Fein is the only party in North Belfast best able to deliver on a rights based agenda. If you oppose Tory cuts, austerity and Brexit, stand with Sinn Fein in this election. If you want marriage equality, if you want an Acht na Gaeilge, if you want a just and progressive society then stand with Sinn Fein in this election."
The party's leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill said Mr Finucane is "the personification of what our party stands for".
Ms O'Neill said: "His family has struggled for justice for many years and despite all they have gone through, John spoke eloquently and passionately here tonight about his determination to continue to reach out the hand of friendship. To seek reconciliation on our island and to build on the work and legacy of Martin McGuinness."
She added: "Let’s go out and make history."
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said: "It is my belief that John, with the help of all of us here tonight, can substantially increase that vote and become the first nationalist MP ever in North Belfast.
"Myself and Carál Ní Chuilín enthusiastically endorse John as candidate, as do the rest of the North Belfast team."
Mr Finucane is the son of the murdered solicitor Patrick Finucane. The Belfast man was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife and three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989.
The killing, one of the most notorious of The Troubles, is shrouded in controversy amid allegations that the security forces colluded with the gunmen from the outlawed Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Finucane speech in full
I want to begin by welcoming you all here to the Lansdowne Hotel, and thanking you for attending this convention on what is a truly proud evening for me.
I am honoured to have been nominated by our two MLAs, Gerry Kelly and Caral Ní Chuilin, and to have been selected to contest the upcoming Westminster election for Sinn Féin here in North Belfast.
I am very grateful for the support of Gerry, Caral, Michelle, and the countless party activists and supporters who have taken time to message me and to be here tonight.
So, I want to tell you a bit about myself.
Just yards from here, in Fortwilliam Drive, is my family home.
I am the product of a mixed marriage.
Of a Catholic father from west Belfast, and a Protestant mother from east Belfast.
I have relatives who are Protestant and Catholic, and I have relatives who are unionist and republican.
I have lived in north Belfast all my life.
I went to Park Lodge and then onto Saint Malachy’s College.
I went to University in Dundee in Scotland and in Newcastle in England. I run my own business, and I am an employer with all the responsibilities that brings.
I've played soccer for Malachians and I support Manchester United.
I am proud to have played Gaelic football for Antrim from the age of 16, and I have to add at this point, that contrary to an Irish News report today, I continue to play club football. I know a campaign can be hard at times, but the shock of finding out that I had been retired from Lamh Dhearg was tough to take.
I have been brought up and lived my life in an inclusive family environment where difference and diversity is embraced and celebrated, and I am proud of that.
My upbringing has shown me that everyone deserves to be, and must be, treated equally.
It is this message of equality which I have tried to continue in my professional life in the way I represent my clients as a practicing solicitor.
And it is this message of equality and inclusiveness that has made me decide to put my name forward to stand for Sinn Féin here in North Belfast.
Many in this room will be aware that I am the youngest son of Patrick Finucane, who was killed just yards from this venue 28 years ago.
Since his death, my family has campaigned for truth and justice, under the dignified direction of my mother Geraldine.
I remain as resolute as ever that some things are worth battling for.
That is a conviction that I have taken from my father’s life and death, and from the strength I have witnessed at first hand in my mother and my family.
I am proud to have campaigned for truth and justice in my father’s case because it truly is a campaign for everyone.
I firmly believe the success and progress we have achieved has benefitted our entire society.
Now, by standing here in North Belfast, I am continuing the work he started, towards a just, equitable and rights based society for all.
Much of my inspiration has derived from Martin McGuinness.
Martin helped my family for countless years and always showed compassion and warmth to us and to so many others.
If I can achieve a fraction of what Martin achieved in the work that he did to reach out the hand of friendship, then I will be very proud.
As one of the tens of thousands of mourners who attended Martin's funeral in Derry just weeks ago, I was inspired by his legacy and the words used to remember his life at the graveside oration.
If we want rights, which are denied to us, then campaign for them.
Fight for them.
Mobilise and act for them.
And never give up.
We can win this seat.
If you oppose Tory cuts, austerity and Brexit, stand with Sinn Féin in this election.
If you want marriage equality, if you want an Acht na Gaeilge, if you want a just and progressive society then stand with Sinn Féin in this election.
Get out there and talk to your friends.
Talk with your family.
Talk with your workmates, your teammates, and your neighbours.
Let them know that their vote really can make a difference.
Let them know we can win.
I believe that Irish unity is the way forward for us all.
I want a modern and inclusive Ireland.
An Ireland in which political persuasion, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or skin colour make no difference as to how a citizen is treated.
Sinn Fein is the only party in North Belfast best able to deliver on a rights based agenda.
We can see what we can achieve when we have determination and energy.
North Belfast is a shining example of just that.
When I was at school here, the Irish language educational sector was practically non-existent.
Today it thrives, and I want to draw particular focus on the outstanding school that is Gaelscoil Eanna.
My eldest son who is 14 and sitting here tonight, was one of the first group of children to enrol in Gaelscoil Eanna, despite the absence of official funding at the beginning.
From mobile huts then to the superb permanent buildings in the grounds of St Enda’s GAA now, seeing the amount of children flourishing in their education should be an inspiration to us all.
If we want change, if we want our rights respected, then we can achieve anything we want when we mobilise and work together.
The best and most worthwhile goals are never easily achieved, and in the words of Nelson Mandela ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’.
Well I have heard some tell me that it would be impossible for me to win the MP seat for North Belfast.
Unfortunately for them I love a challenge tonight I want to leave you all with this.
When I look around this room I see the calibre and determination of those who are clear in the type of society they want.
When I have the benefit of coming into politics in North Belfast after years of selfless hard work by Caral and Gerry and the entire team, I am confident that we can make history.
We can win this seat.
We can return a Sinn Fein MP for the first time in the history of North Belfast.
Between now and June 8th we can make the impossible possible.
Let's go and do it.
Let's make history.
Let's take North Belfast.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh
Background to Finucane case
The Finucane family has so far failed in legal bids to make the Government see through a commitment made during peace process negotiations at Weston Park in 2001 to hold a public inquiry into the Pat Finucane's murder.
Judges have upheld the Government's right to balance public interest factors, such as costs, when, years later, it opted to commission a review of case papers by QC Sir Desmond de Silva rather than instigate an inquiry.
In publishing his findings in 2012, Sir Desmond detailed shocking levels of state involvement in the case.
That included spreading malicious propaganda suggesting Mr Finucane was sympathetic to the IRA; one or possibly more police officers proposing him as a target to loyalists; and the mishandling of state agents inside the UDA who were involved in the murder.
While he found no evidence of an overarching conspiracy by the authorities to target the solicitor, Sir Desmond said the actions of a number of state employees had "furthered and facilitated'' the shooting.
He also said there had been efforts to thwart the subsequent criminal investigation.
While he was prime minister, David Cameron apologised to the Finucane family in the House of Commons.