Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein line up Pat Finucane's son to battle Dodds for North Belfast

By Allan Preston

Nigel Dodds has said he is confident of holding his North Belfast seat after Sinn Fein announced that its Westminster candidate would be the son of a Belfast solicitor murdered by loyalist paramilitaries.

John Finucane's father Pat Finucane was killed by loyalists in front of his wife and three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989. The murder has long been considered one of the most controversial killings of the Troubles, after the security forces colluded with gunmen from the UDA.

Read More: Can Sinn Fein Finucane gamble pay off in North Belfast?

The surprise nomination for Mr Finucane, a solicitor himself with a high media profile, will see him take on the sitting MP for North Belfast, the DUP's Nigel Dodds.

Mr Dodds took 19,096 votes - 47% overall - in the 2015 general election compared to 13,770 votes for Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly, whose share of the vote was 34%.

"I am proud to be nominating John Finucane to carry the torch for Sinn Fein in next month's Westminster election," said Mr Kelly.

"This election is a contest between those who want the north to remain in Europe, who stand for equality for rights and for Irish unity and the DUP who support a hard Brexit, support Tory cuts and who have set their face against equality and rights."

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John Finucane: I'm confident Sinn Fein can make history and win North Belfast seat [full speech and video] 

Despite Mr Dodds staying ahead of Sinn Fein by well over 5,000 votes in 2015, Mr Kelly said Sinn Fein would "pull out all the stops" to return a nationalist MP in north Belfast for the first time in history.

But Mr Dodds said he remained confident of keeping the seat he has held since 2001.

"In keeping with Sinn Fein ideology John Finucane will seek to forward Gerry Adams' plan to destroy the Union and advance an extreme republican agenda," he said.

"The clear choice in North Belfast is between a pro-Union candidate who will take his seat and stand up for North Belfast, and the Gerry Kelly-sponsored republican candidate who will boycott Parliament and leave the people voiceless in Westminster.

"Whilst claiming to care about Brexit and 'Tory cuts', there will be no Sinn Fein members in Parliament to vote when it actually counts."

The UUP are once again not running a candidate in North Belfast. The SDLP have yet to announce a candidate, although North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon has a high profile in the area.

The Finucane family have long campaigned for a public inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder.

Since 2001 they have so far been unable to make the Government see through a pledge made during the Weston Park political talks.

Judges supported the Government's right to balance public interest factors like cost, permitting a review of the case papers rather than a full inquiry by Sir Desmond de Silva QC.

In 2012, Sir Desmond published findings showing shocking levels of state involvement in the case. These included spreading rumours Mr Finucane had IRA sympathies, and that one or possibly more police officers proposed him as a target to loyalists.

No evidence was found of an overarching conspiracy by the authorities against Mr Finucane. Sir Desmond did say, however, that the actions of a number of state employees "furthered and facilitated" the shooting. He also noted there were efforts made to hamper the criminal investigation.

The former Prime Minister David Cameron later apologised in the House of Commons to the Finucane family for "shocking levels of collusion" in the murder.

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