Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's John Finucane says he has ability to reach out to all citizens of north Belfast

By Cate McCurry

The youngest son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane said he can make history in North Belfast and win the Westminster seat for Sinn Fein.

John Finucane said he loves a challenge after he was told he would never take the seat from the DUP's veteran MP Nigel Dodds.

The human rights lawyer last night launched his bid to become North Belfast's first nationalist MP at a selection convention at the Lansdowne Hotel on the Antrim Road - just yards from where his father was killed.

Pat Finucane was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife and three children at their home in February 1989.

The brutal killing, one of the most notorious of the Troubles, was carried out by gunmen from the UDA in collusion with the security forces.

In another surprise move by Sinn Fein, it emerged last night that West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty (inset right) is to stand down and will be replaced by Barry McElduff.

Mr Finucane, a father-of-four, was introduced by North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly - the previous Westminster candidate - to a cheering crowd of hundreds.

Mr Finucane said he was confident he could win the seat for the party.

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John Finucane's selection speech in full

"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," Mr Finucane said.

The well-known solicitor described how much of his inspiration has come from the late Martin McGuinness.

"Martin helped my family for countless years and always showed compassion and warmth to us and to so many others," he said.

"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 his funeral, I was inspired by his legacy and the words used to remember his life at the graveside oration."

Speaking about his father's death, the Sinn Fein member said his family continue to fight for justice. "I remain as resolute as ever that some things are worth battling for," he said.

"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 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."

His speech was met with a standing ovation and rapturous applause.

Mr Kelly described the Sinn Fein candidate as the "new generation".

"As a human rights lawyer, he knows in practice what it means to reach out to the whole community and to represent people whoever they may be and from whatever part of the community they might come from," he added.

"He can substantially increase that (March election) vote and become the first nationalist MP ever in North Belfast. The momentum from the election in March in still there. John's decision to run has increased that momentum and it still needs hard work."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's Pat Doherty, who has held the West Tyrone seat for 16 years, has announced he will not seek re-election.

In May 2002, Mr Doherty was named in Parliament as a member of the IRA Army Council.

Meanwhile, the SDLP selected sitting MP Mark Durkan as its Foyle candidate.

by cate mccurry

Belfast Telegraph

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