Belfast Telegraph

Apology for 1989 Finucane murder

The British Government is "deeply sorry" following the murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has said.

Making a statement in the Commons, he told MPs that Mr Finucane's killing in front of his family on February 12 1989 was "a terrible crime", adding that there have been long-standing allegations of security force collusion in his murder.

Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens was asked to investigate the murder in 1999.

Mr Paterson said Prime Minister David Cameron invited the family to Downing Street on Tueday so he could apologise to them in person and on behalf of the Government for state collusion in the murder of Mr Finucane.

He said: "The Government accepts the clear conclusions of Lord Stevens and Judge Cory that there was collusion. Mr Speaker, I want to reiterate the Government's apology in the House. The Government is deeply sorry for what happened."

Mr Paterson said he and the Prime Minister were committed to ensuring the "truth is revealed". He told the House he had asked former United Nations war crimes prosecutor Sir Desmond de Silva QC to conduct an independent review to produce a full public account of any state involvement in the murder.

"We do not need a statutory inquiry to tell us that there was collusion," he said. Mr Paterson maintained that the process outlined would be the "quickest and most effective way" of getting to the truth. Experience had shown, he added, that public inquiries took many years and could be subject to prolonged litigation.

But newly installed shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker labelled the review "inadequate". He said it was "a source of great regret" to the last government that they were not able to agree terms of reference with the Finucane family for an inquiry to take place.

Mr Coaker said that while inquiries take time and cost money, it is "possible for these to be both reasonable and, in themselves, should not be a barrier to the pursuit of justice". He added: "By seeking the truth and by honouring agreements, the cause of justice is served and, with it, the cause of a better future for Northern Ireland."

Mr Paterson insisted that, unlike his predecessors, he met the Finucane family. He denied ever indicating that the Government would launch a full public inquiry.

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