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Finucane family 'will not give up'

Published 26/06/2015

John Finucane, son of Pat Finucane, speaking outside Belfast's High Court
John Finucane, son of Pat Finucane, speaking outside Belfast's High Court
Pat Finucane was murdered in 1989

The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane have said they will not give up despite losing a legal challenge against the Government's refusal to hold a public inquiry into the killing.

His son John Finucane said they had not decided whether to appeal a judgement which upheld the Prime Minister's controversial 2011 decision.

Delivering his reserved judgement to Belfast High Court, Mr Justice Stephens rejected the family's judicial review saying a statutory inquiry would be costly, protracted and could not be confined to narrow issues surrounding the loyalist shooting over 20 years ago.

The judge said: "I uphold that the decision was lawful."

Mr Finucane, 38, who represented a number of high-profile republicans, was shot dead 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 over allegations that the security forces colluded with the gunmen from the outlawed Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

The high profile case, which was heard last month, was taken by Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine, who claimed to have a legitimate expectation that a statutory inquiry would be held.

John Finucane, who was accompanied to court by his sister Katherine and two uncles Seamus and Martin, said : " What is clear and what the court has found is that there was a clear, unequivocal promise made to my mother; made to my family as a result of Weston Park.

"The court has felt restricted and limited in interfering in what was a political decision but I think the public can make their own minds up that when an unequivocal promise is made to our family by the Government and that is changed quite cruelly - I think they can decide for themselves what lies behind that."

In the judgement, read out over more than two hours, Mr Justice Stephens rejected claims that the Government's decision had been the result of a "sham process".

He told the court that cabinet ministers had "anxiously" considered a range of factors including the impact of various policy options.

"There is no direct evidence that the decision had been taken at earlier stages," the judge said.

"There is no direct evidence of a closed mind."

Instead of proceeding with a full inquiry, the Prime Minister commissioned QC Sir Desmond de Silva to review all the existing documents relating to the case and produce a public narrative of what happened to Mr Finucane.

But the Conservative Party leader's stance was at odds with a pledge made by the previous Labour government during the Weston Park peace process talks in 2001.

Sir Desmond's report detailed shocking levels of state involvement.

That included spreading malicious propaganda suggesting the solicitor 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 Sir Desmond found no evidence of an overarching conspiracy by the authorities to target the solicitor, he 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.

In December, Mr Cameron reiterated an apology to the Finucane family in the House of Commons and pledged that the Government would examine the report to identify potential lessons.

Mr Justice Stephens ruled that it was "legitimate" for a government to have a policy which opposed any commitment to establishing long running and expensive inquiries.

Costs for a number of statutory investigations into controversial killings including the deaths of 14 civil rights protesters in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday in 1972 and the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson in 1999 stood at over £35 million, the court heard.

Difficulties in confining an investigation to narrow issues surrounding Mr Finucane's murder and not being drawn into a wide-ranging inquiry into collusion were also outlined by the judge.

He said: "I do not consider that the process was a sham or that the mind of the Secretary of State was closed."

Mr Justice Stephens said governments had a responsibility to control the country's finances and to respond to any change in circumstances.

Lawyers for the Finucane family are due to return to Belfast High Court next week after the judge invited submissions on a potential breach of human rights legislation relating to the still outstanding evidence in the de Silva report.

Speaking outside, Mr Finucane added: " We have been on a campaign for 26 years. We have had numerous setbacks, numerous successes along that way.

"We see today not as a setback which would end our campaign once and for all.

"There are certainly comments and material within that judgement, even with an initial viewing, that would cause us hope."

Meanwhile, the Irish government has also pledged to continue the push for a full public inquiry for Mr Finucane.

Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said: " The Irish government's position remains unchanged. We continue to believe that an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, in line with the political commitments made by the British and Irish Governments at Weston Park in 2001, should be honoured.

"My thoughts at this time are with Geraldine Finucane and all the Finucane family, who have campaigned so tirelessly for more than a quarter of a century in pursuit of the full truth in the case of Pat Finucane, including the role of collusion in his murder."

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