The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane have reacted with fury after the Prime Minister brought them to Downing Street to personally reject calls for a public inquiry into the controversial killing.
They have accused the Prime Minister of being scared to open an inquiry into one of the most notorious killings in Northern Ireland’s history.
Instead David Cameron is to press ahead with a review of the evidence in the case led by QC Desmond DeSilva.
The decision has been welcomed by unionist politicians who see it as drawing a line under a series of costly public inquiries, but attacked by nationalists and the Irish government.
Catholic lawyer Finucane was shot dead by loyalists at his north Belfast home in February 1989 — a killing that sparked allegations of collusion. Some key UDA figures at the time were working for Army intelligence and RUC Special Branch.
Expectations had been raised that Mr Cameron was set to establish a public inquiry, which would have had the power to call witnesses and gather evidence, after the family were asked to come to Downing Street.
Six members of the Finucane family were at the Downing Street talks yesterday. But the PM quickly told the family that there would be a review instead.
A Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister had “expressed his profound sympathy for the family” and accepted “that State collusion had taken place in Mr Finucane’s murder”. He also apologised to the Finucane family.
It was Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine who called an early halt to the Downing Street meeting.
She said: “All of us are very upset and very disappointed.”
Mr Finucane’s son John told the Belfast Telegraph: “We felt insulted — being brought over to London to be offered something so insulting. It’s a step back.
“We’re still in the aftermath of trying to take it all in. After 12 months of engagement (with Government officials) what has been put on offer was never mentioned.
“It’s a step back. We said ‘you are making an absolute mess of it’.”
But the shock for the Finucane family is the news that the case will not be examined in a full public inquiry.
“We feel they are scared to have an inquiry into the murder of my father,” Mr Finucane said. “Every action that the British Government has taken since Cory (the report by Canadian Judge Peter Cory on the murder) shows that their goal is to ensure that the truth does not come out. We’ve been asked to accept a behind-closed-doors review of the evidence — a process into which we would have no input,” he said.
Mr Finucane told this newspaper that the Prime Minister had made clear that the Government’s intention was to push ahead with the review even if the family refused to endorse it. And it means one of the ugliest killings in a decades-long conflict is not going to be the subject of public scrutiny, but rather the evidence gathered in the Stevens investigations will be reviewed with a report by a QC due by the end of next year.
It is a long way short of the family’s hopes and expectations.
The Irish government has pledged to support the Finucane family. Speaking in the Dail, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said if Geraldine Finucane was not happy with the outcome of her meeting with Mr Cameron, then the House would not be happy either.
But DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said: “Everyone understands the desire of relatives to get the full facts about the death of their loved one. However, history in Northern Ireland has shown that the kind of expensive open-ended inquiry demanded in some cases has not been able to bring closure for anyone involved and has actually increased community tensions.”