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Pat Finucane murder inquiry rejection 'was based on costs'

By David Young and PA

Published 12/05/2015

Murdered: solicitor Pat Finucane
Murdered: solicitor Pat Finucane

A Government decision to reject a public inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane was based more on costs and political fallout than the need to establish the truth, a court has been told.

A barrister representing Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine branded the breaking of a commitment to hold a statutory probe into allegations of state involvement in the killing as "morally and legally indefensible".

Mr Finucane was gunned down in front of his wife Geraldine and their three children inside their north Belfast home in 1989.

Belfast High Court is hearing a judicial review by Mrs Finucane of the 2011 decision by Prime Minister David Cameron to rule out an inquiry into the UDA shooting.

On the first day of the case, Barry MacDonald QC outlined previously confidential correspondence involving Mr Cameron, then Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson and senior Governmental officials and advisers which, he claimed, revealed the true motivation behind the inquiry rejection.

Instead of proceeding with an inquiry, Mr Cameron commissioned QC Sir Desmond de Silva to review all documents relating to the case and produce a narrative of what happened.

But Mr MacDonald claimed a Government briefing paper had identified such a non-statutory review as the option "least likely to establish the truth".

The barrister said the review was merely a "cosmetic exercise, devoid of meaning".

"They presented their decision as the quickest means of finding out the truth when the evidence and briefing paper said a review of the paper documents was the least likely way of finding out the truth," he said.

Mr MacDonald was critical of another memo, penned by one of Mr Cameron's advisers, that referred to Mr Finucane as "another republican lawyer".

He questioned how a current Government official could refer to the solicitor in such terms, given the evidence showing a similar characterisation had been a factor in marking him out as a murder target. Mr MacDonald then referred to another memo that warned of the "inestimable cost" of an open-ended public inquiry.

"The single reason given is expense," he said of the document. "There is a conspicuous absence of a balancing of factors. The decision is nothing to do with the best way of establishing the truth."

The barrister then highlighted a note sent by the special adviser to Mr Paterson to "chief of political staff" that flagged up potential "political" factors to consider.

One of the issues raised was the fact that ordering an inquiry would "open us up to potential attack from elements of the Conservative Party and the right wing press such as the Mail and the Telegraph". The judicial review is expected to last five days.

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