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Fury at ‘welching’ on Pat Finucane probe

SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie has accused the Government of “welching” on its commitment to hold an inquiry into the killing of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson is reviewing the decision to investigate the death and has asked the Finucane family to submit their case to him formally.

But Ms Ritchie said it was unacceptable to consider reneging on the commitment made by former Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy in 2004.

“This is welching on an agreement given by one of the Secretary of State’s predecessors,” she told the Belfast Telegraph. “It is unacceptable.

“Why has the Government decided to go down the road of reviewing the commitment when we already know what the issues are? Why are they not simply honouring this commitment?

“Are they trying to avoid the truth?”

Mr Paterson is expected to rule early next year on whether the stalled inquiry will go ahead after taking in to account a number of factors.

They include the commitment given to the House of Commons in 2004 in relation to an inquiry, the conclusions of reviews and investigations into the case, and the experience of the other inquiries, such as Billy Wright.

He will also consider the delay that had occurred since the 2004 announcement and the potential length of any inquiry, political developments since 2004, the potential cost of any inquiry and the current pressures on the UK Government’s finances.

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson called on the Government not to allow a “hierarchy of victimhood” to continue.

He said: “Our view on the Finucane case is that it should not be given any special status. I think there are many people in Northern Ireland who are looking for justice and they are tired of this hierarchy of victimhood.”

Mr Paterson met with Mr Finucane’s wife Geraldine and son John at Stormont House earlier this week to discuss the plans and has asked them to make a formal submission over the coming weeks.

The hour-and-a-half meeting, the first formal talks between the Government and the family since 2006, was described as “very positive”.

Northern Ireland Office officials stressed that “no decisions has been made” over whether it is in the public interest to go ahead with the inquiry.

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