The family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane have urged the UK’s highest court to rule that there should be a public inquiry into his death.
As his widow, Geraldine, arrived at the Supreme Court in London on Tuesday, she said they were feeling optimistic that the five justices hearing the case would rule in their favour.
Speaking outside the court with sons John and Michael, daughter Katherine and 15-year-old grandson Piaras by her side, Mrs Finucane said they had come “for an inquiry and for justice”.
Asked what they would do if the latest bid for an inquiry failed, she vowed: “We will never stop.”
Her 39-year-old husband, Pat, was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in 1989 in an attack found to have involved collusion with the state.
Mr Finucane, who represented a number of high-profile republicans, was murdered in front of his wife and children at their north Belfast home.
Former prime minister David Cameron decided not to hold a public inquiry into the killing – one of the most notorious of The Troubles – but ordered an investigation by a senior lawyer.
The review by Sir Desmond de Silva QC, a former UN war crimes prosecutor, concluded there was “no overarching state conspiracy” in the lawyer’s death but found “shocking” levels of state collusion involving the army, police and MI5.
Mrs Finucane has described Sir Desmond’s 2012 report as a “whitewash” and said the Government unlawfully “reneged” on a promise that a public inquiry would be held.
In February last year, she lost her case at the Court of Appeal in Belfast when three judges dismissed her challenge against a ruling in 2015 that the 2011 decision by Mr Cameron to reject a public inquiry was lawful.
A panel of five Supreme Court justices, headed by the court’s president Lady Hale, will consider her appeal against that ruling during a two-day hearing.
Opening Mrs Finucane’s case at the Supreme Court, Barry Macdonald QC said the background to the proceedings was “complex and sinister”.
The case, he said, was “notorious for good reason”, and was one which had attracted widespread local and international concern.
He added: “The available evidence suggests that agents of the state responsible for law enforcement devised and operated a policy of extra-judicial execution, the essential feature of which was that loyalist terrorist organisations were infiltrated, resourced and manipulated in order to murder individuals identified by state agents as suitable for assassination – in other words, a policy of ‘murder by proxy’ whereby the state itself engaged in terrorism through the agency of loyalist paramilitaries.”
Mr Finucane, who enjoyed a reputation as a committed human rights lawyer prepared to challenge perceived abuses of state power “was a victim of this policy”.
The QC said: “All investigations into Patrick Finucane’s death have clearly established that he was no more than a solicitor intent on doing his job and doing it very well, albeit at the expense of attracting the adverse attention of elements of the state.”
During the proceedings the justices will hear submissions from James Eadie QC on behalf of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
In written argument before the court opposing the appeal, Mr Eadie submits that the lower courts which considered the case correctly concluded that the decision-making process relating to the public inquiry was a “thorough, genuine and lawful” one.
He said the Supreme Court was being invited to dismiss the appeal on the basis that decisions not to establish the inquiry “were lawful as a matter of public law”, and that “no such obligation” could be derived from the Human Rights Act.