PM’s Finucane inquiry refusal ‘lawful’

Posted By: June 26, 2015

ULSTER TV.  JUNE 26,  2015

Prime Minister David Cameron did not act unlawfully when he refused a public inquiry into the loyalist murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, a High Court judge has ruled.

John Finucane outside the High Court on Friday.
John Finucane outside the High Court on Friday. ©Presseye


A judicial review taken by Mr Finucane’s wife Geraldine was heard last month and Mr Justice Stephens delivered his reserved ruling at Belfast High Court on Friday morning.

He said: “I uphold that the decision was lawful and accordingly I dismiss that part of the challenge.”

Mr Finucane, who represented a number of high profile republicans, was gunned down by the UDA in front of his wife Geraldine and their three children inside their north Belfast home in February 1989.

Allegations of collusion between security forces and loyalists have long surrounded the 38-year-old’s murder.

The Finucane family have long campaigned for a full public inquiry but the Prime Minister has insisted a public inquiry would not shed any more light on the events.

Judge Justice Stephens

The murdered solicitor’s children were in court to hear the lengthy judgment, but Mrs Finucane was not present.

Judge Stephens said a public inquiry was unlikely to be confined to narrow issues surrounding Mr Finucane’s murder but would become drawn into a “wide-ranging inquiry” into collusion.


The judge added that governments had a responsibility to control the country’s finances and to respond to any change in circumstances.

The judicial review focused on a commitment made by the UK Government at Weston Park in 2001 during peace process negotiations with the Irish government.

The Weston Park talks resulted in Canadian judge Peter Cory being asked to examine the grounds for public inquiry in a number of controversial Troubles deaths.

The Government said such inquiries would be implemented if the judge recommended that course of action.

Judge Cory subsequently did recommend public inquiries for a number of killings, including Mr Finucane’s.

But while the Government ordered inquiries into the other deaths, it did not give the green light for one in the Finucane case.

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

His 500-page report found “shocking” levels of state collusion but no overarching state conspiracy in the lawyer’s murder.

The Prime Minister reiterated an apology to the Finucane family as he accepted the findings in December 2012.

Outlining how the Government responded the report into the loyalist killing, Mr Cameron said in January this year that “lessons had been learned”.

Judge Stephens said he believed government ministers had anxiously considered a range of factors before arriving at the decision not to hold a public inquiry.

He also pointed out that a number of key witnesses were dead and the most significant witness would be unable to participate because of a medical condition.

“There is no direct evidence that the decision had been taken at earlier stages,” Judge Stephens said.

“There is no direct evidence of a closed mind.”

Speaking outside the court Mr Finucane’s son, John said the family was disappointed by the ruling but would not drop their campaign for justice.

He said: “We have been on a campaign for 26 years. We have had numerous setbacks, numerous successes along that way.

“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.”

John Finucane

A statement from Peter Madden of Madden & Finucane Solicitors read: “We will be considering carefully the complex 78 page judgment and re-dedicating ourselves to securing public accountability of those responsible for Pat’s murder and to achieve justice for Pat and his family.”

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the Irish Government would study the judgment closely.

“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.

“This is a matter which the Government has consistently raised with the British Government. I raised it most recently with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers on 19 May, and the Taoiseach discussed the case with Prime Minister Cameron when they met in London last week.

“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.”

Also reacting, SDLP MLA Alex Attwood claimed the British Government had entered into a “commitment” for an inquiry.

“At a family, government and political level, the London Administration is in breach of that commitment.  Today’s judgment does not change these facts,” he said.

“The SDLP will consider the judgment of the High Court and the grounds on which the argument of Geraldine Finucane has been refused.  It is of real concern, however, that a commitment, publicity stated, not denied though continually resisted by London is not deemed by the High Court to support a successful challenge by the Finucane family.

“With the decision of the High Court in Belfast today and the discovery of the remains of the Disappeared in County Meath this week, this is a time to stand in support of victims and survivors and for all to do their all in support of them.”