Shelagh Fogarty 1pm - 4pm
Government rejects call for public inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder
30 November 2020, 19:21 | Updated: 30 November 2020, 19:24
Ministers have rejected calls for an immediate public inquiry into the murder of north Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
However, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Police Ombudsman probes into the loyalist paramilitary attack will go ahead, the PSNI chief constable said.
The 39-year-old lawyer was shot dead in his family home in the Northern Irish capital in February 1989 by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in an attack that was found to have involved state collusion.
Mr Finucane represented both republican and loyalist paramilitaries during the Troubles and, since his death, no member of the British security services has been prosecuted.
The former solicitor's son John said the decision had left his family feeling "very angry" and branded the decision "astonishing, arrogant and cruel".
"What the British Government proposed to us today was nothing short of insulting," he added.
John called Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis' response a disgrace, saying they had waited 31 years for an effective investigation into the murder of their father.
He continued: "The British Government, at every opportunity, will continue to make the wrong decision and put all their efforts into ensuring that the truth of what happened to my father will not see the light of day and they are intent on suppressing that."
Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine and their three children have spent decades campaigning for a public inquiry to establish the extent of security force involvement.
In 2019, the Supreme Court said all previous examinations of his death had not complied with human rights standards.
The Northern Ireland secretary said he met the Finucane family on Monday and "advised them of (his) decision not to establish a public inquiry at this time".
He said: "It is in the public interest to allow the police and ombudsman processes to proceed before taking any decision on whether the state's Article 2 (duty to investigate deaths) obligations have been discharged or whether further steps are required."
Mr Lewis added that he reiterated previous British Government apologies over the killing.
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: "It is our view that there are currently no new lines of inquiry.
"We now need to decide if a further review is merited given all the previous investigations into this case.
"Once we have determined that, we will inform the Finucane family.
"If we determine that a review should take place, we will then have to decide if we are best placed to carry out that review.
"As it stands it is unlikely that we would enjoy a perception of independence in this case, given the accepted position of state involvement in this matter. Therefore, it is highly likely that any review would need to be conducted independently."
Last year, the Supreme Court also acknowledged Ms Finucane was given an "unequivocal undertaking" by the government - following the 2001 Weston Park agreement - that there would be a public inquiry into the murder.
However, judges additionally decided the government was justified in later choosing not to holding such a probe.
The court said ministers should decide what type of investigation was now required if, indeed, one was feasible.
Ms Finucane took fresh judicial review proceedings against the state amid a delay in the government's response to the judgement.
Responding to the government's decision, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh said: "That this crime could happen at all in our country is shocking, that it has never been investigated to a lawful standard is unjustifiable and we have to ask ourselves, as we do with all legacy issues with The Troubles, do we accept a lesser standard of justice for citizens of Northern Ireland than we would if this terrible crime had happened in our constituencies?
"The secretary of state references the Manchester inquiry, do victims in Northern Ireland not deserve the same transparency and justice?"