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14th-Oct-2015 03:06 pm - Geraldine Finucane seeks to overturn ruling on public inquiry
Appeal over verdict that UK justified in reneging on commitment to set up tribunal

Alan Erwin
Irish Times
14 Oct 2015

Murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane’s widow is to seeking to overturn a ruling that British prime minister David Cameron acted lawfully in refusing to hold a public inquiry into the killing.

Geraldine Finucane has lodged an appeal against the Belfast High Court verdict that the British government was justified in reneging on a commitment to set up such a tribunal.

Her lawyer, Peter Madden, claimed internal communications shows former Secretary of State Owen Paterson had “closed his mind” to the type of inquiry previously promised.

Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, who is seeking to overturn a ruling on a refusal to hold a public inquiry into the killing. (Photograph: PA)

Mr Madden said: “He had engaged in a sham exercise, inviting representations from the family as to the model of inquiry which would be acceptable to them in circumstances where he had absolutely no intention of establishing such an inquiry.”

Mr Finucane was gunned down by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife and their three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989. His family have campaigned for a full examination of alleged security force collusion with the killers.

Mrs Finucane took the prime minister to court after he ruled out a public inquiry in 2011. Instead, Mr Cameron commissioned QC Sir Desmond de Silva to review all documents relating to the case and produce a narrative of what happened.

Sir Desmond’s report confirmed agents of the state were involved in the murder and that it should have been prevented.

However, it concluded there had been no overarching state conspiracy. The Finucane family rejected the findings as a whitewash and accused the government of unlawfully reneging on previous commitments.

Pledges to set up such a tribunal, based on the recommendation of retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, were made by a former Labour government in 2004 and reaffirmed in the following years, it was contended.

Earlier this year Mr Justice Stephens ruled Mr Cameron had acted lawfully in refusing to hold a public inquiry. He found Mrs Finucane had received a clear and unambiguous promise that an inquiry would take place.

But he backed the government’s case that other public interest issues, including political developments in Northern Ireland and the potential financial pressures of a costly inquiry, were enough to frustrate her expectation.

Despite throwing out Mrs Finucane’s legal bid to force the authorities to publicly examine her husband’s killing, the judge also said the state had not fully met its human rights obligation to investigate.

Now the case is to go before the Court of Appeal for a further hearing. Confirming on Wednesday that papers have been lodged, Mr Madden insisted: “A full independent and international tribunal of inquiry, where documents will examined in public and witnesses shall be compelled to attend and be cross examined by Geraldine’s lawyers, remains the only model capable of achieving the truth of Pat’s murder.”

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