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February 07, 2006

Finucane Family Angered At Hain's Response

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Finucane Family Angered At Hain Response
02/07/06 10:00 EST

Murdered Belfast human rights attorney Pat Finucane's family
today pledged to take their fight to Dublin after accusing
Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, of
resisting demands for major changes to the inquiry into his

The lawyer's wife, Geraldine, and son Michael were left
angered by their meeting with Mr Hain, claiming the British
government wants to cloak the tribunal in secrecy.

"The secretary of state had every chance in the world to be
useful and play a useful role," Michael Finucane said. "All
the indications are that he's not willing to do that and
neither is the government he represents. The only option we
have is going to the other government who's a partner in
this process and getting Bertie Ahern to change Tony Blair's

Mr Finucane was assassinated by loyalist paramilitaries at
his north Belfast home 17 years ago.

Both a retired Canadian Supreme Court judge and former
Scotland Yard chief Sir John Stevens found evidence of
British security force collaboration with the Ulster Defence
Association men involved.

Their findings, which supported a campaign by the Finucanes,
saw the British government propose setting up an official
hearing into the allegations.

But the family rejected the arrangements, claiming the
Inquiries Act passed to run the inquiry would allow the
authorities to keep crucial material undisclosed.

Human rights organisations have joined Judge Peter Cory, who
investigated the collusion claims, in expressing concerns at
how the authorities plan to run the inquiry.

When the defence lawyer was shot dead in front of his family
back in 1989, there were almost immediate suspicions that
there was more to his death than met the eye.

Over the years, those suspicions have become well-grounded
in fact. It is now more than two years since Britain's most
senior policeman and a retired justice of the Canadian
Supreme Court independently came to the conclusion that
there was collusion between the UDA men who killed Mr
Finucane and members of the security forces.

The next stage, at least according to Justice Peter Cory,
was clear: there should be a public inquiry into the
collusion surrounding the murder - the exact outcome for
which Mr Finucane's family had been campaigning down the

Since then, on the surface at least, very little has
happened. There has been no apparent progress towards an
inquiry - no panel named, no date set for a start. The
exception is the passage of an important piece of
legislation, one that currently stands between the British
Government and the Finucanes.

After campaigning for years for an inquiry, the Finucane
family now find themselves in the curious position of
opposing the one proposed by the Government. That is because
the legislation passed to bring about the inquiry, the
Inquiries Act, gives the Government unprecedented powers to
keep aspects of the case secret.

Mr Hain also finds himself in a curious position. He has
said there will be an inquiry under the Inquiries Act or
"none at all".

But the family's opposition has made setting up the inquiry
difficult - so far the Finucanes have successfully
discouraged judges around the world from chairing the
tribunal - and could ultimately render it pointless. The
Finucanes' refusal to cooperate would be a serious
challenge to the inquiry's credibility even before it

The "none at all" option is equally unsatisfactory, in that
it puts everything back to square one. Disturbing questions
about the case remain unanswered and the British Government
looks as if it still has something to hide.

The family is not alone in having problems with the Act,
which was rushed through Parliament last year. Justice Cory
and the judges who chair the Bloody Sunday Inquiry have
also questioned it.

The British Government says the Act makes public inquiries
more focused; in the wake of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry's
huge costs, it applies a brake to funding.

But the Act is controversial because it has made an
important shift in powers: now the Government adopts the
role of player and referee in the operation of an inquiry.

Where the chairman of a tribunal or a High Court judge
would determine whether sensitive information given to the
inquiry should be secret, now that power lies with a British

What a Minister wants excluded is automatically excluded;
he or she may also stop the inquiry at any time and edit
the inquiry's final report.

The Finucanes argue that this takes away the independence
of the inquiry, and they are not alone. Last week, David
Wright, the father of loyalist Billy Wright, took High
Court proceedings against the use of the Act in the inquiry
into his son's murder in the Maze Prison.

National security is an important factor in the Finucane
case, at the very least in terms of exposing the practices
of British intelligence agencies. After all, it was an Army
agent that supplied the information that led to Mr
Finucane's murder. It was a police agent who supplied the
guns. The man who organised the killing is believed to have
been yet another agent, and one of the triggermen was later
recruited as a police agent, in spite of making a
confession to detectives.

The Finucanes have not disputed that national security is a
genuine consideration in an inquiry, but they point out
that such concerns have been adequately protected by the
legislation that has been in place for more than 80 years.

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