UK Top News

Britain rejects calls for inquiry into 1989 Northern Irish murder

LONDON (Reuters) -The British government on Monday rejected calls for a public inquiry into the 1989 murder in Northern Ireland of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane, whose death remains a lightning rod for anger over state collusion with pro-British paramilitaries.

FILE PHOTO: Geraldine Finucane (R), the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, arrives for a media conference with her children Katherine (2nd R), Michael (2nd L) and John (C) in central London December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Winning/File Photo

Finucane, who represented leading Irish nationalists, was shot dead at his home in front of his wife and three children by pro-British “Loyalist” militants, whom a 2012 independent review of the death found had colluded with British security forces.

The Finucane family brought their decades-long fight for an independent public inquiry to the UK Supreme Court last year, and the Irish government has also called for such a probe. Britain’s Northern Ireland Minister, Brandon Lewis, said an inquiry risked prejudicing a review of the case by Northern Irish police.

“I want to be clear I am not taking the possibility of a public inquiry off the table,” Lewis told parliament in London.

A judge-led review in 2004 concluded that a public inquiry was required, and Britain’s Northern Ireland minister said at the time that an inquiry would be held. But in 2011 the British government decided to only hold the independent review.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that Finucane’s wife had the legitimate expectation of a public inquiry, but that the government had not acted in bad faith.

In a statement, Finucane’s family said Lewis’ decision was “yet another insult added to a deep and lasting wound.” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said he was disappointed but noted that a future inquiry had not been completely ruled out.

Protestant-dominated security forces were dogged by Catholic allegations of collusion with pro-British paramilitaries during three decades of sectarian conflict. A series of separate reports have borne out some of those accusations.

A 1998 peace deal largely ended bloodshed in the British-controlled region between the mainly Catholic Irish nationalists seeking union with Ireland and predominantly Protestant unionists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom.

In 2012, then British Prime Minister David Cameron said the independent review had shown “shocking” levels of state collusion in the murder, and Lewis reiterated Cameron’s apology on Monday.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; editing by Estelle Shirbon, Hugh Lawson and Tom Brown