18 March 2005

Daily Ireland

US backs Finucane inquiry campaign

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Senior officials in the Irish and US governments are planning to “strategise” opposition to the British government’s refusal to establish an independent public judicial inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, Daily Ireland has learned.
An informed source said that the US administration had indicated that it would support the Irish government’s calls for an independent inquiry to be held.
The news emerged last night after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told United States President George Bush of his concerns about the controversial new Inquiries Bill during a meeting in Washington.
Mr Finucane’s family had a meeting in Dublin last week with Mr Ahern, during which he said he accepted that the British government’s current proposals were “not compliant” with recommendations made by Canadian judge Peter Cory.
At the request of the Irish and British governments in 2001, Judge Cory conducted an independent review of state collusion in the assassination of Mr Finucane.
The review reported last April.
Pressure has been mounting on the British government since the start of this week after a US Congressional subcommittee heard scathing criticism from Judge Cory about the role of the Inquiries Bill in relation to the Finucane case. Under the bill, a minister would essentially be given the power to run any inquiry.
In a letter to the subcommittee chairman, Congressman Chris Smith, Judge Cory wrote, “It seems to me that the proposed new Act would make a meaningful inquiry impossible.
“For example, the minister — the actions of whose ministry was to be reviewed by the public inquiry — would have the authority to thwart the efforts of the inquiry at every step.
“It really creates an intolerable Alice in Wonderland situation.”
Judge Cory also strongly advised the Canadian judiciary to steer clear of becoming involved in such a process.
“If the new Act were to become law, I would advise all Canadian judges to decline an appointment in light of the impossible situation they would be facing,” he wrote.
Speaking from Washington after meeting Senator Hillary Clinton yesterday, Mr Finucane’s son John said he welcomed Judge Cory’s intervention.
“We entirely welcome it. It carries weight to our argument,” he told Daily Ireland.
“Judge Cory was due to testify in person and then by video link but neither materialised, so it’s very significant that this letter has been placed on record, particularly given the language of his position.”
Mr Finucane also welcomed the “very receptive” attitude of Senator Clinton and other political heavyweights on Capitol Hill, such as the US special envoy Mitchell Reiss.
“Senator Clinton has been on board for a long time and my mother has met her on numerous times, both in America and in Derry last year, as well as during the time she and Bill were in the White House.
“Basically she asked us, ‘What can I do?’, so the widespread support for the family’s position from people like her and Mitchell Reiss and many others is very apparent,” Mr Finucane said.
The judge’s remarks criticising the Inquiries Bill were also backed by the SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness.
“Judge Cory is absolutely right when he says that the British government is creating ‘an intolerable Alice in Wonderland situation’ on the Finucane case,” Mr Maginness said yesterday.
“Its legislation would make a meaningful inquiry impossible and should be withdrawn. Judge Cory is advising that no member of the Canadian judiciary should serve on such a spurious inquiry.
“The British government is not only flying in the face of the express commitments it made at Weston Park.
“It is acting against the wishes of the Finucane family, the Taoiseach, Judge Cory and the representative of the US administration. It should withdraw this outrageous bill immediately.”

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