23 January 2006

Finucane family rethink Hain talks

Belfast Telegraph

Collusion probe campaign continues

By Chris Thornton
23 January 2006

The family of Pat Finucane are having second thoughts about meeting Secretary of State Peter Hain after he told them to forget about an inquiry into the solicitor's murder if they won't accept the one proposed by the Government.

Mr Finucane's widow, Geraldine, and other relatives had asked before Christmas to see Mr Hain about the long running dispute over the terms of the inquiry into collusion between the security forces and Mr Finucane's UDA killers.

But last week Mr Hain told The Universe, a Catholic newspaper, that the inquiry will be held under the controversial Inquiries Act or there will be "none at all".

The family have campaigned for almost 17 years for an inquiry into the murder, but say they "cannot not take part in any Inquiry set up under the Inquiries Act", arguing that it destroys the independence of the tribunal investigating the case.

The Government rushed the Act through Parliament last year in order to hold the Finucane inquiry. It gives Ministers, rather than chairmen of an inquiry, the power to keep information secret.

"The truth of what happened and why is located in the secret corridors of Whitehall," the Finucanes said in a statement.

"The family cannot get involved in any inquiry in which the ministers in charge of those very same corridors will be in charge of Pat's inquiry.

"The family have received widespread international support for their current stance. They will continue and step up their campaign for an independent public judicial inquiry.

"In view of what Peter Hain has said, the family are now considering whether it is worthwhile meeting him."

The judges in charge of the Bloody Sunday Tribunal and retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory, who recommended the inquiry into the 1989 Finucane murder, have indicated that the conditions imposed by the Act are unacceptable.

More than eight months after passing the Act, the Government has been unable to find a judge who will agree to chair the Finucane inquiry.

Mr Hain says the Act would guarantee the cooperation of MI5 agents in the collusion inquiry because it would protect their sources. "It will enable the security services and police to give evidence in a frank way and help find the truth," he said.

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