07 February 2006

Finucane family: UK wants to cloak tribunal in secrecy


07/02/2006 - 15:02:08

Murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane's family today pledged to take their fight to Dublin after accusing Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain of resisting demands for major changes to the inquiry into his killing.

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 mind."

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 detected enough evidence of security force collaboration with the Ulster Defence Association men involved.

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

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

Mr Finucane and his mother were joined by Jane Winter, director of the British Irish Rights Watch, for the 45-minute meeting with Mr Hain at Stormont Castle, east Belfast.

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

"He (Mr Hain) consistently underlined the (British) government's intention to hold the inquiry under the Inquiries Act," Mr Finucane revealed.

"It renders the panel devoid of independence and retains control with the government minister through use of restriction notices.

"Therefore we doubt its capacity to get at the truth."

Mr Finucane also claimed the plans were centred around pacifying the intelligence services.

He added: "The situation appears to be the tail wagging the dog."

The family's campaign received further backing today from the nationalist SDLP's Justice spokesman Alban Maginness.

The North Belfast MLA insisted that the British government gave a pledge two years ago to support a proper inquiry into the murder if recommended by Judge Cory.

"Yet what we got was rushed legislation to prevent the full truth about the murder coming out," he said.

"A gagged inquiry cannot get at the truth when the government is free to suppress information at will.

"It is unacceptable to the family and to the SDLP. We have raised the issue of a proper public inquiry at every meeting with Tony Blair and we will continue to do so in the future."

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