As I and others were celebrating last night at the home of Irish Ambassador Michael Collins, there was one Irish lawyer who could not attend: Pat Finucane. Finucane was gunned down in front of his wife and three children in a savage murder in in Belfast in 1989. His family was crushed this week in a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron when he told them that he was blocking a public inquiry into the death — linked to a police informant. Instead, Cameron said he would ask a lawyer to look into the matter.
A police informer and pro-British loyalist was convicted of the crime. However, the family has long believed that the killing of Finucane, who represented the IRA, was the result of a broader conspiracy. Only weeks before the murder, British government minister Douglas Hogg condemned Northern Ireland lawyers as “unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA.”
The meeting shocked the family which had come to London expecting to hear details on the long awaited inquiry. Instead, they were told that Queen’s Counsel Desmond de Silva would review the case.
Finucane’s widow Geraldine cut short the meeting and stormed out, saying that she “felt so angry she could hardly speak.” Supporters were outraged.
Finucane’s son (now a lawyer himself) noted that “five inquiries (into controversial killings) were recommended and promised by the government – the only one that is yet to take place is the inquiry into the murder of my father.”
I recall the murder of Finucane and the disgust of such an act, particularly in front of his children. He was shot fourteen times as he sat at the table eating with family at his Belfast home. Given Hogg’s reckless comments before the murder and prior alleged links in the murder to state security officials, one would think the Cameron would want to finally answer all lingering questions with an independent inquiry. The family and the country deserves nothing less.