The family of Pat Finucane have today set the record straight over their dealings with the British Government in the run up to this weeks decision by the government not to hold an inquiry into Finucane’s murder in 1989. Speaking at a press conference in Belfast earlier today the family announced they had agreed to accept a ‘Baha Mousa’ style inquiry under the 2005 Inquiries Act as long as assurances were given the government ministers would not interfere. The family believed this had been agreed with the Government and it was on this basis they agreed to travel to London to meet David Cameron earlier his week only to be told there would be no inquiry.
Full Statement by Geraldine Finucane, Belfast, Oct 14th 2011
“The world is now aware that my family and I were invited by the British Prime Minister David Cameron to 10 Downing Street earlier this week to hear his decision on the holding of an inquiry into the murder of my husband, Pat Finucane. Even now, days after the event, we still feel humiliated and insulted by the ordeal we were made to endure.
Not only were my family and I forced to listen to the Prime Minister of Britain renege on a promise made by the British Government, we had to hear him tell us, over and over, what it was that we really wanted, how we really wanted to achieve it, and what our ultimate response would be. It was clear within minutes that we had been lured to Downing Street under false pretences by a disreputable government led by a dishonourable man. My family and I have been humiliated publicly and misled privately. The NI Secretary of State, Owen Patterson, has denied that the Government misled my family. He claims that the reason we were brought to London was to allow the Prime Minister to apologise personally. I reject this explanation as untrue and self-serving.
I intend to reveal the details of discussions with British Government officials over the last year, which will show clearly prove that my family and I were indeed misled.
Lawyers for my family, including my two sons, attended meetings over the course of the last year with both the Secretary of State and his officials. Most of these meetings were private, to facilitate open discussion. The process was part of a review by the Government to determine whether a public inquiry ‘remained in the public interest.’ The Government was keen to know if we would participate in an inquiry and if so, under what conditions.
Our objection to part of the Inquiries Act 2005 is well documented. We opposed the use of the Restriction Notices created by the Act because a Government minister can impose these upon an inquiry at will. We had asked the previous Government not to use them but were told this was impossible. However, a recent case, the Baha Mousa Inquiry, created just such a precedent. Restriction Notices were not deployed in Baha Mousa. Instead, decisions about the restriction of evidence were left to the independent judge. We told the Government that an inquiry operated along the same lines as Baha Mousa would be something we could participate in. Although it was made clear that the Minister would make the final decision on an inquiry, the indications from Government officials were encouraging.
At no time were we advised that an alternative to an inquiry was also under consideration.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, we committed our position to writing in a submission delivered to the Government. Copies of this document are available. As it makes clear, the focus of the discussions between our family and the Government was the manner in which the inquiry might proceed. It was the Government itself that brought the Baha Mousa inquiry into discussions as a model upon which progress could be built. A considerable amount of time was spent exploring how it could be utilised as a blueprint for Pat’s case.
At no stage was a review in the manner announced by the Prime Minister ever discussed. We were told the Secretary of State would make a decision. When we learned that the Prime Minister wished to meet with us in Downing Street, we assumed, as did many others, that the Government was going to confirm its commitment to the promise of a public inquiry. Furthermore, in a recent telephone conversation between a senior NIO official and our lawyer, Peter Madden, we were told the Prime Minister was confident we would be happy with what was on offer. We could not bring ourselves to believe that we were being invited as guests to the Prime Minister’s home just to be refused the public inquiry promised many years ago.
The fact that David Cameron did so and in such a public fashion ranks as one of the most cruel and devastating experiences of my life.
What Mr. Cameron has established is a review of the papers in the case. The person appointed, Sir Desmond De Silva, will simply read the statements collected by the Stevens Investigation team. Although he will be permitted to speak with relevant persons, this will be done behind closed doors. My family will not be permitted to participate. We will see nothing for ourselves, hear nothing for ourselves and say nothing for ourselves. If anyone refuses t o speak with Mr. De Silva, he has no powers to compel them.
My family and I have no confidence in this process. We cannot be expected to take the British Prime Minister’s word that it will be effective when he is reneging on a Government commitment in order to establish it. His actions prove beyond doubt that the word of British Prime Minister is not to be trusted. The case of Pat Finucane shows that British Prime Ministers no longer keep their promises.
My family and I take great encouragement from the renewed support we have received this week, domestically and internationally. An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has already asked for an urgent meeting with the family next Monday. Members of the US Congress have criticised the decision publicly and made their feelings known to the US and British Governments. Perhaps most telling of all, two former NI Secretaries of State have disagreed with the Prime Minister and urged him to reconsider. They have called this review “a mistake”. It is much more than that. History will not look favourably upon the decision of Mr. Cameron to welsh on the promise that was made.
My family does not believe that a public inquiry into Pat’s murder would elevate his case above the deaths of others. We support the quest of any family for truth and justice. We believe that a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane would be a force for good and not a long-running, open ended waste of money. It would clear a lot of the very poisonous air that has been left behind.
Most of all, we do believe that the British Government should honour the promise they made.”
Details of the Finucane family discussions with British Government officials can be viewed here.