That Seanad Éireann:
- recalls the brutal murder of solicitor, Patrick Finucane, at his home in Belfast on 12th February, 1989;
- notes the evidence of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries, the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the murder of Mr. Finucane;
- recalls the commitments made at the Weston Park talks in July, 2001, by the British Government to hold a public inquiry into the Finucane case, if so recommended by the Honourable Judge Peter Cory, it being clearly understood that such an inquiry would be consistent with the principles governing the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921;
- notes that Judge Cory found sufficient evidence of collusion to warrant a public inquiry into the case and recommended that such an inquiry take place without delay;
- recalls that, in his conclusions, Judge Cory set out the necessity and importance of a public inquiry in this case and that the failure to hold a public inquiry as quickly as possible could be seen as a denial of the agreement at Weston Park;
- deeply regrets the British Government’s failure to honour its commitment to implement Judge Cory’s recommendation in full and welcomes the sustained support of successive Irish Governments and all political parties for the Finucane family over the past decade in their efforts to find the truth behind the murder;
- notes the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg in October, 2003, that proceedings following the death of Patrick Finucane failed to provide a prompt and effective investigation into the allegations of collusion by security forces’ personnel in the murder;
- notes that in the 2012 review of the circumstances surrounding the murder of Patrick Finucane, Sir Desmond De Silva, QC, concluded firmly that British State Agents were involved in the targeting of Patrick Finucane and further that he was ‘in significant doubt as to whether Patrick Finucane would have been murdered … in February, 1989, had it not been for the different strands of involvement by elements of the [British] State’;
- notes the judgment of the UK Supreme Court in February, 2019, that the British State has, to date, failed to conduct a proper public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane that complies with its legal obligations under Article 2 of the ECHR;
- welcomes the commitment and efforts of An Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in pursuing the Patrick Finucane case with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson;
- endorses the Government’s ongoing international efforts at highlighting the case at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and at the United Nations;
- calls on the British Government to consider its position on the Finucane case to take full account of the judgments of the UK Supreme Court and the ECHR, as well as the inescapable significance of the murder of Pat Finucane to the people of Ireland, North and South, and the wider international community of democratic nations; and
- calls for the immediate establishment of a full, independent, public judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, as recommended by Judge Cory, which would enjoy the full co-operation of the Finucane family and command the respect and confidence of all of the people on the island of Ireland and all persons committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law worldwide.
I thank and welcome the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, here for tonight's debate. I also thank Pat Finucane's family for giving me and us the opportunity to raise Pat's case in the Seanad. I particularly want to welcome Mr. John Finucane, Pat's son, who is here with us for tonight's debate. It is ahead of a similar motion which will be debated at the Good Friday Agreement committee tomorrow, of which John is a member as the MP for North Belfast.
I did not know Pat. I was just four-years old when he was murdered. The community of the Short Strand, where I grew up and which I represented on Belfast City Council before being elected to the Seanad, knew Pat well. He was known well in communities across the North for exactly the same reasons as he was known in my homeplace. They knew him as a person to go to to protect them, their champion, defending their human and civil rights. They knew him as an intellectual powerhouse with a consummate legal brain, honed to perfection in one of Ireland's foremost institutions of learning, Trinity College Dublin. They watched him as he used his keen legal mind to protect people in the various courtrooms in the North on the receiving end of a justice system twisted beyond recognition from the jurisprudence that Pat studied as a young law student at Trinity. They knew that when Pat Finucane entered a courtroom, injustice, however it was presented, doctored or emasculated, shrivelled in the face of his rigorous interrogation and dismantling of it.
It was Pat Finucane's legal mind that those who killed him feared, effused as it was with a human rights ethos with his legal files, characteristically and firmly under his arm, as he rushed from one court building to another to defend a person in need and his advocacy for those who did not have the means to protect themselves from an overwhelming, omnipotent and murderous state. Pat Finucane was murdered because he knew the potency of the law, of truth and of justice. Those who killed him, from the loyalists who pulled the trigger that fateful Sunday afternoon to their masters in Downing Street, where the legal paper trail has taken the civilised world of lawyers and others, made a fundamental mistake. They underestimated Pat Finucane's legacy, human and legal. Their assassination plan did not account for the determination of Geraldine, his wife, and their children Michael, Katherine and John. It did not take into account the legal minds of Michael and John, honed like their father's mind, to navigate a carefully constructed maze of deceit and delay, manufactured by those covering up the truth and denying the family justice, namely the British Government. It did not take into account the determination of Pat's faithful and loyal friend, colleague and legal partner, Peter Madden.
In preparing for tonight's debate, I have been speaking with Pat's son John. John followed his father, as did his brother Michael, into the legal profession. He is also the Sinn Féin MP for North Belfast. I appreciate we have political business here tonight. However, I would also like Members to take a moment to think of Pat's family, Geraldine, his wife, and their three children, Michael, Katherine and John, as well as Pat's and Geraldine's grandchildren, alongside Pat's siblings and extended family circle, and the difficult life they have had since that awful day, 12 February 1989, when Pat was murdered at the family dinner table. Geraldine was also injured in the attack while their three children looked on.
Sunday, 12 February 1989, was just like any Sunday in a normal family home. The family were sharing it together. As so often happens with busy parents, Sunday is a time for parents and children to share a day together. The highlight that day for the Finucane clan was the Sunday dinner. The family sitting and eating together, a time to catch up, relax and enjoy each other's company. As we know, however, outside the family's home, beyond the family's loving dinner table, sinister forces were planning to invade this tranquil and normal scene and obliterate it in a fusillade of deadly gunfire. The two loyalist armed assassins smashed into the Finucane home using a sledge hammer to break down the front door. In front of Pat's three children and Geraldine, seated around the dinner table, the gunmen shot Pat 14 times as he lay on the ground mortally wounded. In a matter of seconds, the gunmen escaped leaving behind a scene of utter devastation. As the Minister knows from having heard many times given his many engagements in the North, that is the stark reality of what collusion means to those on the receiving end of it, those like the Finucane family and so many others.
Ken Barrett, convicted of murder, was a police agent. William Stobie, an Ulster Defence Association, UDA, quartermaster and police agent, was subsequently murdered, having backed calls for an inquiry into Pat Finucane's killing. Brian Nelson was a British military intelligence agent who was in charge of the UDA's intelligence and provided the killers that afternoon with the intelligence on Pat Finucane. Brian Nelson was run as an agent by the force research unit. These and others are links in a chain. There is no doubting that there was collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane but as Geraldine Finucane has said, the purpose of an inquiry is not to find out who pulled the trigger, rather it is to find out who was pulling the strings. Who set in motion the events that resulted in Pat Finucane, a human rights lawyer and an officer of the court, being shot 14 times in front of his wife and children?
As we debate this proposal, I would also like us to bear in mind the many thousands of relatives from all backgrounds, North and South, who carry a similar burden of grief to that carried by the Finucane family as a result of the conflict and the loss of a loved one. I would also like to thank my colleagues across the Seanad from all political groups and none who are supporting this motion. I am aware the Dáil voted in 2002 on a similar motion in support of the family's campaign for truth and justice. I know the Finucane clann drew great strength from that support and the support of successive Irish Governments over the years for their campaign. Some 18 years on from the Dáil motion, the family thought it appropriate to ask the Seanad, through this cross-party supported motion, to once again demonstrate that support through this Chamber from all political parties and Independents.
The Minister and my colleagues have heard me say many times in this House on a range of issues that the Oireachtas is at its finest when it is united and speaking with one voice. It is particularly important to Geraldine and her family that the Seanad is united in its support tonight. It is equally important for relatives of all those who lost their lives in the conflict, irrespective of their background, that the Seanad is united in its support for truth and justice for the Finucane family. In supporting this motion, the Seanad is sending a crucial and powerful message to all grieving relatives across our society and Ireland, and to the organisations that support them, North and South. The message says that this is their home and that here is where they will find the support they need to help themselves and their families in pursuit of truth and justice.
I would especially like to pay tribute to Geraldine, Pat's wife, for her composure, dignity and grace in the face of such a loss and for the calm, resolute and determined manner in which she has campaigned for truth and justice for Pat and her family for over 30 years. Geraldine is not just an inspirational figure for her children and grandchildren. She is also an inspirational figure for the many relatives and organisations that are campaigning for truth for a loved one lost in the conflict. I will refrain from naming all of the organisations in case I would unintentionally, but inevitably, leave one out. These groups provide a first class service, which meets the psychological needs of hurt and grieving relatives in many ways and which supports the relatives in their pursuit of truth. The organisations are an indispensable network of people, motivated by the highest ideals in assisting the most vulnerable and hurt communities affected by the conflict. In their work, they help to rebuild lives that have been shattered, give people a sense of purpose again, lift them out of the morass of grief which often paralyses them and place them on a purposeful and meaningful path in their lives once more. An important part of rebuilding shattered lives is the opportunity the pursuit of truth and justice gives to relatives, and these organisations bring the necessary skills to those relatives in their truth campaigns. The Finucane family has said many times over the years that its campaign for truth and justice is a campaign for all those relatives who lost loved ones and who are demanding truth and justice.
Pat Finucane was one of the most high profile human rights lawyers in Ireland. His killing was national and international news and for the last 31 years, the pursuit of the truth about who killed Pat and why has been national and international news as well. A few weeks before Pat's killing, the scene was not only set for it but the direct involvement in the killing by the British Government was also set, both unintentionally revealed in comments by Douglas Hogg, a junior minister in the Tory Government. He told the British House of Commons that certain solicitors were, "unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA". John Finucane told me that his parents spoke about their concerns arising from Hogg's remarks but they did not have time to do anything about it because Pat was killed just a few short weeks later. Douglas Hogg was briefed by the most senior levels of the RUC in advance of his statement in the House of Commons, a statement which paved the way for murder. Since Hogg's comments, the family have carried out, with the British Supreme Court, what has been described in praise of the family as a relentless campaign in pursuit of a public independent inquiry into Pat's killing.
This sustained pressure from the family has resulted in investigations into collusion in Pat's killing by Judge Peter Cory, Lord John Stevens, the former head of the Metropolitan Police Service, and the barrister, Sir Desmond de Silva, QC. In 2004, Judge Peter Cory, who was appointed by the Irish and British Governments to investigate Pat's killing, confirmed collusion in the killing and called on the British Government to hold a public inquiry. In 2007, Lord Stevens, who was appointed by the British Government, said that there was collusion in the killing and that the killing could have been avoided. In December 2012, responding to the de Silva investigation into the killing, the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said there were, "shocking levels of collusion". In February 2019, the British Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the Finucane family that the British Government had failed to uphold Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, that is, the right to life, in regard to Pat's killing. A few weeks ago in a court in Belfast, Judge McAlinden heavily censured the British Government for adding insult to injury for the Finucane family in its failure to hold an inquiry.
In addition to these irrefutable examples of state collusion in the killing of Pat Finucane, the former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, met the Finucane family in Downing Street, said there was collusion and privately apologised to them for that. He also said there were people in those buildings who do not want to give the Finucane family this, in reference to his decision to have De Silva review the papers into the killing. A short time later, the then British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, issued a public apology for the collusion. The investigations into the murder of Pat Finucane, perhaps more than any other killing, have undeniably proven the existence of the British Government's policy of collusion. It has fixed the British Government in the dock of world opinion for this policy, one which amounts to the British Government and its agencies participating in the killing and injuring of its own citizens, to whom it had a duty of care as a Government.
Arising out of the all-party Weston Park Agreement in 2011, it was agreed that six inquiries would be held into controversial killings. The only inquiry not carried out by the British Government was that into Pat's killing. The family's campaign has received support from the Dáil, the US House of Representatives, Amnesty International and the British Labour Party, among many others. Just this weekend, four of the North's political parties, including Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, SDLP, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and the Green Party Northern Ireland wrote a letter of support to the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, urging him to act in the public interest by holding a public inquiry. The family also received support from An Taoiseach at a meeting earlier this week.
Now is the time to add the voice of the Seanad to the widespread national and international support for the Finucane clann and to their call for a full, public and independent inquiry into a killing that sent shock waves across this country and beyond and after 31 years, leaves people in utter disbelief that the British Government continues to block the truth about its murder, through collusion, of Pat Finucane and of many hundreds more in its secret dirty war in the North of Ireland. I commend the motion to the Seanad.