Pat Finucane Centre/ Inquiry advice ignored

The British government is ignoring opposition and working to set up an inquiry into Pat Finucane’s 1989 murder under the terms of the discredited Inquiries Act, the Taoiseach said last night.

Bertie Ahern told the Dáil that the British government would establish an inquiry under the controversial Inquiries Act before the end of this year. He was speaking after British secretary of state Peter Hain had briefed him about the British government’s intentions last week. Mr Ahern stressed that the Irish government supported the Finucane family’s rejection of any inquiry under the Inquiries Act.

The Inquiries Act 2005 gives control over any inquiry to a government minister rather than an independent tribunal. Two weeks ago, the Oireachtas gave unanimous cross-party support to the Finucane family’s demand for a full, independent public inquiry. Informed reports from Washington DC suggest that the United States Congress will issue a resolution supporting the Finucane family in the coming days.

Mr Ahern said the British government was finalising plans to search for a judge to convene an inquiry. “The secretary of state Peter Hain told me on Thursday that he was going ahead with his inquiry and that they are seeking a venue. I am told they have a venue for the autumn. “They are also seeking a judge. I understand from international connections that they are having great difficulty getting a judge,” Mr Ahern said. “The legal world has been quite active in putting out reasons a judge should not take up the position. I have been trying to help in doing that too. That is the position.

“Unfortunately, the position on this one is that neither of us can move. I cannot move because I cannot honestly say — and we have been through this with the finest legal people — that it is a full, independent or public judicial inquiry because a judge in this case could have his hands tied as the minister has the responsibility.

“It will take five years to do it and it will cost €50 million [£35 million]. Nobody will ever believe it — at least none of the people we must try to represent. “Perhaps some people in the United Kingdom will believe it, although I have my doubts about that too, especially where the legal profession is concerned,” Mr Ahern said.

Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly welcomed news of forthcoming Congressional support for the Finucane family. He described the development as “yet another pressure point which can be brought to bear on Tony Blair and his government”