Statement by Dermot Ahern on the All Party Dáil Motion supporting a full public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane, Dáil, (8 March 2006)
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Statement by Dermot Ahern, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the All Party Dáil Motion supporting a full public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane, Dáil, (8 March 2006)
"I welcome the opportunity to introduce to the House this all party motion calling for an independent public inquiry into the murder of Belfast Solicitor Patrick Finucane. On behalf of the Government, I would like to warmly welcome Mrs Geraldine Finucane and her son, Michael, who are in the public gallery this evening to listen to our debate.
The House is aware of the consistent and very strong support which the Government has given to the Finucane family in their quest for an independent inquiry into this murder. The Government continues to regularly meet with the family; the Taoiseach met Mrs. Finucane most recently on 27 February and will meet her again next week in Washington.
The Finucane family has been campaigning for over seventeen years to obtain the full truth behind the brutal murder which took place in their home. Many of the facts surrounding the murder are well known, in particular through the three investigations undertaken by the former head of the Metropolitan Police, Lord John Stevens. He was asked by the British Government to look at allegations of collusion on three separate occasions, and his reports have led to one prosecution, that of Ken Barrett, and over 20 recommendations that are being considered by the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland.
The Government has consistently supported the Finucane family in their efforts to ascertain the full extent of the collusion behind Pat Finucane's murder; in other words, to learn who was behind the perpetrators, and to reveal the involvement of the British security forces in this case.
The Honourable Judge Peter Cory was appointed by both Governments following intensive negotiations at Weston Park in the summer of 2001 to examine six cases where collusion was suspected. Although heavily redacted, the Cory Collusion Inquiry Report on the Pat Finucane case was published by the British Government on 1 April 2004. I would like to remind the House of Judge Cory's concluding paragraph:
"Some of the acts summarised above are, in and of themselves, capable of constituting acts of collusion. Further the documents and statements I have referred to in the review have a cumulative effect. Considered together, they clearly indicate to me that there is strong evidence that collusive acts were committed by the Army (Force Research Unit), the RUC Special Branch and the Security Service. I am satisfied that there is a need for a public inquiry."
Judge Cory, therefore, categorically found sufficient evidence of collusion to warrant a public inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder. He further recommended that a public inquiry should take place without delay. And very importantly, he also set out clearly the type of public inquiry required - that provided for in the 1921 Tribunal of Inquiries Act.
Regrettably the British Government has failed to set up the type of public inquiry recommended by Judge Cory. Instead the UK Inquires Act 2005 was passed by the British Parliament last April. The British Government insists that the Finucane inquiry will be held under this Act - and this Act alone - and are preparing arrangements accordingly.
This is not acceptable to the family, to this Government, to the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg, nor to the many international human rights groups who support the Finucane case. Rarely has a case received such widespread domestic and international support. Mrs Finucane will appear again next week before US Congressional hearings in Washington, and my Department is privileged to be able to assist her in arranging meetings on Capitol Hill.
As the Taoiseach has made very clear, the Inquiries Act does not meet the standard set by Judge Cory, nor the understanding reached at Weston Park. There are many difficulties with the new legislation. An inquiry held under it will simply not be regarded as sufficiently independent, nor transparent, given the potential use of Restriction Notices and the potential degree of Ministerial control. Judge Cory himself repeated these concerns two weeks ago in Belfast. I would like to remind the House that, in the sole case in this jurisdiction where Judge Cory recommended a public inquiry, it is being held under the 1921 Act, namely the Breen & Buchanan Inquiry chaired by Justice Peter Smithwick.
The Government has made clear our opposition to the British proposals, both bilaterally and through international fora. We will continue to do so, in London, in Washington, in Belfast and elsewhere. I have consistently raised this case with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, who met with the Finucane family last month. I regret to say that, in his recent reply to the family, the Secretary of State again failed to address the family's fundamental concerns.
The position of the Government remains firm and emphatic - we wish the British Government to establish a full, independent and public judicial inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane, and nothing less.
I commend this motion to the House."
"That Dáil Éireann:
Recalling the brutal murder of solicitor, Patrick Finucane at his home in Belfast on 12 February 1989;
Noting the on-going allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British security forces in the murder of Mr Finucane;
Recalling 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 held under the UK Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921;
Noting 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;
Recalling that in his conclusions, Judge Cory set out the necessity and importance of a public inquiry into this case and that the failure to hold a public inquiry as quickly as reasonably possible could be seen as a denial of the agreement at Weston Park;
Noting that the limited form of inquiry under the UK Inquiries Act 2005, proposed by the British Government has been rejected as inadequate by Judge Cory, the Finucane family, the Government and human rights groups;
1. Commends the Finucane family for their courageous campaign to seek the truth in this case of collusion;
2. Deeply regrets the British Government's failure to honour its commitment to implement Judge Cory's recommendation in full;
3. Welcomes the sustained support of successive Governments and all parties for the Finucane family over the past decade in their efforts to find the truth behind the murder;
4. Acknowledges the work of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Human Rights in highlighting this case;
5. Welcomes the Taoiseach's commitment and efforts in pursuing the case with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair;
6. Endorses the Government's international efforts at highlighting the case in the US, at the United Nations and at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg,
7. Calls on the British Government to reconsider its position on the Finucane case to take full account of the family's objections and amend the UK Inquiries Act 2005;
8. 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 family and the wider community throughout Ireland and abroad.
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