FINUCANE FAMILY REJECT INQUIRY LEGISLATION
The family of Pat Finucane has announced that they cannot take
part in the proposed public inquiry, if it is held under the
terms of the draft legislation published by the British
The Belfast defence lawyer was shot dead in his west Belfast
home in 1989 by a gang of British military and police agents.
The family has described the new legislation as a considerable
departure from what was agreed in talks over three years ago.
The new laws will give ministers the power to hold public
inquiries in private on the grounds of "national security".
In a statement, the Finucane family said they were concerned
about the independence and the powers which the inquiry would
"Judge Cory recommended a public inquiry into the circumstances
surrounding Pat's murder and identified the 'basic requirements'
for a public inquiry," said the family.
"One of these requirements was stated to be that 'the tribunal
should have full power to subpoena witnesses and documents
together with all the powers usually exercised by a Commissioner
in a public inquiry'.
The family said that Clause 17 of the bill was a "wholesale
departure" from the Weston Park Agreement in 2001 and the Cory
Recommendation because it gives the British government the
overriding power to determine when the inquiry sits in private
and what material is to be withheld.
"These are self-evidently amongst the most important powers
exercised by inquiries," said the Finucane family.
It added: "In addition, and in order to be truly independent,
the tribunal will have to be international in character and be
composed of judges of standing equivalent to Judge Cory.
"The Finucane family cannot take part in any inquiry established
under these conditions."
The nationalist SDLP party also said the draft legislation had
confirmed the party's worst fears.
"This legislation totally undermines the independence of
inquiries. In reality, it ends public inquiries as we know
them," said party Assembly member, Alex Atwood. "In future they
will be government-controlled and government-censored. This is
an assault on democratic values."
The West Belfast MLA said the legislation would affect all
inquiries to be held in the North of Ireland Ireland and Great
"The SDLP is writing to all members of the House of Lords and
House of Commons to express our opposition. We hope to build a
coalition against this attack on openness, democracy and
transparency," he added.