Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 26 November 2020
Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement
Establishment of an Independent Public Inquiry into the Murder of Pat Finucane: Motion
Apologies have been received from Senators Annie Hoey and Frances Black.
I wish to explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege and the practice of the Houses as regards reference witnesses may make to other persons in their evidence. The contributions of witnesses who are physically present or who give evidence from within the parliamentary precincts are protected pursuant to the Constitution and statute by absolute privilege. A number of MPs are participating remotely on a regular basis from a place outside the parliamentary precincts and, as such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness physically present does. MPs participating in this committee session from a jurisdiction outside the State have been advised that they should always be mindful of their domestic law and how it may apply to their participation in proceedings.
There is, of course, no change in regard to the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person or persons outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. That is the standard instruction on privilege and there is nothing unusual about it.
I request members to sit only in the assigned seats. Members are requested to turn off their mobile phones or put them on flight mode for the duration of the meeting as they can interfere with the sound.
This is an important meeting. It has been called to discuss a very important issue in regard to the late Pat Finucane. Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has submitted a motion in regard to the late Pat Finucane. I call on the Senator to move the motion.
That this committee 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 the people on the island of Ireland, and all persons committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law worldwide.
With the agreement of the Chair, I will defer my speaking time in favour of the Member for North Belfast, John Finucane.
Mr. John Finucane:
I am grateful to my colleague and I am also grateful to the clerk of the committee for the effort in facilitating this meeting today.
In October 2011, I sat in 10 Downing Street, along with my mother and the rest of my family, as we listened to the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, explain to us and apologise for the collusion which took place and occurred between the British state and the killers who came into our house and killed my father. That, for me, was one of the most significant points within our 31-year campaign.
If I can go back to February 1989, as a family, we sat, like many other families, enjoying our Sunday dinner around the kitchen table. I, my brother, my sister, my mother and my father were there when two gunmen burst in and shot my father 14 times and shot my mother once in front of us all. While I have spoken before about that incident and, in fact, losing a parent in any circumstances is life changing and traumatic, no matter what the circumstances, from the outset, as a family, we had questions to ask.
My father was a human rights lawyer. In the lead-up to his death, he had been threatened numerous times and this was relayed to him via his clients, who were held in infamous holding centres such as Castlereagh. While he maybe dismissed that as an interrogation technique designed to unnerve the client, things very much changed a matter of weeks before, when a British Government Minister, Douglas Hogg, made a statement in the House of Commons, having been briefed by senior members of the RUC, that there were a number of solicitors who were unduly sympathetic to the IRA.
My mother and father did not have any time to react to that statement. The significance of it hit home to them straight away but, within a matter of weeks, he was dead. He had been killed in front of us all. The context of the time meant that as a family we had questions. That is all we started off doing; we asked questions. Over time, more and more evidence arose, through the work of investigative journalists, our legal team and those who supported us from an early stage.
The term "collusion" evolved naturally from that campaign. "Collusion" is a neutral word, at times, to describe the activity we saw in front our eyes. My experience growing up in the 1990s in Belfast was that even to utter the word "collusion", you were viewed in a certain way. You were viewed as a republican propagandist. There was no such thing as collusion. It did not happen. That evolved into the idea that there were one or two bad apples in an otherwise healthy barrel.
To sit in front of the British Prime Minister in 2011 and have the collusion accepted at the highest levels of the British State was of a significance that can never be overstated. We no longer talk about allegations or suspicions of collusion; we talk about a practice that has been accepted at the very highest level. The support we have received throughout our 31-year campaign has been extraordinary.
I wish to use my platform today to thank everybody who has and continues to support us. I will not give an exhaustive list but any non-governmental organisation that has concerned itself with human rights on this island has backed our calls for an inquiry. Legal and human rights groups around the world have backed our calls for an inquiry. Political parties have backed our calls for an inquiry, as have political institutions. We have had judicial victories. Significantly, there has also been governmental support. I particularly point out and thank the Irish Government and successive Irish governments for their support.
That support led us on a journey that has had numerous investigations and I deliberately use the word "investigations", not "inquiries". We have had investigations under the authority of the UK's then most senior police officer, John Stevens, now Lord Stevens, who carried out three investigations examining security force collusion with loyalist killers. His third and final investigation led to the production of more than 1 million documents, yet the majority of that remains in secret. However, his conclusions were significant - that there was collusion and that agents were involved in crimes up to and including murder. Significantly, at the time he reported, he said with confidence that he had seen everything, that he had had access to all of the secret documents and that his report was the authoritative version of what happened to Pat Finucane.
Our journey then brought us much further on and became part of the Weston Park peace talks between the political parties on this island and also the British and Irish Governments. These governments, with no input from us, picked six cases to be examined by an international judicial figure. If that figure recommended an inquiry, then the relevant jurisdiction would have an inquiry. Of those six, five inquiries were recommended; of those five, one related to this State and four to the British state.
At a time this country was bordering on bankruptcy and had zero money, the Irish Government understood its duties. It understood the significance and importance of peace and reconciliation and that it needed to fulfil the promise it had signed up to. That led to the Smithwick tribunal. Of the four that were recommended to the British state, we have already had inquiries into the killings of Billy Wright, Rosemary Nelson, another human rights lawyer who was killed, and Robert Hamill. The fourth case, which remains outstanding, is the case of my father. It is the case that has met with the most resistance from the British state.
We then embarked again on a campaigning journey to force the British Government into doing something and finally grasping the very difficult issue that it faces in the murder of my father. That led us to where I started my comments today, which is October 2011, when the then British Prime Minister apologised for collusion. He explained to us that he was a young man in 1989, that he did not have any particular bias as to how he would approach this issue and that is why he felt the best way to look at this would be a review of the papers by a barrister. It is fair say that the meeting went sour at that point. We felt that while de Silva ended up being a very significant document, the methodology was flawed from the outset. Sir Desmond de Silva, no matter what his credentials were, did not have the power to force anybody to attend in front of him or to force anybody to provide documents. He relied solely on the goodwill and honesty of the very services and agencies we were accusing of murder, which, by that stage, had accepted that they were culpable in the murder of my father. The de Silva report, nonetheless, is a significant documentary. I urge members of this committee, if they have not already, to run their eye over that document. He had access to primary source material from the intelligence agencies. He came up with some shocking conclusions, including that more than 85% of all loyalist intelligence was security force documents. He confirmed what we already knew: the person who came into our house that evening was an agent of the state; the person who supplied the weapon was an agent of the state; and, in fact, the person who supplied the intelligence, not just for the murder of my father, but for the murder of many others was not just an agent of the state but had been recruited from Germany to go back specifically to carry out that role within the loyalist paramilitaries. That was a man called Brian Nelson, since deceased.
The conclusions of de Silva were shocking but where we differed from the British Government is that it felt there was very much a full stop after the name Pat Finucane as a result of de Silva report. We accepted that report was significant but it begs more questions and it answers. Our analysis, which was shared by our supporters, was that it was a significant stepping stone to what should be a full inquiry but the British Government was not for moving on this. They made it very clear that they would not re-examine the case of my father and, as such, we were left with no other option but to initiate legal proceedings. We judicially reviewed the Government's position in presenting us with de Silva instead of a full inquiry.
I do not need to take this committee through the entire history of those legal proceedings. We worked our way from the high court in Belfast to the court of appeal and, ultimately, the supreme court, which gave its judgment in February 2019. I imagine that most members of this committee will be aware, certainly with the news this week, that our supreme court judgment in 2019 was significant and it was a victory. The importance of that judgment is that the supreme court was completely unambiguous in saying that every single previous investigation that had taken place up to that point was not compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It did not meet the international legal and human rights obligations the British Government is bound by. It was significant because we say there is only one option left for the British Government, namely, to have the inquiry they promised to my family and to the Irish Government, the inquiry they have put all their time, efforts and considerable resources into resisting for 30 years.
The judgment issued in February 2019 to the British Government. It was a complicated judgment and we accept that but, as a family and with our lawyer, we were able to get our heads around it fairly quickly. The British Government said they needed time to consider and digest it. We allowed them some time and, in July last year, we were again forced - I think, quite cruelly - to go back to court to force the government to respond to a judgment of the highest court within their own jurisdiction. That led to commentary from the high court in Belfast at the beginning of this month. The judge, Mr. Justice Gerry McAlinden, was absolutely scathing of the British Government response. He described it as adding insult to injury: the injury being the very deliberate targeting and taking of my father's life and the insult being that we are forced to go to court to force the British Government to respond to the supreme court judgment.
It reminded me that when Judge Peter Cory presented his recommendations to the British and Irish Governments, the British Government refused to tell us even what his recommendation was. In an act that sums up that man and also shows his great sense of humanity, Judge Cory found that cruel and intolerable and he phoned our family to say that, while he could not discuss the contents of the report, he found it incredibly cruel that we had to go to court to find out what his recommendation was. He told us that he was firmly recommending an inquiry. However, 20 to 25 years later, we found ourselves in court again, forcing the British Government to do the most basic of things, namely, to respond to a judicial judgment from their own courts. At the beginning of this month, they accepted that they had delayed, they apologised for that delay and they committed to responding to the supreme court by 30 November.
That is a matter of days away and within that very short window, we have been trying to revisit our supporters who have been so firm and loyal in their support over the past 31 years. I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody. Dr. Farry from the Alliance Party is here. He signed the motion letter last weekend on behalf of his party. I also want to thank the Green Party, the SDLP, Sinn Féin, the British Labour Party and the Irish Government. Last night we saw yet another example of the Irish Government's firm support. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, was in the Seanad to debate a motion tabled by my colleague, Senator Ó Donnghaile, which received unanimous support in the House. I am grateful to those who signed that motion and to all who spoke in support of it.
On Monday of this week, we met Deputy Micheál Martin for the first time in his role as Taoiseach and, again, he was unequivocal and unambiguous in confirming his personal support. He had dealt with this matter when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs previously. Now, in his role as Taoiseach, he again confirmed his firm commitment to my family on this issue. He did not need us to explain to him the significance and importance of, and the need for, an inquiry into the murder of my father. He committed to engaging with the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on the issue and I understand has already done so.
We are now days away from the British Government announcing its response to the Supreme Court judgment. I have outlined today, all week and all month that our position remains the same. We want a fully independent, public judicial inquiry as a mechanism of last resort. It is the only mechanism in this case that can fully grasp all of the issues that led to the murder of my father. It would be remiss of me to focus my comments today solely on my father. If this system was put in place to kill one person, we would not be here 31 years later; this matter would have been dealt with a long time ago. Some people have suggested that the system was broken but I disagree. I think the system worked perfectly because the system was designed to do just what it did in our house on 12 February and in so many other houses. Make no mistake about it; collusion was not something that affected one side of the community and not the other. Collusion visited all sides of the community and, in fact, visited all parts of this island. This State has suffered from the effects of collusion, whether that is the Dublin-Monaghan bombings or the murder of my colleague in Donegal. Whenever the state's own actions are being questioned, it is incumbent upon that state, if it is serious about truth and reconciliation, democracy and moving a society out of conflict, to grasp that issue, no matter how difficult.
Legacy as a whole is a mess at the minute because we have a previous political agreement the British Government has reneged on. It is exceptionally cruel. No matter where in the world a family is from or who in the world their loved one was, if they mourn and demand answers for the circumstances surrounding the killing of a loved one, they deserve that. They deserve it, no matter who they are and no matter what the circumstances are. The sooner we deal with legacy in our society, the better. My mother has described it previously as a very deep wound and that is apt. Legacy remains a very deep wound in our society. One does not treat a deep wound by putting a sticking plaster over it. If one does that, the wound festers, gets infected, gets poisonous, bursts and seeps out. The way to heal a deep wound, no matter how painful, is to go to the root of the wound and treat it. Legacy will be the same. It will be difficult. Nobody underestimates how difficult it will be but believe me, my family is ready to deal with it. The other families that I speak to, who have suffered loss, are also ready to deal with it.
At this time it is incumbent on the British Government to heed the words of my family but if it continues to ignore my family, then it needs to listen to those around the world who continue to support us. Just this morning, a US congressional letter with 24 signatures was sent to the British Prime Minister. We are, again, very grateful for that support, which was forthcoming within a very short space of time. We have a president-elect who was previously the chairman of the US foreign relations committee when a motion that began its political life in this House worked its way across the Atlantic and received bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress, including from the then Senator, Joe Biden. The British Government needs to heed and read the room in terms of where this issue is going. It is not going away. As my mother said and as Senator Ó Donnghaile very eloquently put it in the Seanad last night, we are no longer interested in who pulled the trigger; we want to know who pulled the strings. It is now time for the British Government to live up to the promises it made previously.
I thank Mr. Finucane for his clear and incisive summary of the situation for his family and indeed, the whole country. As he rightly said, successive Irish Governments have fully supported the call for an independent inquiry, particularly in view of the commitment given at Weston Park in 2001. It is absolutely imperative that this committee now discusses the motion.
I thank Mr. John Finucane for his presentation and I thank him and his family for the fight they have fought for the past 31 years. I am sure that it was a lonely road to travel. I have memories of John's dad as a young lad growing up in north Donegal. I remember the stature of the man. Every time I saw him on the television, I could see he was a man with great presence. He was also, obviously, a champion of human and civil rights. Though it was never his intention, he obviously instilled fear and things happened as a result.
This is a very important week for the Finucane family and I am delighted that they have received such widespread support. I must commend other parties in the House and the Government on collectively getting behind this motion, as they should. I am delighted that the Taoiseach met John and his mum on Monday and gave them his full support. I believe he is working diligently behind the scenes with the British Government and I hope these efforts are fruitful. The way the family was treated by David Cameron demonstrated his weakness as a leader. It was awful leadership to meet the family and apologise but not set up an inquiry. I hope that all of the work and effort that has been put in over 31 years is fruitful in the coming days. Mr. Finucane's delivery in Dublin and his timing is perfect. I must also give credence to Mr. Colum Eastwood. What he did at Westminster in the past week was a very important move. This collective political approach is very welcome and I hope and pray that it brings results. It is important for us as a nation and for the Finucanes as a family, particularly given what John's dad was - a champion of civil rights.
Mr. Colum Eastwood:
I thank John for his very powerful presentation. Nobody can talk about this issue in the way that he can. What the Finucane family has had to go through, not just on that terrible night in 1989, but over the past 30-odd years and the way they have been treated by the British Government and by elements of the media, has been nothing short of despicable and disgraceful.
The bottom line in this whole issue, in the short period of time I have, is that the British Government killed Pat Finucane and they killed many other people. They organised his murder because they saw him as a threat. Any state that does that and then continues to cover up that very fact needs to be held to account. There is widespread support across our island and in Westminster, and right around the world, for a full public judicial inquiry. Nothing else will do and nothing else will be acceptable. As John has said, it is not because the Finucanes feel that they are any more important or that their grief is any more important than anybody else's. They feel the exact opposite. It is because this particular murder gets to the very core of the British Government's activities in Ireland. I believe that it is possible, with a full public judicial inquiry, to prove that the British Government, as has already been accepted by David Cameron and many others, was very much involved in the murder of its own citizens in Ireland. This is an indictment upon that Government that needs to be rectified.
Looking back at the Weston Park talks, as John has noted the other inquiries that were granted have taken place and have reported. The only one that has not is the one that gets right to the heart of the British Government's involvement in the North of Ireland. That is very deliberate and is a shocking approach for any government to take. It has made a promise to this family. It has made a promise to the people who want to see an inquiry. They have totally and utterly reneged on that, as John has already observed. I will not say more than has John, except to state there is a number of days left for this British Government to do this. It has not done it for decades. It has not lived up to the responsibilities it signed up to at Weston Park. It has an opportunity now, in the dying days of this month, to finally and once and for all do what it has to do, which is to announce a full public judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Nothing less will be enough.
As John has said, this is not going away. Those of us who support this campaign will not stop campaigning for it and will not stop supporting Pat Finucane's family. It is all set within the context of the British Government reneging on another promise, which was the agreement it made with the Irish Government and the parties in the North at Stormont House. It has very deliberately avoided having any level of accountability put onto its own actions, as carried out during the conflict in Northern Ireland. That cannot be allowed to stand. Our society cannot take it. We cannot leave the victims outside the room anymore. I do not believe we can fully or properly move on in a spirit of partnership and reconciliation unless we embrace the truth of what actually happened during those terrible years. That requires those people who know the most to come forward with that truth. Nothing else will do. We cannot leave the victims who suffered the most in all of this out in the cold and sacrificed at the altar of political expediency because of the Tory backbenchers or because of secrets that people do not want to come out. I do not believe we can properly move forward unless we do. The British Government has an opportunity in the dying days of this month to do the right thing for once and for all, and it should do it.
I again say "hello" to Mr. Finucane. John also heard me speak last night. I very much support the motion from last night and the motion today. He will see from everyone that it is very heartfelt. It is absolutely the time for the UK Government to do the right thing. It has been far too long. It has taken more than 20 years to do so. It needs to deliver on a commitment it made at Weston Park. The delay is unjustifiable. The shocking levels of State collusion have been established. This is really significant and not just for the Finucane family. It is also, as Mr. Finucane has said himself in a very generous way, much bigger than that. When the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, spoke on the Seanad motion last night, he said this is such a significant decision it will "be a powerful demonstration of the commitment of the UK Government to truth, recovery and the rule of law, even in the most difficult of cases." That is what we need across the board.
I talked about the importance of the Stormont House Agreement in last night's debate and about the principles that underline the Stormont House Agreement. I feel that reconciliation and legacy is the most important thing that we as a committee and we as a people need to speak up to and take on. We have to try to heal the past, as the pain is too evident in the present. Mr. Finucane has been a voice for that today. It is a reminder to all of us of the really important work we do in this committee. I reiterate what a significant week this is. I truly hope that the UK Government will do the right thing with regard to the Stormont House Agreement and that instead of what we saw in March, which was not about putting victims first or about putting reconciliation first, this will be an opportunity to put those things first.
Dr. Stephen Farry:
I want to recognise the way in which John Finucane set out the case this morning and in so doing, to pay tribute to his entire family for the dignity with which they have pursued justice in this case over the past 31 years.
It is important that this is not framed as a nationalist issue. This is an issue that affects everybody across these islands. It is an issue pertaining to the rule of law, human rights and due process. It is important they are understood as being building blocks of all societies and that they are particularly relevant to how we can move forward collectively, as a set of islands, over the coming years.
On the Supreme Court ruling in February 2019, while it was not prescriptive around a public inquiry, it is our belief that it is the only logical conclusion one can derive from what was said. We believe that the UK Government has an obligation to follow through in that regard, and we want to see the Secretaries of State making this clear between now and the deadline of Monday next week.
Some people have made comments as to why there would be a public inquiry in this case and not other cases. I am very conscious of the number of victims in the violence we have seen over the past decades. It is worth stressing again that it is the nature of the issues at stake, and the context of this killing, that make it so pertinent that the issues are fully tested in a public inquiry, that the murder of Pat Finucane is properly acknowledged, and that the underlying context behind it is fully exposed. This is fundamental to ensuring that we have a just and reconciled society going forward. As with other speakers, I must stress the importance of the Stormont House Agreement being implemented and the concern we share around the default we have seen from the UK Government in that regard over the past months.
I have very little to say on this other than to express my deep regret at the loss of Mr. Finucane's father, a man who was doing his best for the society he worked in. It is simply not good enough that it has dragged on all of these years. I know that colleagues in Sinn Féin have always felt that there should be a truth commission to go back over some of the things that happened during the troubled years.
This was particularly a heinous crime insofar as the man who was targeted and taken out was doing nothing other than the job he was being paid to do. It must have been absolutely horrendous for John Finucane and his family to grow up knowing that their father was, for the want of a better description, taken out because he was a pain to society.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the Seanad debate last night. I join colleagues here, however, to demand that the British Government steps up to the plate and faces what has to be faced. The truth is there. It is time the British Government came out and had a judicial inquiry. We need to get it out in the open once and for all. Some terrible things were done by official forces, the people who should have been protecting both sides of the community. Official forces sided, as it suited them, with different sides, especially when it came to the murder of Pat Finucane. It was a heinous thing to do. All I can do is express my deepest sympathy to John Finucane and his family. I assure him that what little influence I have I will use in any way I can to push for a full inquiry.
Mr. Chris Hazzard:
John Finucane has outlined the parameters of this discussion eloquently and powerfully. Others have added their own important points. I suggest that we as a committee, on the back of this today, write to the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, outlining our position unanimously as a committee that a fully independent judicial public inquiry needs to take place.
I compliment John Finucane on presenting the case with such clarity and great composure. It cannot be easy to recount the events around the murder of one's father at the dinner table in one's own home, an event also witnessed by his mother and siblings. It goes without saying the pain and the appalling circumstances that his family were thrown into due to that awful murder and the collusion that brought it about.
As my colleague, Senator Blaney said, the Fianna Fáil Party believes there has to be a full public inquiry. I heartily endorse Senator Ó Donnghaile's motion. As has been said by colleagues, this is an important week as the Secretary of State indicated he would make a decision on this matter before the end of the month. I agree the deliberations and the outcome of this meeting should be conveyed to the Office of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and that the Seanad and an Oireachtas committee are calling for a full public inquiry.
Successive Governments have reaffirmed this position since the agreement was made in Weston Park in 2001. When two sovereign Governments make an agreement, it is expected that it will be honoured. The Irish Government has honoured its part of the agreement. It is way beyond time that the British Government honoured the commitment it made.
John Finucane, along with this mother and other family members, have campaigned with great dignity and courage over the years. It cannot be easy always to maintain such dignity and composure. He exemplified that so well here this morning with his powerful presentation.
I listened to the Taoiseach on Leaders' Questions on Tuesday when he said he met John Finucane and his mother on Monday. The Taoiseach said the full weight of his office would be behind the Finucane family in its quest and campaigning efforts to get a full public inquiry. There has been international interest and support for John Finucane's efforts. The intervention of the committee of ministers at the Council of Europe in September was an important one.
It is sad we have to be discussing such an issue 31 years after the murder of John Finucane's father and so many years after an agreement made between two sovereign governments that has not been honoured. As Senator Craughwell said, there were other horrendous deeds, loss of life and injury inflicted on so many people due to collusion, along with atrocities perpetrated and supported by state forces. The committee has often discussed the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. The Oireachtas has on several occasions unanimously appealed to the British Government to give an independent legal person access to the papers surrounding the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, the atrocities and activities of the Glenanne gang, as well as other atrocities which took place in my constituency in Cavan-Monaghan and throughout Northern Ireland. These are all legacy issues that need to be addressed, no matter how painful it is for whoever or for whatever state organisation. The truth has to be uppermost in everybody's efforts.
Today we are concentrating on this motion. Again, I compliment John Finucane and his family on the great dignity with which they have carried out their campaign. We sincerely hope that the campaign for a full public inquiry will be reached within days. I thank him again for this presentation.
It was nice to meet John Finucane properly last year. I must hold my hands up and say that my lack of knowledge of what happened to his family and father was slim to none compared with what I have learned this week. There is no point in me trying to say otherwise. I was not even born when John Finucane's father was so cruelly taken away from him.
I was hanging on every word of John Finucane earlier. What really struck me was trying to imagine the horror visited upon his home that Sunday afternoon when his family was sitting down to dinner. When we talk about collusion and recognising the other families affected, it reminded me of my own part of the world where Seamus Ludlow was murdered in 1976 through collusion.
It is galling in the extreme when one thinks of the lengths the Finucane family has had to go to, speaking to legislators across the world, whether in the US Congress or the Oireachtas, trying to bring a Government, which made a clear-cut commitment to the family, to deliver on what was promised so long ago. Personally, I hope John Finucane gets the answer he deserves before 30 November.
Moving forward, there are more people with more experience on Northern Ireland than I have, but the only way to bring real reconciliation to Northern Ireland is when the clear facts of what happened right across all communities are put on the table, are acknowledged and not hidden or forgotten or, what the British Government is doing, pushed to one side.
I am annoyed I did not contribute to last night's Seanad debate. I was watching it on the TV in my office because I felt it was more appropriate for colleagues like Senator Currie and others within my party with a more in-depth knowledge of it to contribute. It was wonderful to meet John Finucane last week and I look forward to working with him on this committee into the future. I hope from the bottom of my heart that he gets the answers he deserves before 30 November.
I thank John Finucane for his presentation today. This committee deals with the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement after the culmination of decades of terrible conflict in the North of our island which seeped into the rest of this island and into Britain.
All of us acknowledge the immense hurt and pain. I speak as the son of a man who was in prison for nine years as an IRA prisoner. As an Irish republican, I am aware of the immense hurt and pain the IRA caused to many families across the North of Ireland. The reason for the particular emphasis on the case of Pat Finucane is that the missing piece in the jigsaw is the profound role of the British Government and the British state in our conflict. Thanks to the diligence and determination of families like the Finucanes and others over many decades, it is now incontrovertible that the British state and its intelligence agencies, or security agencies as it presented them, were controlling, arming, financing and directing unionist and loyalist paramilitaries to kill across the North of Ireland. The Finucane case is the most obvious one of them all because of the multiplicity of agencies involved in co-ordinating that political assassination and murder.
The final piece of the jigsaw in dealing with the conflict and the legacy of that conflict, the immense hurt and pain inflicted on so many people by all sides, is the British Government and the apparatus of the British state putting up their hands and admitting that they were a central component of that conflict, and apologising for that. It was not a few rotten apples or a few loose cannons here or there. They were a central controlling component.
When this case reaches its conclusion, as it surely will, the full truth will be known, and justice will be done for all the people of these islands so that we can heal and build a better country. I heartily commend the Finucane family on the service they are doing for all our people. Dr. Farry is absolutely right that this is not just a nationalist issue. This is an issue of healing for all of us looking for the full truth to come out. I thank Mr. Finucane.
I again thank Mr. Finucane. No matter how often one hears the story of his mother and the rest of the family, it still sounds as horrific as ever. What he said about the system working perfectly stood out for me. It certainly worked perfectly. It is a system that is allowing the British Government to stop the truth from being revealed. The consequences of this stretch far across the island. This is probably one of the only legacy issues on which there is a unified approach across the island. Of course, it is not just across the island. It is also for the Irish in Britain and many of the British in Britain as well. I know we only have hours left. In summing up, Mr. Finucane might outline what our diaspora can do, particularly the Irish in Britain, in these hours to put pressure on the British Government to do the right thing. It is never too late to do the right thing. I thank the Chairman for facilitating this morning's meeting and I thank everybody who took part.
I thank Mr. Finucane for coming here this morning and for outlining his story with such dignity. As a child, I remember the murder of his father. It penetrated my consciousness even as a child because it was so horrific. I am so sorry for Mr. Finucane and his family. As a member of this committee entirely committed to the rule of law, I recognise this is the right thing. It has to happen. It has always been the right thing. I very much hope for Mr. Finucane and his family that this happens now in the last few days before the deadline.
This is a very important meeting of our committee. Our job is to have oversight of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. We can make suggestions and proposals, and adopt motions such as today's motion. Senator Ó Donnghaile has unanimous support on the motion. As Deputy Brendan Smith said, it must be very traumatic for all Mr. Finucane's family, particularly his mother, for this not to be addressed appropriately by organs of the state which had all the so-called legitimacy of the state behind its actions.
While this committee has representatives from different parties, we all agree that truth and justice are an essential part of the healing of our island. As Mr. Finucane said, that truth and justice form part of finding a permanent solution to the problems. Deputy Mac Lochlainn rightly referred to atrocities on all sides. All murders were absolutely wrong. Violence on this island perpetrated by anybody is wrong. Particularly in this case, which is the subject of today's debate, it is absolutely unacceptable.
I also live in a Border constituency. As a young person, I remember the hooded bodies on the Border. I think of people like Jean McConville, who lay in an unmarked grave for over 30 years. Along with Mr. Finucane, the families of all those people who died as a result of the appalling tragedies that were visited upon them are entitled to their truth and justice. I wholeheartedly support the motion which is entirely appropriate, and we are unanimous on that. The committee should strive to have justice and truth for the Finucane family and for all the other families to give them closure. That is essential so that our island can move forward together. At Weston Park, the British and Irish Governments gave an absolute commitment that a public inquiry would take place, but it has not. Until it does, there cannot be justice. No exception can be made to an agreement that is written and that is committed to. Mr. Finucane has our absolute support in all that.
I thank the Chairman and the clerk for their support in ensuring that this motion could be heard this morning. I thank colleagues from across the groups for their unanimous support for the motion. The same sentiment was reflected in the Seanad last night. It has been the position of these Houses and successive Irish governments for many decades. I know that support means a great deal to the Finucane family.
Members are right to reflect on the broader issue of legacy, truth recovery and justice. This committee has previously looked at the issue of legacy. We all need to redouble our efforts to ensure that the mechanisms agreed at Stormont House are implemented fully because that is what we all agreed or at least thought we had all agreed. Unfortunately, the only signatories to that agreement who are reneging on the agreement are the same people who are reneging on what they agreed at Weston Park. We need to be unified. We are at our best when we speak with one voice to ensure that pressure is brought to bear on behalf of the Finucane family and so many other families like them across the island and beyond.
The great strength of this committee is that Mr. Finucane is not here as a witness, but as a member and is speaking to this motion as a member. We are enriched as a committee and as an institution for having him do that. I am sure his mother and family are very proud of him coming here to do this today. Equally, his father would have been very proud of all his achievements in politics, law and life.
I am thankful to members for their support. When the motion is agreed, it is important that the secretariat issue a press release on it.
At the heart of this is a family and their request for justice for Pat. In the remaining days, before 30 November, there has been an important series of steps. It is testament to the tenacity and determination of the Finucane family that within a short period of days, one could have the four parties in the North write to the British Secretary of State, the Taoiseach meet with the family and come out publicly, the issue raised at Leaders' Questions, a motion agreed in the Seanad and this motion agreed this evening.
As I said last night, it is incumbent upon us to support this motion and this campaign, not just as elected representatives and parliamentarians, but as citizens and people who believe in and want to affirm and achieve full truth and justice. I am, therefore, grateful to colleagues. I will defer now to John.
Mr. John Finucane:
I will try to be brief. I thank everybody who spoke for their support. As a family, we are not naïve as to what we are up against, but I believe this very vocal support is important. It is as important here as it is in America and when it comes together, it builds a significant momentum. As I said, however, we are not naïve.
As part of the judicial review, which worked its way towards the Supreme Court, we were able to get disclosure of really interesting commentary and analysis from within the British Cabinet as to how it was going to deal with our case. This was not back in 1989 but at the time of Mr. David Cameron's decision. In its analysis, it described this as one of the darkest periods in its military history, worse than anything that has come out of Iraq and Afghanistan. While I do not think they are but if members are unclear at all or in any doubt as to the severity in which the British state analysed this case, then I believe that commentary goes some way to making it very clear.
I wish to finish by paying tribute to my mother. As somebody who is a parent himself, I can only imagine what it was like to raise three children in the context in which she had to, like so many other people in our society. To do that while trying to fight for justice for my father shows the measure of the woman I am very proud to call my mother. I was only able to say this with a degree of bravery by socially distancing from her on Monday when we met the Taoiseach, but she is not getting any younger and I had to be socially distanced from her when saying that. She was 39 when my father was killed and I was eight. They had the best years of their lives ahead of them. My eldest child is 18 and getting ready to go to university. He watched the debate last night in the Seanad. He should not have to do that. I wish he was not in the position where he was watching that debate last night and where he is probably going to listen to this debate later today.
One thing I would put into the heads of members is the generational impact of the failure to deal with legacy. Some families deal with it better than others, but no family should have to deal with it. It should not have to pass down from generation to generation. That applies to my family as much as it applies to every single family who has had the conflict visit them over the past 40 years. It is incumbent on the British Government to recognise that when it approaches how it will respond to my family. It is incumbent upon the British Government to recognise that, as it is on all political parties, when they approach legacy. We heard from my colleague that there is only one obstacle to the implementation of Stormont House which will, hopefully, provide closure for families right across the board, no matter where they come from.
No matter what we are presented with on Monday, when we meet the Secretary of State, the support we have received today and over the past number of weeks strengthens my family, whether we are engaging in the process of an inquiry or continuing our campaign. Make no mistake about it, we are not going anywhere, just as legacy is not going anywhere. I thank everybody for their comments today.
Is the motion agreed to? Agreed.
Given that all committee business is in the context of a report to each House, I propose the committee report to each House recommending it to take note of the motion agreed by this committee and, in view of the debate in the Seanad yesterday on this same motion, I propose the report recognises that debate and the decision of the Seanad accordingly. The report will still be laid before both Houses and a motion included on the Order Paper of the Dáil.
If it is agreed, we will go into private session.