Wednesday, 25 November 2020
Inquiry into the Murder of Mr. Patrick Finucane: Motion
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 fateful 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.
I welcome the Minister to the House and I welcome John Finucane MP, who is also present here this evening. I commend the family of Pat Finucane, who thought on many occasions in the recent past that they were one stop closer to truth, only for the process of truth recovery to be unnecessarily lengthened. This journey for truth began with the Weston Park Agreement in 2001, when six controversial killings, including Pat's murder, were recommended for review by Judge Cory. In 2004, he recommended a full public inquiry into Pat's murder and then in 2011, for the first time, Geraldine Finucane was personally invited by a British Prime Minister to 10 Downing Street. The hope of that day was dashed when David Cameron told her there would be no public inquiry. The sheer hurt and sense of betrayal felt by Geraldine that day on the steps of 10 Downing Street was, I am told, heartbreaking to witness. She later remarked:
My family and I were lured to Downing Street under false pretences. We thought we were going there to be given the inquiry that was promised.
We are all familiar with the phrase "justice delayed is justice denied" but for the Finucane family, not only has justice been delayed but there have been many false dawns. I have been a Member of this Chamber since 2016 and I know many debates and issues here are enhanced by activist lawyers in the same mould as Pat Finucane. Nearly all of us here regularly speak to advocates who are at the coalface of pertinent issues in their society.Their assistance is invaluable to our work.
Pat Finucane also used his voice and intellect to speak up for those who had no voice, whether through endemic discrimination or regressive censorship. Too often in this House and other Chambers, the lack of political progress in the North has been brushed off with lazy narratives of each side being as bad as the other. Tonight's motion makes absolutely clear that commitments agreed to in the past have been broken by the British Government. The motion before us calls on the British Government to fulfil these commitments. I hope that cross-party agreement on the motion would merit the Government coming back to us in the Seanad to set out what actions it has taken to maintain pressure on the British Government to act. Perhaps the Minister will outline how he will report on progress to the parties agreeing the motion tonight. I know the Finucane family's struggle to get to the truth is also on behalf of all of those awaiting a genuine truth recovery system on this island. I hope that when the British Government finally commits to a public inquiry, it will also reflect on the unrealised commitments in the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements. The talking and negotiating has been done already on these issues and we need concrete implementation.
I acknowledge our colleague, John Finucane, and all of the Finucane family for their courage and resilience. It is good to see the Minister and he is very welcome here.
So much has been written and spoken about this issue. In terms of reflecting what we know, we know Pat Finucane was a fine lawyer. We know he successfully challenged the British Government at the European Court of Human Rights over its incarceration policies in the mid-1970s. He was instrumental in galvanising opposition to the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which was facing a barrage of international criticism. We know he had been threatened several times by members of the RUC. We know, crucially, that four senior RUC men went to Douglas Hogg and specifically complained about Pat. Then, we had the infamous speech by Hogg in the Commons where he said he had to state as a fact but with great regret that there were a number of solicitors who were unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA. There were huge protests about that statement and Hogg went on to clarify that he had not been speaking of the legal profession in the North as a whole, which he had not been, but of course that was entirely the point. He was green lighting the assassination of one particular lawyer. As we know, less than four weeks later, two gunmen were striding down the Finucane's hallway opening fire.
We know Pat was shot dead by a loyalist gang that included at least four agents working for the special branch and MI5. Why was Pat murdered? Geraldine put it best. She said Pat was killed because he used the legal system for people who previously had no one to do that for them. People who are repressed generally do not have any representation but Pat was educated. He decided to become a lawyer and he wanted to give something back to his community. People who previously had no representation suddenly had someone to represent them.
When we think about the scale of what has happened and the refusal of the British State to acknowledge what has happened, it is important to reflect on the experiences of key personnel. John Stevens has already been mentioned and he made a key quote about his time in the North investigating collusion. He said in almost 30 years as a policeman he had never found himself caught up in such an entanglement of lies and treachery. It is shocking to think that of the 210 people arrested through his inquiry, all but three were employed by the British state, either in the army, the RUC, MI5, MI6 or indeed a combination of these. This points to the true story which still is largely hidden. It points to the constant refusal of the British Government to have this public inquiry and the shocking quote we have heard with regard to David Cameron. It begs the question: When a state force acts to murder an officer of its courts, how can it call itself a legitimate institutional democracy?
I have to say it is heartening to see unity on this issue from the Irish Government. I pay tribute to successive governments on the support they have given. Of course, the world is watching the British Government, including Amnesty International and the US Congress. As far back as 1999, Param Cumaraswamy, the then UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, stated "an inquiry could finally lay to rest the lingering doubts about this brutal murder, which has had a chilling effect on the independence of the legal profession in Northern Ireland". All that is being sought is the truth. If the British state fears or flinches from this, then its own people should fear it and its ability to administer justice into the future. Please, let us all unite here this evening to demand the full truth of this man's murder and the full extent of the collusion of the British state. A public inquiry must be the just demand of every Member of the Seanad.
The Minister is very welcome to the House and I thank him for taking time out of his hugely busy schedule to be here. It speaks volumes for the topic we are discussing. From a Fianna Fáil point of view, we believe there must be a full public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Such a public inquiry was provided for in an agreement reached between the Irish and British Governments in Weston Park in 2001, which is more than 19 years ago.
Pat Finucane was a husband, father, brother and son. He was also a highly successful lawyer. On 12 February 1989, while he was having supper with his wife and three children on a Sunday evening, gunmen burst into their north Belfast home and shot him no fewer than 14 times in an attack found to have involved state collusion.
This is an important week for the Finucane family. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, has committed to taking a decision on whether to order a public inquiry before the end of this month. On Monday, the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, sat down with Pat's wife, Geraldine, and her son, John, and made it very clear to them they would have the full weight of the Taoiseach's office and the entire Government behind their endeavours. Yesterday in the Dáil, the Taoiseach also highlighted how in September the Council of Europe's committee of ministers expressed its deep concern that a decision has still not been made by the United Kingdom authorities on how to respond to the UK Supreme Court judgment of 2019. The Taoiseach went on to say:
There is a very important aspect to this also. Where sovereign governments enter into agreements, they should be adhered to and followed through. The Irish Government at the time entered into its commitments and it established the Smithwick inquiry, irrespective of where it would land and without fear or favour. The same should apply to the UK Government.
It should apply to any government, for that matter. The Taoiseach has pledged to engage with the British Prime Minister on this issue, making it very clear the consistent view of successive Irish governments that there should and must be a full public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
It was also constructive that, last weekend, four of the parties in Northern Ireland called on the British Government to hold a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Green Party have sent a joint letter to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, urging him to act in the public interest by holding a public inquiry. It is signed by Stormont deputy First Minister and Sinn Féin party leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, Alliance Party MP, Stephen Farry, and the leader of the Green Party in the North, Claire Bailey. In October, the British Labour Party urged the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to act without delay and order a public inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane. Shadow Northern Ireland secretary of state, Louise Haigh, has also written to Mr. Johnson pressing him to call a public inquiry.
For more than 30 years, Geraldine Finucane and her family have campaigned tirelessly to get to the truth of what happened to Pat. It has been a long journey and they have conducted it with great dignity and determination. The Irish Government has walked with them on that journey and we will continue to do so until the commitments entered into at Weston Park are honoured.That is our sincere commitment.
No one should ever try to hold back or cloud over the truth. Many families in Northern Ireland strive to this day to find out what happened to their loved ones and to lift the stone so that the truth will be exposed for all to see. I am thinking this evening of the many families from across the political divide. I am thinking of my county of Monaghan, where the search continues for Columba McVeigh on Bragan Mountain. Every family is entitled to the truth so that they can move on and try to get on with their lives.
I thank the Minister for coming into the House this evening. John Finucane is very welcome also. This is a very important week for the Finucane family, Anglo-Irish relations and, in my opinion, for justice. I absolutely support this motion. I think of the Finucane family sitting at their dinner table and such normality of a Sunday evening and then to have their father and husband brutally and viciously murdered, their lives destroyed and their futures changed forever. For 30 years, Geraldine Finucane and her family have campaigned tirelessly, with great dignity and incredible determination.
How many times do citizens of this country and Members of this Oireachtas have to stand up in one of these Houses and ask the UK Government to act with integrity and decency towards Ireland and its citizens? It seems relentless. I am sick of the UK Government not adhering to agreements with Irish Governments. For my entire life I have been acutely aware of the British Government treating Irish citizens with disdain. We are our own people. We have our own sovereignty. Are they not ashamed of themselves at this stage? They purport to uphold the law but when it comes to Ireland we see that time and again they do not consider us as sovereign people and do not believe they should have to uphold basic international agreements. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, has committed to take a decision on a public inquiry before the end of November. He should not be making that decision. They already agreed to it.
We are coming to a time in our history where we need to start healing. There have been centuries of hurt, betrayal, lies and secrets. Last weekend, we commemorated Bloody Sunday in 1920. Tears rolled down the faces of many people, mine included, looking at the commemoration in Croke Park. My sons were devastated to think that the British Army could do something like that. They were horrified that children were murdered. One of them said, "Mammy, those wee boys did not get to grow up".
Over the past 100 years, many people in this country had to grow up and grow old without their husband, wife, parent, brother, sister, aunts or uncles. There is no hierarchy of pain or heartache. There is no hierarchy of justice or truth. No one person's truth is worth more than another's. There are secrets and hurt around many corners in this country. Violence has caused hurt. The secrets behind that violence cause endless hurt, bitterness and an inability to move or even grieve properly. The families need the truth. They deserve the truth and that truth needs to come from every side.
Being from Cooley, in north Louth, I am constantly reminded of Jean McConville. I played on the beach on which she was buried. Did I play on top of her unmarked grave? Did I play and build sand castles on top of the hopes, dreams and futures of her children from whom she was so viciously stolen? Somebody somewhere can give answers to the McConville family and yet they do not. Somebody somewhere can give answers to the Oliver family on the murder of Tom Oliver and yet they do not. Somebody somewhere can give the answers to the families of all the Disappeared and yet they do not. Somebody somewhere can give answers to the family of murdered Paul Quinn and yet they do not. The list goes on.
The British Government can provide truth and give answers and yet it keeps refusing to do so. We need the truth from everyone. We need the truth about the victims of violence on every side. We will never heal on this island with the gaping wounds of betrayal, distrust and heartache if these secrets are left open
Before I call the Minister, on behalf of all Members I want to welcome John Finucane to the Chamber. We are honoured to have him here for this debate. I want to pay tribute to him and his family, in particular his mother on her resilience and courage and everyone else on their the relentless pursuit of justice on behalf of his father. I am sure he would be delighted with his achievements and, who knows, some day he might be a Deputy representing North Belfast in this Chamber.
I would also like to welcome John Finucane, MP, and his family, in particular his mother, who I know are watching remotely.
I welcome this opportunity on behalf of the Government to speak in support of this motion. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have had the opportunity to meet with Geraldine and the Finucane family to discuss their campaign to secure justice for Pat. Most recently, I spoke with them at the beginning of this month. On each occasion I have seen the Finucane family's strength, determination and dignity as they seek to uncover the full truth about Pat's murder. I am sure that the passing of time since that terrible act has done little to dull the pain that they must continue to feel. That pain has been exacerbated by the long wait and the necessity of their long campaign over more than 30 years asking for the full truth of that day to be brought to light.
Almost two decades ago, in 2001, at Weston Park, the Irish and British Governments agreed to hold inquiries into a number of cases where security force collusion was alleged. Former Canadian Supreme Court judge, Justice Peter Cory, was appointed in May 2002 to conduct an investigation of allegations of collusion by the security forces in six cases, including the murder of Pat Finucane. Judge Cory's subsequent report, which found that there was strong evidence that collusive acts were committed, included a recommendation for the establishment of a public inquiry. In 2004, a measure of justice was found for the family when Ken Barrett was convicted of Pat's murder. However, that, unfortunately, did not end their campaign for the full truth and justice.
Since that time, we have also seen the de Silva review, which was published in December 2012. This did not meet the standard of a public inquiry as set out at Weston Park or that recommended by Judge Cory in his independent report. Nevertheless, despite those limitations, the de Silva report found that there was state collusion in the case and that a "series of positive actions by employees of the state actively furthered and facilitated [Pat Finucane's] murder and that, in the aftermath [of the murder] there was a relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice".
In his statement to the House of Commons on 12 December 2012, Prime Minister Cameron accepted the report's findings of shocking levels of state collusion and repeated his apology to the Finucane family. In the Dáil, following publication of the de Silva report, the then Taoiseach and Tánaiste reiterated the Government's consistent position on the need for an independent public inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder in accordance with the Weston Park Agreement. We have continued this call in the years since publication of the de Silva review and do so again at this critical moment in the long-running campaign for truth and justice for Pat.
As today's motion sets out, the UK Supreme Court confirmed last year that there has not yet been an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane that meets the standards and obligations of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR. In particular, the judgment found that the inquiry by Sir Desmond de Silva could not comply with the ECHR because of a number of specific limitations. He had lacked the power to compel the attendance of witnesses. Those who met him were not subject to testing as to the veracity and accuracy of their evidence, and a potentially critical witness was excused attendance. The review, even when taken together with earlier inquiries, could therefore not be sufficient to fulfil those legal obligations.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, has now committed to make a decision by 30 November on how to respond to those findings of the UK Supreme Court.I have written to the Secretary of State and spoken to him, most recently on Monday of this week, to underline directly the Irish Government's strong and consistent position that a public inquiry is the right decision in line with the Weston Park Agreement and that it is the only outcome that will see those obligations met. The Taoiseach met Geraldine and John Finucane this week to reiterate our unwavering support. We will be engaging with Prime Minister Johnson on foot of that meeting. In fact, the Taoiseach has already written to him directly.
In Strasbourg in September, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe expressed deep concern that the UK Government had yet to make a decision regarding how to act on the Supreme Court judgment and meet its Article 2 obligations. The committee will meet again next week to discuss this case, among others, and it, too, awaits the decision of the Secretary of State. We will be engaged at the Council of Europe next week, as we have been at every session at which the McKerr group of cases, including the Finucane case, has been considered. We will continue to stay in close touch with the family in that regard.
A decision by the UK Government to establish a full independent inquiry into this case under the UK Inquiries Act 2005 would not only be the right answer for the Finucanes' long campaign for justice for their family but it would also 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. In a case such as the murder of Pat Finucane, where it has been acknowledged by former Prime Minister Cameron that there were shocking levels of collusion, there is an undeniable onus on the state to ensure an inquiry takes place that fully meets relevant international standards and obligations. That is not to say that the pain of the Finucane family is worse than that of others bereaved by the conflict in Northern Ireland, regardless of the perpetrator. All families deserve to be supported in the pursuit of justice and information on what happened to their loved ones. That is why, in 2014, the political parties and the two Governments reached a collective agreement, the Stormont House Agreement, which set out a framework to deal fairly and comprehensively with the legacy of the Troubles in a way that responds to the needs of all victims and survivors. That agreement provided for investigations into standing cases, truth recovery overseen by an independent international body, an oral history archive and the promotion of societal reconciliation. The Irish Government will have its role to play under that framework, and obligations to fulfil. We stand ready to play that role fully. It is vital now that we make progress to see this framework realised and implemented for the families, victims and survivors who have waited for far too long.
While the statement by the UK Government in March setting out proposals for significant changes to the framework are a cause for concern, the Irish Government remains ready to engage and work with the UK Government and the parties to the Northern Ireland Executive in partnership on this important issue in the period immediately ahead with a view to reaffirming a collective approach that is consistent with the Stormont House Agreement. I have communicated this to the Secretary of State. The path forward has been agreed. It remains for us to take it now. There are so many families across this island, from all communities, who have, like the Finucane family, walked too long a road to seek truth and justice for their loved ones and who have spent decades campaigning to be heard. For every one of those families and for society as a whole, we must address the painful legacy of the past fully and truthfully.
The motion before the Seanad today comes at a critical juncture in the Finucane case, and for Geraldine Finucane and her family, but it has implications far beyond its impact for one family. A decision by the Secretary of State to order a full public inquiry has the potential not only to establish the truth about that awful night in north Belfast in February 1989 but also to show determination to face difficult truths more widely. By doing so, it will act to promote full, shared confidence in the rule of law. It will be part of achieving full information recovery for all families and it will be a significant contribution to the wider collective task of reconciliation and healing the wounds of conflict. The Government's clear position is that it is necessary and urgent that such a public inquiry now be established. We will continue to pursue all avenues open to us in the days ahead to press for that outcome.
I wish to share my time with my colleague, Senator Currie.
I welcome the Minister. As has been alluded to, his presence is indicative of the seriousness with which the Government regards, and should regard, this matter. I strongly welcome to the Gallery Mr. John Finucane, MP. In the company of Senator Ó Donnghaile, I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Finucane in Belfast. We had a very good meeting on that occasion. Mr. Finucane was then Lord Mayor of Belfast. It is a great pleasure to have him in the Oireachtas tonight. With others, I acknowledge the trauma, pain and suffering that the Finucane family have gone through for the 30 years since the murder of their father. It has been a horror story for Geraldine and the family. That merits acknowledgement at the very outset.
As a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I am happy to acknowledge the involvement of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe and its commitment to this case. Senator Gavan is also a member of the assembly. We will be reinforcing the council's involvement at any available opportunity.
Collusion has already been established by the authors of the de Silva report, and it is widely acknowledged. In fact, former Prime Minister Cameron apologised. That is on the record. It is a shocking story, however, and it should not have gone on for so long.
The Irish Government has a long-standing record of supporting the Finucane family. Clearly, we are in favour of an independent public inquiry. It is provided for under the Weston Park Agreement reached between the UK and Irish Governments in line with the European Court of Human Rights obligation. That agreement was reached in 2001. As the Minister said, we responded with our Smithwick inquiry. It is a shame that the same sense of honour was not reciprocated by the other side. Let us hope that will be altered before the month's end.
Our Minister for Foreign Affairs met the Finucane family on 4 November, and the Taoiseach met them on 23 November. In February 2019, the UK Supreme Court found that Mr. Finucane's widow, Geraldine, had a legitimate expectation that an independent inquiry into her husband's murder would be held. The Supreme Court found that the de Silva inquiry had not been compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights because it could not compel or investigate witnesses, or cross-question them properly, to investigate the veracity of what they had been saying. There was a critical witness excluded from the inquiry.
In January 2020, Ms Geraldine Finucane was granted leave by the Belfast High Court to seek a judicial review. In the course of that review, proceedings of 12 October 2020, the legal counsel for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Brandon Lewis, said he had a commitment to reach a decision on or before 30 November. Let us hope that will be honoured. He actually offered an apology to Ms Finucane for the delay and admitted to the collusion. Mr. John Finucane, MP, who is present this evening, has acknowledged publicly the Government's support.What is a very sinister aspect of this is the blackening of and various smears on the name of Pat Finucane to add to the pain of his family since his murder. It is relevant to say publicly that four parties in the North are united to have the matter resolved, namely, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Green Party. We will shortly have a spokesperson for the Green Party here. That is a very relevant and significant level of support.
In conclusion, all one can say is that the murder of an eminent civil rights lawyer in front of his family was an unspeakable horror that at least merits an independent public inquiry now to give the family some truth and consolation. I am very proud that it has the support of all the parties. My party will be supporting this motion tonight and I commend the movers of the motion.
I am firmly in support of this motion and thank my Seanad colleagues for bringing it forward. I thank the Minister and Taoiseach for their support, and appreciate the cross-party support North and South. I want to recognise John Finucane, MP as well. I cannot see him but know that he is there.
Pat Finucane was murdered by the UDA on 12 February 1989 in front of his family and three children. I was ten years old at the time. His murder fits into the backdrop of my childhood and other senseless loss of life that would bring heartache to a loving family. No-one should deny the Finucane family or any family the justice or truth that they seek. I recognise the Finucane family's dignity in the face of endless and unjustifiable delay.
A full independent public inquiry is the only credible and only acceptable answer. Commitments were made at Weston Park close to 20 years ago and the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, confirmed that there were shocking levels of collusion. In February 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that the British Government had failed to deliver on Article 2 on the European Convention on Human Rights into the murder of Mr. Finucane. Lord Stevens, who was appointed in 1989 to investigate collusion between the British State and loyalists, told the BBC as recently as October 2019 that there is more intelligence and documentation that he was never told about that may well take this story further. If it does then that needs to be exposed. The longer this issue goes on, the more the truth needs to come out, not just for the Finucane family but for all victims.
I wish to repeat my dismay and disappointment at the unilateral move by the British Government to renege on the commitments to legacy and reconciliation in the Stormont House Agreement. These commitments were only reconfirmed in the New Decade, New Approach agreement reached last year. The principles that underpinned the Stormont House Agreement must be protected, and I welcome what the Minister said about that tonight. The written ministerial statement in March of this year is not about victims first and reconciliation, which has become a phrase that we are all too familiar with. All agreements should be honoured.
I wish to recognise what Senator Gallagher said about Columba McVeigh, who came from the village that I am from in County Tyrone. Columba's mother died not knowing what happened to her son and he remains one of the disappeared. The pain of the McVeigh family, the Finucane family and too many other families is all of our pain until the truth comes out.
I welcome the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the House. I thank him for his words and do not doubt his commitment. It is important that we acknowledge, together with that of the Taoiseach, his consistency of approach and engagement with the Patrick Finucane case with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the British Prime Minister. The very fact that the Minister is here is a strong signal and indication of support.
I acknowledge that in a Minister who is extremely busy and has an awful lot of pressing things going on.
I also acknowledge and commend the proposers of and signatories to the motion. When people were asked to sign up they signed up and there was no doubt about it. I commend the speakers so far. More importantly, I want to acknowledge the presence of John Finucane, MP and his brave and honourable quest for justice and truth.
Before I came in here, I was thinking that if we are true advocates of justice who are committed to human rights and democracy, it does not matter who one is, where one is, where one has come from or what one has done. If justice and truth are there and have to be fought for, then we should have a consistent approach. In that respect, I picked up on some of the contributions that have been made here. If we are going to be advocates for justice and truth then we must advocate for justice and truth for everybody. We must confront the pain, horror and stories that have divided our people on the island of Ireland and further afield. We must be truthful, conscientious and determined to assist anybody and everybody who seeks to unravel the past and bring some sort of closure, justice and support for their families. It is important that we do not have one rule for one and another rule for someone else.
In terms of the motion, Patrick Finucane was an Irish lawyer. Earlier it was mentioned, and I did not know it, that he was a former Trinity College student. He was famous for successful challenges against the British Government on several important human rights cases during the 1980s. He was shot and killed in his home in Belfast on 12 February 1989 and it is hard to believe that this has gone on for so long. Talks occurred, to which many Senators referred, in Weston Park in July 2001 between officials, loyalists and the republicans regarding the event. The British Government committed to holding a public inquiry into the matter if Judge Peter Cory recommended it. Judge Cory found sufficient evidence of collusion between the UDA, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary to warrant a public inquiry into the case. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in October 2003 called for a public inquiry. No public inquiry took place until 2012, when Sir Desmond de Silva made one at the behest of the British Government. His report acknowledged that the case entailed "a wilful and abject failure by successive Governments". At the time, the Finucane family did not think the report was sufficient and, indeed, called it a sham.
The UK Supreme Court, in February 2019, stated that the British State has, to date, failed to conduct a proper public inquiry that complies with its legal obligations under Article 2 of the European Court of Human Rights. Earlier Senator Ó Donnghaile said: "Pat Finucane was murdered because he knew the potency of the law, of truth and of justice", which is a strong line that stood out. Clearly, Patrick knew the potency of the law, the potency of truth and ultimately lost his life.
The motion endorses the Government's ongoing international efforts to highlight this matter, which I share. The motion also 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 European Court of Human Rights, as well as the inescapable significance of the murder of Pat Finucane. Proper issues have been highlighted in the motion so I am committed to it as I think we all are. One of the great things about Seanad Éireann is that when we come together, when we stand in solidarity together and when we advocate strongly for justice and truth, we will be heard. It is good that we are here today, having set aside our political difference, and recognise there is a story to be unravelled and that somebody knows the real truth so people must come forward and the British Government must honour its commitment and have justice.
In closing, I thank the initiators of this very important Private Members' business. Again, I thank the Minister for his time and absolute commitment that he has given to this case, because that is not in doubt, and we thank him again for being with us tonight.
I commend Senator Ó Donnghaile and his Sinn Féin colleagues on putting forward this important motion which I am delighted to co-sponsor and co-sign on behalf of my Labour Party colleagues and the Labour Party group in the Seanad.
I welcome the Minister, Deputy Coveney, and thank him for his fine words. We were emailed a copy of his speech which I was just rereading. He pointed clearly to the urgent need for the establishment of this inquiry. It is welcome to see such strong support for the motion and calls for the inquiry on all sides of the House.
I welcome John Finucane MP to the House and express my condolences to him, his mother Geraldine, his brother, Michael, and sister, Katherine. Rereading the account of what happened on that night in February 1989 is utterly chilling. One can only imagine the horror of that for him and his family.
I am glad also to support the motion as a representative of Trinity College graduates and a Dublin University Senator. Others have spoken of the connections to Trinity. Pat Finucane studied law there, as did Michael. He was a very fine student of mine in the law school. I subsequently worked with him on cases in the Special Criminal Court when he was a solicitor and I was a barrister. This motion has a particular poignancy for any of us who have worked in law, have connections to Trinity College or are conscious of the great work that Pat Finucane and his practice did over many years in representing people through the Troubles and since.
When one reflects that it has been 31 years since the murder in February 1989, what a different place Ireland is today and how much has changed across the island, it is extraordinary that we still have to debate this motion. That is the disappointment. While it is welcome to see such consensus across the House and building consensus elsewhere on the need for an inquiry, nonetheless 31 years is a long time for the family and everyone else to have waited.
When one thinks back 31 years, one reflects also on the many other victims and families who were bereaved at that time and over the years when the conflict was evident. It is welcome, then, that we are in changed circumstances, yet we still await this public inquiry.
The Minister, Senator Ó Donnghaile and others have rehearsed the stages, different processes, the agreement in Weston Park in 2001, the recommendations of Judge Cory, the raising of the murder of Pat Finucane at the UN General Assembly, the decision in the European Court of Human Rights, pressure in Europe, the ruling just last year from the UK Supreme Court, and numerous calls from human rights groups. All of these have over a long period made clear the case for an inquiry. There is welcome consensus in the House, as well as a growing consensus elsewhere. Our sister party in Britain, the British Labour Party, urged the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month to order a public inquiry.
As others have said, in the North, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Green Party joined together to issue a letter to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, calling for a public inquiry. There is a good deal of political pressure coming on the British Government.
As the Minister said, this is a critical juncture because Brandon Lewis has now indicated that a decision will be made before the end of this month, which is next Monday. We are all conscious of the timing of this motion and the imminent decision we face. It is crucial that we see the decision made in favour of the inquiry, not just for the Finucane family but for all of those families who are bereaved and seek justice, truth and reconciliation.
I was struck in particular by the Minister's statement that the ordering of an inquiry would make a contribution not just to seeking justice for one family but a contribution to the wider collective task of reconciliation and the wider collective need to ensure the facing of difficult truths and that there is confidence in the rule of law. That is a fitting way to end when we remember the legacy of a lawyer who worked so hard to represent people in court and used the law as a vehicle to achieve justice. It is fitting that we might reflect that this call for a public inquiry is really a call to respect the rule of law and ensure that this contribution is made to the wider collective task of reconciliation. I am glad to support the motion. I very glad that it will not be voted on and we will all support it together.
I welcome the Minister for Foreign Affairs and John Finucane, MP for Belfast North, to the Chamber. I was delighted to sign and co-sponsor thus motion on behalf of the Green Party presence in the Republic of Ireland. The Green Party leader in Northern Ireland, Clare Bailey MLA, signed the equivalent motion in Northern Ireland along with the three other party leaders.
I agree with Senator Bacik that, while my heart goes out to the immediate family, this debate is especially poignant for me as a fellow lawyer. The term "human rights lawyer" is sometimes overused, but it can certainly be applied to Pat Finucane. The gunning down of a lawyer is a despicable act and a threat to the democratic system and rule of law.
This motion is about Pat Finucane, but I would also like to mention another lawyer, Rosemary Nelson. A decade later the culture had not changed. It was found that the security forces did not adequately protect her, assaulted and verbally abused her and, in a sense, made her a legitimate target. My heart also goes out to Rosemary Nelson, the human rights lawyer from Lurgan, and her children.
It would seem compelling that a sworn public inquiry should follow the different findings, from those of Judge Cory right through. The British Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, and the Belfast courts have spoken on this. It is so compelling that it is axiomatic. There was a finding of collusion. A public sworn inquiry ought to follow.
Only yesterday a constituent of mine, who is a well-known respected businessman in County Kildare and a native of Belfast, told me that he was stopped by a checkpoint 20 minutes before the fatal bullets were fired. He went back to his home as a neighbour and heard the ring of fire. With a finding of collusion, we cannot help but have a full inquiry. What was that checkpoint doing there on that evening? Who issued the command to set up a checkpoint so close to Fortwilliam where this happened? The person to whom I refer is not a Sinn Féin supporter, but he will happily co-operate with any public sworn inquiry. What I love about the motion is that we are all united.
I will not go through ground which has been so well and articulately covered, but I will not let this debate pass without expressing disappointment that the leaders of the two parties of unionism in this country did not sign the document signed by the Alliance Party, the SDLP, Sinn Féin and the Green Party. That is disappointing and tells me that while we have peace in this country, we certainly do not have normality.
We need healing and truth. The biblical phrase, "The truth shall set you free", applies, and it is only through truth and healing that we will truly have reconciliation. The Seanad was a divided House last week. It was quite hot and heavy at times, but today we are united. It is the little things in life that create difficulties and divisions. It is in the big things of life that we, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and whoever, are one. We should use our might as a respected country that boxes way above its weight to insist on a sworn public inquiry. I am not without hope as we look for reconciliation.I know that when the camera was not on people, Dr. Ian Paisley was very good to nationalist Catholic members of his constituency. I know that members of the RUC, when it came to a doctor or a lawyer, often went to one with a nationalist background. That is why what happened is so appalling. As a barrister, the cab rank rule applies and one is obliged to represent whoever comes in the door. In fact, it is a compliment if one is on one side of the argument one day and, the next day, someone who one thought would never ask to brief one makes such a request. That is the ultimate satisfying moment for a lawyer. We are objective and an objective man was gunned down that evening.
If there is one hero, one scintilla of comfort and one inspiring moment I take from all of this, it concerns someone I have never had the pleasure of meeting, namely, Mrs. Geraldine Finucane, who was injured on the night. The way she has conducted herself with dignity is inspiring, as is her resilience.
I am not without hope. We cheered on Northern Ireland in 1982 and 1986, with Gerry Armstrong and Billy Hamilton in the World Cup. Our unionist brothers and sisters came down to Croke Park and Lansdowne Road and they are welcomed. There are complexities in the relationship and those complexities should be cleared up on the island of Ireland and with Britain, as well. Our former rugby captain, Brian O'Driscoll, used the Lambeg drum once. That was symbolic and he got a lot of criticism for what he did.
Britain is not too big to fail. Britain is a proud nation which did the right thing for the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. It can do the right thing again. It will be stronger as a result of this. They have nothing to lose and all to gain. No one should fear the truth, which will set people free and start reconciliation between North and South and between east and west. It is never too late to do it. Britain should realise that the Finucane family are going nowhere and, after the Finucanes, there will be hundreds of Finucanes who will insist on a public sworn inquiry. We will bang that drum until it happens.
The Minister is welcome to the House and it is good to see him here. I also extend a warm welcome to John Finucane. I commend Senator Ó Donnghaile's motion calling for a public inquiry into the assassination of solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989, which I am delighted to have signed. It is great to see such cross-party co-operation.
As people have rightly said today, Geraldine Finucane is an inspiring, powerful and dignified woman. Geraldine and her family have been campaigning for over 30 years to obtain the full truth behind the brutal murder that took place in their home. It is important that we all support the family in their long campaign for an independent, open public inquiry.
The case for such an inquiry hardly needs to be restated. Suffice it to say that the agreement at Weston Park in 2001 between the British and Irish Governments and political parties in the North, the recommendations of Judge Peter Cory in 2003, the raising of the matter at the UN General Assembly and the repeated calls of human rights groups have together made the need for as open an inquiry as possible absolutely compelling.
I commend the Taoiseach for committing to engage with the British Prime Minister and for his support for a full inquiry. I welcome the letter from the four parties in the North supporting the holding of this inquiry but I am disappointed, like others, at the refusal of the DUP and the UUP to support this call. It is essential that a public inquiry is held to establish the full facts around the killing and it is only through such an inquiry that the level of state collusion can be established.
The reluctance of the British to allow this inquiry is understandable as the use of murder gangs is a well-known counter-insurgency tactic. The knowledge of this collusion is believed to have gone to the very top of the British Government and, according to Judge Cory, this was known to the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. There needs to be full disclosure of all the collusion between paramilitaries and the security forces in killings. Only when this is done will there be any hope of restoring confidence in the rule of law and the administration of justice. As the author Anne Cadwallader said: "Collusion does not resolve conflict - it fuels it." She outlines in her book, Lethal Allies, how over 120 people were killed in counties Armagh and Tyrone and that it is accepted that there was also collusion between the security forces and the UVF in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
The families who lost loved ones deserve to know if the state could have saved their lives. A 1994 Amnesty International report concluded:
Such collusion has existed at the level of the security forces and services, made possible by the apparent complacency, and complicity in this, of government officials.
The report also accuses the state in its reference to "the failure of the authorities to take effective measures to stop collusion [or] to bring appropriate sanctions against people who colluded". We must all do everything we can to ensure the truth is known about the actions of governments that claim to uphold the rule of law but are prepared to use murder and collusion to maintain their rule.
This motion calls for:
... the immediate establishment of a full, independent, public judicial inquiry into the murder of [well-known solicitor] 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.
Only by the establishment of a public inquiry will we learn the truth about the state's involvement in this brutal murder.
I welcome the Minister to the House and I welcome the depth of his commitment on this issue. I commend those who brought the motion. I am glad to have co-signed it with many others and to have such support across this House and from many parties in Northern Ireland, which is important.
We have heard that collusion has been acknowledged and admitted. We have heard of the court rulings from Judge Cory, the European Court of Human Rights and the UK Supreme Court in 2019. The case has been clearly made. The Finucane family have been waiting for justice and truth since 1989. Justice delayed is not only justice denied; it is injustice sustained. This is the moment for the UK Government to free itself from that injustice, and from its part in it, by taking the actions to ensure that Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, orders what is required, namely, a full and proper public inquiry fulfilling the commitment made in Weston Park in 2001.
It is important that this happens because we need to see justice delivered in terms of the brutal killing of Pat Finucane so we can move on to recognising not only his death but also his life and the incredible contribution he made. I was reading again through the kinds of cases he took, such as human rights and civil rights cases, and the work he did in championing the idea of a law that worked for all in Northern Ireland. That is important and I know that work has continued through the Pat Finucane Centre and through the work of Geraldine and John Finucane.
I was fortunate enough to be part of a cross-party delegation which visited Belfast City Hall when John Finucane was Lord Mayor of Belfast. There is a tradition in Belfast City Hall where each Lord Mayor places different objects, pictures and images on the walls. John Finucane placed the UN Convention on Human Rights as his choice when he was Lord Mayor because, as he said, the convention belongs to all. That is a core principle here. This public inquiry for the Finucane family is essential because we send the message that human rights matter.Front-line human rights defenders, which Ireland has always championed at the United Nations level in terms of our support for civil society, must be protected so all can have faith in the power of law to deliver change and be an instrument for justice for all at every level of society. Again, this is a key moment. It is important because human rights are a core part of the pillar of the Good Friday Agreement and of that which builds peace and reconciliation. It sends the signal that we can have a shared world and, indeed, a shared island and we can share in the shaping of the future in Northern Ireland. I welcome John Finucane to the House, and I hope we will see a positive step forward on 30 November.
I welcome the Minister. In his speech, he very much showed his personal commitment, as well as that of the Government, to reach a resolution on this issue. He has seen the unity in this House around this issue, but I believe the fact he is here tonight reiterates the strength of the Government's view. It is important.
Like others, I welcome John Finucane to this Chamber and his family and others who are viewing the debate tonight. It always strikes me when I speak to young people in youth groups and in schools that they sometimes ask why a person should get involved in politics. They ask why politics makes a difference or if I can give them an example of where something makes a difference. One of the things I often talk about is the peace process. That is something where politics really succeeded with the Good Friday Agreement. Many young people say they read about that in history. One of the big achievements on these islands in recent years has been about how so much of the past has been consigned to history. We have a long way to go and much progress to make in terms of bringing communities together, but we have gone much of the way.
I am sure many families, however, including the Finucane family, welcome what has happened. Certain aspects of that history are still all too real. I echo Senator Higgins's comments about freedom fighters and so on, and I know Senators Bacik and Martin and others referred to this. This man was a lawyer and a friend of the court. The obligation on the part of a solicitor or a barrister is to defend his or her clients. In any society, it is absolutely essential that we stand up for the rule of law and for the rights of lawyers to be able to do that, and particularly a human rights lawyer. It says much that the British Government has not kept its word and we should not look for something. As Members have said, this has been agreed already. It is a real act of bad faith that when one agrees to something one tries to renege on it, and particularly when it is Governments that have agreed to something.
I believe that we have achieved something. We have moved on enormously in these times. I strongly support the motion before the House. More important, however, the Troubles is a euphemistic word, in many ways, because behind it are so many families and victims. Their stories deserve to be heard, but more important, they deserve to know the truth. I have full faith that the Minister will continue to argue that case and argue for truth, and that the Finucane family can finally close that chapter.
Like many others, I commend the Minister, a senior official with many problems on his hands at the moment, for coming in here this evening. I thank him, the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Ryan, for being so strong on this issue. I fully support the motion and compliment those who brought it before the House this evening. I welcome John to the House. Geraldine and the Finucane family have suffered so much.
We should remember every tragedy in Northern Ireland, but certain ones stand out, including the Miami Showband, people who went missing, such as Ms Jean McConville, events in Enniskillen and Pat Finucane. I wish to say to John that everybody still remembers Pat Finucane's story. People at that time who can remember the killing remember the story. Throughout this country, people still talk about the brutal killing of Pat Finucane.
I listened to Senator Currie earlier when she spoke about the dignity of that family in their fight for justice. The dignity of the Finucane family as they tried to fight for justice is always something that struck me down through the years. It is only right and proper that we all support this motion and, as many speakers have said, a sworn to publish an inquiry. It must and should happen. We must sort out many of those problems, like the brutal killing of Pat Finucane, if we are to end once and for all what happened in our country and move forward. I am quite humbled to be able to stand here this evening and give my few words of support. I wish the Finucane family well. They have had much heartache, misery and sadness but we are all with them and hope now this will move on swiftly.
In many respects, I was too young when this happened to properly understand it. I do not think it is possible for a child to properly understand what was done to Pat Finucane and his family. I was old enough, however, to remember and know of it. When I grew into an adult and had what happened explained more fully, it was still difficult to understand the depth of that kind of thing happening in what was supposed to be a western democratic society. When we look at events like what happened to the Finucane family, it is difficult to see Northern Ireland in the late 1980s as being anything like that.
I also acknowledge the presence of John Finucane. It is a testament to him and his family that he is here and that they have continued to fight this battle. His brother, Michael Finucane, is known to me as a professional colleague. He is someone I know, like and greatly respect. As a solicitor practising criminal law in Dublin, he shows the same tenacity and fearlessness his father did.
Other speakers mentioned the fact that Pat Finucane was a lawyer. As a lawyer, I do not want to focus on this too much, but it when the state attacks a lawyer, a person whose job it is to defend his or her clients in court and within the process without fear or favour, it goes to the heart of our democracy. Just as we would criticise that same thing happening to a judge, in the same way, it strikes at the heart of the administration of what should be justice. In the facts of this case, however, the one thing patently absent is justice.
Other speakers referred to the fact the British state, that is, the British Government and the establishment in Britain, has gone back on its word. It is astonishing that more than 30 years later, we are still talking about the things that were agreed 20 years ago and commitments that were made by Governments. It is in the same vein of what the likes of Mr. Donald Trump did in respect of climate change agreements that the British Government reneged on its word in this regard. It is in the same vein of the kinds of broken promises of other government's that would be directly criticised by the British Government. The hypocrisy of its approach to this issue is clear for everyone to see. It is something from which it cannot hide.
It is a real pleasure in Private Members' business to be able to speak on something on which we all agree. I wish to put on record my support, obviously, for this motion but also my praise for those who brought it forward. It is rare enough we all agree on things in this Chamber, but I listened to what the Minister had to say earlier. I note his commitment to this issue and that of his predecessors and previous Governments in this State not to shy away from this issue but to speak frankly with our neighbouring Government and tell it how we feel about this issue, and how little we want to tolerate the kind of behaviour we have seen from the British Government. That is tremendously important. In speaking with one voice in this House this evening, we also send that message to anyone across the water who is listening.We are speaking from a real democratic State where the rule of law has value, where I hope Government commitments have value and where an injustice like this is recognised as such when it occurs. This is not something we are saying alone because it has been recognised as an injustice by authorities internationally, by figures who have been invited to look into this case and by figures of authority who have examined the facts. When we speak with one voice in this House, we say to those people that this cannot be allowed to stand and that there is a responsibility on anyone who purports to be a democrat or to respect the rule of law to say it cannot be tolerated. This kind of activity, this collusion, this injustice, this assassination, this murder cannot be allowed to go unremarked and unresolved because that is what it is.
I very much support the motion and the idea that we as a House of the Oireachtas send out that message very clearly. I praise the people who have introduced the motion. I do not propose to use any more of my time because the facts of this matter have been set out very clearly. The facts are beyond dispute and it is time the British Government stepped up and took responsibility for its role.
I welcome the Minister to House. I am delighted he has come here and has made such a strong statement in support of this motion. I also welcome Mr. John Finucane, MP, to the House and send our solidarity to his mother who is watching tonight.
As my colleague, Senator Ó Donnghaile has said, Pat Finucane was a high-profile human rights lawyer. He was frequently in the courts defending people and in the media criticising the British Government's abuse of human rights. His murder by loyalists sent shock waves across the legal and political world here and internationally. Those who directed the loyalist killers, who we now know to have been the British Government, its intelligence agencies and crown forces, must have thought in 1989 that they had got away with one of the most brazen and blatant killings of the conflict. However, as we have heard tonight from many speakers, they failed to take into account the sheer determination of Geraldine Finucane, her children, Pat's legal partner Peter Madden and many other human rights organisations that have fought tooth and nail to uncover the truth about Pat's killing. In the course of the Finucane family's campaign to uncover the truth about Pat's killing, they have helped to expose a secret murder campaign by the British Government where it was killing its own citizens, the very people who it, as a government, was compelled to protect.
At the time of Pat Finucane’s killing the word "collusion", and the deadly nature and scale of collusion, were unknown when compared to the extent of our knowledge about them today. It took time and persistence on the part of the Finucane family, many organisations representing relatives of those who were killed in the conflict and human rights organisations monitoring the behaviour of the state and its agencies to reveal the true extent of the murder campaign. This secret murder campaign, which we now know as Britain's dirty war, relied on collusion between the British crown forces and loyalist paramilitaries. The plan was British Government-inspired and systematic. It resulted in the death of hundreds of people, overwhelmingly from the nationalist community of the North, but we cannot forget those who were killed in this jurisdiction in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and other attacks.
The scale of the collusion and the resulting deaths and injuries is shocking; it is beyond belief. To grasp the enormity of what was going on I have selected three examples that demonstrate the scale of the British Government’s policy of collusion and how it actually operated on the ground. The investigative journalist Anne Cadwallader, who has been cited tonight by Senator Black, is a member of the Pat Finucane Centre, which is a human rights watch organisation based in Derry. She wrote a book, Lethal Allies, which tells the story of the Glenanne gang, a notorious murder squad who freely roamed counties Tyrone and Armagh, killing people at will. Its killing zone was known as the "murder triangle" and its members were drawn from the British army, the Ulster Defence Regiment, the RUC and loyalists. This book examined over 100 killings and in every single killing a member of the crown forces was involved. The film "Unquiet Graves", which was directed by Seán Murray, depicts on screen the catalogue of murder.
Finally, I cite two men who had first-hand experience of what collusion means in practical terms - what we might call the nuts and bolts of collusion. They knew how it worked in practice through the lines of communication from its political masters in Downing Street via its various state armed agencies to the loyalist killers themselves. They are Lord John Stevens, the former head of the Metropolitan Police in London, and the Canadian judge, Peter Cory. They carried out in-depth investigations into the collusive relationship between the British crown forces, the intelligence agencies and loyalist paramilitaries in the joint murderous enterprise which resulted in hundreds of people being killed in the North. According to the report of the Stevens inquiry:
Collusion ... ranges from the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, through to the extreme of agents being involved in murder.
Judge Peter Cory described collusion as "to cooperate secretly: to have a secret understanding ... to deliberately ignore; to overlook; to disregard; to pass over; to take no notice of; to turn a blind eye; to wink; to excuse; to condone; to look the other way; to let something ride". On the one hand, we have the colluders' handbook, the guide to adhere to and follow to ensure that like the three wise monkeys, one sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil. On the other hand, we have the killers' modus operandi, the method of operation which left people dead and injured. The killers and those who protected them from on high had a licence to kill, and kill they did.
I absolutely support this motion calling for a public and independent inquiry for Pat Finucane. I am grateful for the unanimity across the House in our call for that public and independent inquiry.
I concur with many Members' remarks on the unanimous agreement in this House. Such unanimity always makes for a much more pleasant evening for me. Given the experience of recent weeks, I thank colleagues for that.
Returning to the more serious element of tonight’s motion and the purpose of it, I begin by recognising and noting the significance and importance of the remarks made by the Taoiseach after his meeting with the Finucane family, and indeed again in the Dáil Chamber yesterday in response to my party leader, Deputy McDonald, when she asked about the inquiry. I also note the significance and importance of the Minister’s remarks tonight and what they mean for the Finucane family, and for us as citizens and people who have put our names and given our support to a motion like this tonight. We are very much at one here tonight.
Like Senator Bacik, I noted the Minister’s remarks that a public inquiry by the British Government would be significant for reconciliation and the healing that is required. While the determination and the tenacity of the Finucane family has been acknowledged and noted tonight, at the heart of this is a family who want justice, who want a wrong to be righted, who want that injustice to be healed and who want to have truth and justice that is representative of, and on behalf of, all the families who fell victim to the policy of state collusion. Colleagues have also mentioned all the other victims of the conflict, including people who were hurt by republicans, and that is why it is so important, because I agree. That is why republicans signed up to the Stormont House Agreement, and it is why all the parties in the North and the two Governments signed up to the Stormont House Agreement.I remind colleagues that much like the reneging on the commitments in the Weston Park Agreement and so many other commitments in respect of the Finucane inquiry, there is only one signatory to that agreement who is reneging from the Stormont House Agreement. I say to colleagues, to the Minister and to people who are watching out there to let us have what was agreed at the Stormont House Agreement implemented fully on behalf of everyone who suffered a loss, hurt or trauma as a result of the conflict.
It is also important to remember, in all of the reflections on Pat Finucane and his work here tonight, that he represented people from every tradition and community in the North without fear or favour because he was a servant of the court. He worked on behalf of victims and to stand up for human rights because he used the law to seek to dismantle injustice. He believed firmly in the law and that is why he pursued the career he chose. He knew that no one should be above the law and used it to defend and stand up for victims, those on the margins, the voiceless. He used the law for right and to do right and ultimately that is why Pat Finucane was targeted, set up and murdered. A very important message has gone from this House tonight which I have no doubt will be heard because it should be. This is in a chorus of messages in recent days, weeks and months going back decades, and laid in the first instance and driven by Geraldine Finucane and her family, which is that there should be a full public and independent inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Gabhaim buíochas.