UK offers apology but no inquiry over 1989 Belfast murder

Geraldine Finucane (C), wife of slain Irish human rights attorney Patrick Finucane, speaks with collegues 16 March, 2005 in Washington D.C.

Story highlights

  • Prime Minister David Cameron says an inquiry is not the best way to get the truth
  • His Northern Ireland secretary apologized for the killing of Pat Finucane
  • Finucane was killed by a police informant in 1989
  • His widow stormed out on Cameron when he said there would be no inquiry
The United Kingdom will not hold an inquiry into the murder of Catholic lawyer Pat Finucane in Northern Ireland in 1989, Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday, even as one of his ministers apologized for state collusion in the killing.
"I profoundly believe that the right thing for the Finucane family, for Northern Ireland, for everyone in the United Kingdom, is not to have another costly and open-ended public inquiry which may not find an answer," Cameron said in the House of Commons.
Finucane's widow, Geraldine, walked out on a meeting with Cameron on Tuesday when she found out there would be a lawyer-led review, but no public inquiry.
She told waiting reporters she was disgusted by Cameron's decision and felt so angry she could hardly speak.
"I am so angry and so insulted by being brought to Downing Street today to hear what the prime minister had on offer," she said.
The Finucane family has campaigned for a full, independent inquiry amid persistent claims of security force collusion with the murder gang. They suspect the killing may have been sanctioned at the highest levels of the British government.
Pat Finucane was gunned down in front of his wife and three children at his Belfast home in 1989.
The pro-British loyalist paramilitary member convicted of the murder was a police informer.
Just weeks before Finucane was killed, British government minister Douglas Hogg sparked anger when he told the UK Parliament some Northern Ireland lawyers were "unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA."
Finucane had represented both IRA and loyalist paramilitary members.
"In the end, the greatest healer is the truth, frank acknowledgment of what went wrong, an apology for what happened. Let's not have another Saville process to get there, let's get there and do the right thing," Cameron said, referring to the lengthy and expensive inquiry into the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings.
The British secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, apologized Wednesday on behalf of the British government for the murder.
Paterson said the government accepted the findings of previous investigations that there had been state collusion in the killing, carried out by loyalist paramilitary members.
The minister said a review led by a senior lawyer will be carried out on behalf of the government, instead of a public inquiry.
Paterson said that was "the quickest and most effective way of getting to the truth."
He also said the government does "not believe that more costly and open-ended inquiries are the way to deal with Northern Ireland's past."
Paterson told the Commons: "I want to reiterate the government's apology in the House today. The government is truly sorry for what happened."