Cameron’s decision on Finucane case insults family, betrays us all

When a lawyer is murdered in any country, it should be a matter of great public concern, seen rightly as an attack on the entire legal system.

When there is clear evidence pointing towards the collusion of a range of agents of the State in that murder, then the mood should become one of national outrage.

When the killing, alleged collusion and cover-up is happening not in Latin America or Russia, but within the UK, then one might expect that the response of the democratically-elected government would be to investigate quickly and thoroughly and root out any and all State agents who have infected the system with murder.

Tragically, that would be an expectation not borne out by the actions of successive governments over the last twenty-plus years.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision, announced today to the family, to reject an effective, independent, public inquiry into the events surrounding the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane should therefore, perhaps, come as no surprise. For he is only following the example set by previous UK governments, Conservative and Labour, in preferring to avoid the scrutiny that such a proper investigation would bring.

The Finucane family have been cruelly left to twist in the wind, having been strung along by Secretary of State Owen Paterson for the last year. His public utterances, suggesting that he would be offering inquiry proposals satisfactory to the Finucane family, led to reports that the UK government was prepared to offer a Baha Mousa-style Inquiry, held under the Inquiries Act 2005, but with assurances not to use the iniquitous powers reserved to Ministers to withhold evidence from the hearings.

Instead, the knife was twisted a little further today, with Cameron and Paterson instead announcing a toothless review of the case files by eminent QC (and ‘loyal Conservative’, according to Conor Burns MP, once of this parish) Sir Desmond DeSilva.

The decision was rightly branded an “insult” by Mr Finucane’s widow, Geraldine, who has conducted her decades-long campaign for justice with remarkable dignity and forebearance.

But it is more than an insult to a widow. It is a profound betrayal of every single one of us who have long held onto a belief in justice and the rule of law.

(For those who need a refresher in this too-long-running saga, there’s some background to the case here, courtesy of Amnesty and some more, courtesy of the BBC’s  Mark Devenport, here.)

I am the Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK and an occasional human rights blogger at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast & Beyond.

I’m on Twitter at @PatrickCorrigan