Decision Looms On Pat Finucane Inquiry

The NI Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, has said he will decide in the New Year whether there should be a public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

He was shot dead by loyalist terrorists at his home in 1989 and his family believe that his death was the result of collusion with elements of the State.

After Mr Paterson (pictured) met the Finucane family in November and has now said he would be considering a number of public interest matters including cost.

In a statement to the Commons he said that one of his predecessors originally announced in the House in September 2004 that he would take steps to establish a public inquiry into the death of Patrick Finucane - but to date no such inquiry has been established.

"I believe it is right that I should determine the way forward in this case and that consequently I should set out a clear decision making process both to the House and to the Finucane family.

"I have now written to them formally inviting their representations as to whether it is in the public interest that I should establish a public inquiry into the death of Patrick Finucane.

"I will consider those representations carefully and in detail, along with any other relevant representations that I receive over the next two months, before deciding this question," he said on Thursday.

In addition to considering representations on the case, I shall also need to take into account a broad range of other factors in determining what the public interest requires.

The other factors that I will consider when deciding the public interest will include the commitment given to this House in 2004 and the conclusions of reviews and investigations into the case and the extent to which the case has caused, and is capable of causing, public concern.

He said he would also look at the experience of the other inquiries established after the Weston Park commitments and the delay that has occurred since the 2004 announcement and the potential length of any inquiry as well as political developments that have taken place in Northern Ireland and the potential cost of any inquiry and the current pressures on the UK Government's finances.

"It is my intention to consider the public interest carefully and in detail at the end of the two month period for representations and then to take a decision after such consideration as to whether or not to hold a public inquiry into the death of Patrick Finucane," he concluded.

However, the Secretary of State recently told Parliament there should be no more open-ended Saville-style investigations into the past.

Owen Paterson was speaking during a debate on the controversial Bloody Sunday Inquiry, which was the longest of its kind in legal history and cost nearly £200m.

Lord Saville's report into the deaths of 13 people, who were shot at a civil rights march in the Bogside area of Londonderry in January 1972, was delivered in June - 12 years after the inquiry was set up in 1998. According to Mr Paterson, such excess should never be allowed again.


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