Finucane murder 'a dark moment'

By Anthony Neeson

The murder of solicitor Pat Finucane was far worse than anything alleged in Iraq or Afghanistan, the High Court in Belfast has heard.

Last week, Mr. Justice Stephens heard how Sir Jeremy Heywood, now British cabinet secretary, referred to Mr. Finucane's 1989 murder as "a dark moment in the country's history."

A review into Finucane's murder and published in December confirmed British agents were involved and that it should have been prevented.

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Sir Jeremy also questioned whether the British prime minister, David Cameron, believed it was right to "renege" on the previous Labour government's commitment to hold a public inquiry into the killing. The Finucane family are challenging that decision.

The remarks were contained in an emailed correspondence between the top civil servant and another senior British government official and were revealed as lawyers for the Finucane family pressed for complete disclosure of notes or recordings from a series of ministerial meetings.

Opening the family's application for discovery of the documents, Barry Macdonald QC said the case was about past and present abuse of state power.

He said the first instance involved the murder of a solicitor perceived to be "a thorn in the side" of the government, police and security services.

"Secondly, it's about abuse of power in 2011 by the current government when it decided to renege on a solemn commitment to conduct a public inquiry into those events in 1989." He added: "The applicant, Mrs. Finucane, knows the name of the person who pulled the trigger. The question is who was pulling the strings?"

Mr. Macdonald detailed an email Sir Jeremy sent to Simon King, a private secretary to the prime minister, ahead of a ministerial meeting in July 2011.

"Does the prime minister seriously think that it's right to renege on a previous government's clear commitment to hold a full judicial inquiry?" he asked.

"This was a dark moment in the country's history - far worse than anything that was alleged in Iraq/Afghanistan. I cannot really think of any argument to defend not having a public inquiry. What am I missing?"

A reply email stated that the prime minister "shares the view this is an awful case, and as bad as it gets, and far worse than any post 9/11 allegation", the court heard.