Senior US politicians have hit out at the refusal of the British Government to order a full public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane.

In a very strongly-worded statement, members of Congress who sit on the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs branded the decision “absolutely impossible to comprehend”.

In a statement, Congressmen Christopher Smith, Eliot Engel, Joseph Crowley and Richard Neal said: “We cannot but feel a deep sense of outrage over the decision of the British Government not to launch a full, independent, and public judicial inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane. The decision is inexplicable.

“It represents a gross injustice, a reversal of a solemnly undertaken governmental commitment, and calls out for added scrutiny by those in the Congress and elsewhere who have long supported the Good Friday Agreement. We strongly urge the UK Government to reconsider its decision immediately and do the right thing in the Finucane case, for the family, for Northern Ireland and for UK democracy as a whole.”

The Congressmen issued their statement hours after Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said the Government was “deeply sorry” about the murder.

In the Commons yesterday, he said Mr Finucane’s killing in front of his family on February 12, 1989 was “a terrible crime”, adding that there have been long-standing allegations of security force collusion in his murder.

Mr Paterson said Prime Minister David Cameron invited the family to Downing Street on Tuesday so he could apologise to them in person and on behalf of the Government for State collusion in the murder of Mr Finucane.

He also revealed the Government has asked former United Nations war crimes prosecutor Sir Desmond de Silva QC to conduct an independent review to produce an account of any State involvement in the murder.

Sir Desmond is one of the most high-profile criminal Queen’s Counsel in England, but there is bound to be criticism of his selection because he is also a member of the Conservative Party.