Speech by Peter Madden on the 34th anniversary of Pat Finucane’s murder – 12th February 2023:
I have been asked to give an update on the current court proceedings taken to establish a public judicial inquiry into Pat’s murder.
Before doing so I would like to say a word or two about how we got to where we are at the moment.
A good starting point, although it was twenty-two years after Pat’s murder, is the family’s meeting with David Cameron and Owen Patterson, the Secretary of State, at 10 Downing Street on 11 October 2011.
Much had happened before that.
Prior to that meeting we had been in negotiations with the NIO legal team at Stormont House in January and February 2011 because of our objections to the restrictions in the Inquiries Act of 2005.
Our objections were well known.
The NIO team put forward a number of options on the type of public inquiry that they could recommend and we agreed to accept one of their options.
None of the options included a paper review, so it was not discussed by the legal teams.
Simon Case, the current Cabinet Secretary who was an adviser to Cameron at the time, phoned me and invited the family members and myself and Jane Winter of British Irish Rights Watch to the meeting in Downing Street so that Cameron could give his decision in person to the family.
Case said that the Prime Minister wanted to deal with this himself.
Normally it would have been dealt with by the Secretary of State.
He wouldn’t tell me what the decision was but said that the family would be happy with it.
I was informed afterwards that the Irish Government was also told that the family would be happy with it.
I was expecting Cameron to tell Geraldine that he would establish a public Inquiry into Pat’s murder.
After all, that’s what we were discussing in Stormont House and what the family were campaigning for.
I was expecting that he would establish the model of the inquiry we opted for.
Cameron, however, told us that he had appointed Desmond de Silva to carry out a paper review of all previous investigations and reports.
He said that his proposal to have a paper review by de Silva was far better than having a public inquiry as it was a better way of getting the full truth.
This decision flew in the face of previous government commitments.
An example of this was a letter to me by the Secretary of State, Paul Murphy on 9 November 2004 in which he said:
“we (the government) believe it is important that the inquiry into Patrick Finucane’s death should have powers of compulsion at its disposal, like the Bloody Sunday Inquiry… the inquiry into his death must be given all the powers necessary to uncover the full facts of what happened.”
De Silva wasn’t going to get the full facts because Cameron hadn’t given him the necessary powers, as de Silva said so himself.
The family’s reaction to this is well known as Geraldine spoke to the media after the meeting and expressed her justified anger.
The de Silva proposal was not on the table in the Stormont House discussions and therefore came as a complete surprise and was something that we couldn’t have expected.
We had to challenge that decision and issued Judicial Review proceedings.
Meanwhile de Silva started his review of the available papers or at least his review of the papers given to him by government officials.
These papers which ran to a million pages according to de Silva, included the John Stevens police investigation papers and various reports including the report of the late Judge Peter Cory, who had previously examined the papers and had recommended a public inquiry.
De Silva didn’t compel any witnesses nor allow us any access to the large archive of material he had obtained.
Nor did he hold public hearings.
The Judicial Review of that decision had to go through the long journey through the courts.
It went from the High Court in Belfast to the Court of Appeal in Belfast to the Supreme Court in London, where that court gave its ruling on 27 February 2019.
Meanwhile, as the case was working its way through the courts, de Silva was apparently working his way through the papers he had been given by the government.
While we were challenging the decision to appoint de Silva, he published his report on 12 December 2012!
The contents of his report became part of the legal challenge.
The Supreme Court ruling of 27 February 2019 made it clear that all the previous investigations and reports by the British government including the detailed and voluminous report by de Silva, did not meet international human rights standards.
So why are we still litigating this issue at this time?
The Supreme Court ruling required a response from the British Government.
High Court proceedings were issued due to the delay in that response.
We again had to resort to Judicial Review and the proceedings were issued on 26 September 2019, seven months after the Supreme Court judgment, when there was no sign of a response.
When this latest Judicial Review case opened in the High Court, Brandon Lewis, yet another Secretary of State, apologised for the delay through his barrister and agreed to pay Geraldine damages.
Our senior counsel, Fiona Doherty rightly called the delay “shameful”.
The judge, Mr Justice McAlinden said that he had great unease about the fact that after all this time, the British Government continued to be in breach of its international obligations.
As a result of these proceedings Brandon Lewis, promised to respond by 30 November 2020.
He waited until the very last minute and arranged a meeting with Geraldine and the family on 30 November and announced at the meeting that there would be no inquiry “at this time” because he said he wanted to wait until the PSNI and Police Ombudsman NI completed some processes, which turned out to be unnecessary, irrelevant and a further example of delay.
Yet another Judicial Review was launched on 19 February 2021 to challenge that decision.
The case was ultimately heard by Mr Justice Scoffield who ruled in Geraldine’s favour on 21 December 2022 and stated that at the date of this judgment there was still no Article 2 compliant inquiry into Pat’s murder.
He also ordered that there should be no more delay and requested an undertaking from the counsel for the Secretary of State to give a date for the response to the Supreme Court judgment.
That was duly given and a response must now be made on or before 31 March 2023.
So we’ll see what happens and consider our position then.
If an inquiry is announced that may not be the end of it.
If they impose limitations to the inquiry to such an extent as to make it meaningless then we will be back in court.
If they refuse to announce an inquiry then we will be back in court.
Geraldine has been vindicated by the courts but badly let down by government.
The whole truth about all the circumstances surrounding Pat’s murder will have to be revealed eventually with no more delay or cover up.