Finucane Son Fights for Justice

AT 28 years old, one of John Finucane's first tasks as a newly appointed solicitor is to help prepare the legal case for the families of six unarmed men shot dead by the security forces in a controversy which became known as Shoot-to-Kill.It is 25 years since IRA men Gervaise McKerr, Eugene Toman and Sean Burns were shot dead by the RUC as they drove in a car towards Lurgan in Co. Armagh.The three Republicans were among six unarmed men shot dead by a specially trained RUC unit in disputed circumstances in a six week period at the end of 1982. The deaths became known as the Shoot-To-Kill episode.In the aftermath of the killings the McKerrs were represented by a fresh faced 31-year-old Belfast solicitor with three young children.In the 1980s Pat Finucane had begun to gain a reputation as an outstanding solicitor, exposing the physical abuses of suspects being questioned by police in Castlereagh and Gough police stations.Throughout the 1980s the Shoot-to-Kill inquests were repeatedly adjourned as the policemen involved refused to give evidence at the inquests of the six dead men.In January 1989 Pat Finucane won a landmark case forcing the RUC officers to give evidence at the inquests. The British government immediately announced it would appeal the ruling to the House of Lords.Pat Finucane never lived to represent McKerr's family at the inquest as he was shot dead by Ulster Defense Association (UDA) gunmen less than a month later.John Finucane was just eight years old.He is reluctant to speak about the horror of witnessing his father's death."It is something I will never forget," he said. "It was so sudden, so graphic, so terrible. It was very hard on all of us."He remembers sunny evenings kicking football with his father in their garden after he had spent long days in court."Dad was a great footballer, he'd had trials in England, won cups at university and played in the Irish League. He would bring us to football matches whenever he could," said Finucane."But from a very young age we knew that he had an important job. In the days before answer-machines were invented we were taught how to take messages from anyone who might telephone asking for dad's help."Losing a father is traumatic at any time, but for young children to lose their dad in such violent circumstances was very hard on both ourselves and our mother."Even after 20 years you'll hear or see something which will just remind you of times when dad was still alive."We weren't the only children to lose a parent, there were many others who suffered during the conflict."But even at that young age you knew there was something different about dad's murder because of the overwhelming evidence of state collusion in his death."For the next 20 years the Finucane children grew up in a David and Goliath battle to force the British government to accept that it had colluded in the murder of their father."We were lucky that we have a strong, close-knit family, but we also know that we had an obligation to fight for justice for my father," says Finucane."Dad represented anyone who asked for his help, religion or politics didn't matter to him. He was just a brilliant legal advocate who succeeded in exposing what the state was doing."That is why he was murdered."Clear evidence of security force collusion in the solicitor's murder emerged almost immediately. Public pressure led to the British government announcing a series of police investigations into repeated allegations of security force involvement in Finucane's murder.In 2003 Britain's most senior police officer John Stevens concluded that there had been RUC and British army collusion in Finucane's murder.In 2004 retired Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended an independent public inquiry into the murder.However, a year later the British government rushed legislation through the House of Commons to give any government minister the power to withhold evidence from a public inquiry.The Inquiries Act 2005, as it is known, has been severely criticized by the Irish government, Sinn Fein and the SDLP.In the U.S. presidential candidates Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have all supported Congressional and Senate motions criticizing the act.Judge Cory has advised Canadian judges against taking part in any such inquiry.Speaking on the 19th anniversary of his father's death, John Finucane said, "For nearly 20 years we were banging on the door to get into an independent inquiry, but after Tony Blair moved the goal posts to ensure an inquiry couldn't get to the truth we found ourselves banging on the door to get out."Judge Cory accused the British government of creating an 'Alice In Wonderland' situation and said the Inquiries Act meant it was impossible to have any meaningful investigation."The Finucane family this week sought an urgent meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to find a way at ending the four year delay in setting up an inquiry."We're not going to stop our campaign for justice now just because the British government is trying to move the goal posts," said John Finucane."We want to co-operate with an inquiry, but we can't work with something which has no chance of getting to the truth."As he continues to fight for justice in his own father's case, JohnFinucane helps prepare the case for the Shoot-to-Kill families for the re-opening of the inquests later this year.More than a quarter of a century on, the son continues the father's quest for justice.

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