NI Law Society refuses to back UN call for inquiry into lawyer's murder

The former partner of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane has attacked the Law Society of Northern Ireland for refusing to back a United Nations' call for a public inquiry into the killing.

UN Special Rapporteur Param Cumaraswamy last week published his report into human rights abuses in Northern Ireland which called for a judicial inquiry into Finucane's killing.

Separately, it condemned the Royal Ulster Constabulary for “intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference” of defence lawyers, of whom Finucane was one.

The Northern Ireland Office responded with a statement saying that there was “no justification for another inquiry” into Finucane's murder unless new evidence was brought.

But it was concerned about Cumaraswamy's comments on the harassment of defence lawyers and said it would be “examining these closely”. It asked for “specific details on which the allegations are made”.

Finucane was murdered in 1989 by Ulster loyalists and it has long been alleged that British security forces encouraged the killing.

In November 1995, the human rights committee of the Law Society of England and Wales also called for an inquiry into the killing after sending a delegation to Belfast. But the Law Society of Northern Ireland has refused to join it.

Peter Madden, a partner in Belfast firm Madden & Finucane, said: “It's very disappointing for all of us I think it's depressing for solicitors here.”

He said that because the Law Society of Northern Ireland was made up of solicitors from both Protestant and Catholic communities it had always had a policy of not interfering in “what they call politics”.

He added: “They seem to think that this decision not to call for a public inquiry meets with that policy… It's quite outrageous. It's about time they reconsider their position.”

Madden also said that he and Finucane's widow Geraldine had been “deeply disappointed” by the government's immediate rejection of an inquiry. But he added: “I think that eventually there will be an inquiry.”

Law Society of Northern Ireland spokesman Alan Burnside said: “We deplore Finucane's murder as a deliberate attack on the legal system. But there are over 3,000 murders in Northern Ireland in very murky circumstances. Where do you stop in regards to legal inquiries?”