Pat Finucane

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Person.png Pat FinucaneRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Belfast mural 14.jpg
Belfast mural picturing Pat Finucane - 2005
Died12 February 1989 (Age 39)
Victim ofmurder

Patrick ("Pat") Finucane [1] was a Catholic Belfast solicitor killed by loyalist paramilitaries on 12 February 1989. His killing was one of the most controversial during 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland.[2] Finucane came to prominince due to successfully challenging the British Government over several important human rights cases in the 1980s.[3] He was shot fourteen times as he sat eating a meal at his Belfast home with his three children and wife, who was wounded in the attack.[4] In September 2004 UDA informer, Ken Barrett, plead guilty to his murder [5]


Finucane's wife, Geraldine is the daughter of middle-class Protestants;[6] his brother, John, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) member, was killed in a car crash in the Falls Road, Belfast, in 1972. His brother Dermot successfully contested attempts to extradite him to Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland for his alleged part in the killing of a prison officer. He was one of 38 IRA prisoners who escaped from the Maze prison in 1983. His third brother Seamus was the fiance of Mairead Farrell, one of the IRA trio shot dead by the [SAS]] in Gibraltar in 1988.[7] Seamus was leader of an IRA unit in west Belfast before his arrest in 1976 with Bobby Sands and seven other IRA men, during an attempt to destroy a furniture store in south Belfast. He was sentenced to fourteen years' imprisonment.[8].

Pat Finucane's best-known client was the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. He also represented other IRA and Irish National Liberation Army hunger strikers who died during the 1981 Maze prison hunger-strike protest, Brian Gillen and the widow of Gervaise McKerr, one of three men shot dead by the RUC in a so-called "Shoot-to-kill" incident in 1982. In 1988 he represented Pat McGeown who was charged in connection with the Corporals killings, and was photographed with McGeown outside Crumlin Road Courthouse.[9] [10]


Finucane was shot 14 times, at his home, by Ken Barrett and another masked man using a 9mm-P Browning and a .38 Special/.357 Magnum revolver.[11] His killing was widely suspected by human rights groups to have been perpetrated in collusion with officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and, in 2003, the British Government Stevens Report stated that the killing was indeed perpetrated in collusion with police in Northern Ireland [12]

The Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF) claimed they killed the 39-year-old solicitor because he was a high-ranking officer in the IRA. Police at his inquest said they had no evidence to support this claim. Finucane had represented republicans in many high profile cases, but he had also represented loyalists.[13] Several members of his family had republican links, however the family strongly denied Finucane was, himself, a member of the IRA. Informer Sean O'Callaghan has claimed that he attended an IRA finance meeting alongside Finucane and Gerry Adams in Letterkenny in 1980.[14] [15] However both Finucane and Adams have consistently denied being IRA members.[16] In Finucane's case, both the RUC and the Stevens Report found that he was not a member. Republicans have strongly criticised the claims made by O'Callaghan in his book 'The Informer' and subsequent newspaper articles. One Republican source says O'Callaghan "...has been forced to overstate his former importance in the IRA and to make increasingly outlandish accusations against individual republicans."[17]

In 1999 as a result of the Stevens Report, RUC Special Branch agent and loyalist quartermaster William Stobie, a member of the Ulster Defence Association was later convicted of supplying one of the pistols used to kill him[18]. The pistol belonged to the UDA, which at the time was a legal organisation under British law.

In 2000, Amnesty International demanded that the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Mandelson, open a public inquiry into events surrounding his death. In 2001 as a result of the Weston Park talks, a retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory was appointed by the British and Irish governments to investigate the allegations of collusion by the RUC, British Army and the Gardaí in the killing of Finucane, Robert Hamill and other individuals during The Troubles. Cory reported in April, 2004, and recommended a public inquiry be established to include the Finucane killing.

An inquiry has since been announced by the British Government, but under the Inquiries Act 2005, which empowers the government to block scrutiny of state actions. Finucane's family have criticised its limited remit and announced that they would not co-operate with the enquiry. Judge Peter Cory also strongly criticised the Act. Amnesty have reiterated their call for an independent inquiry, and have called on members of the British judiciary not to serve on the inquiry if it is held under the terms of the Act.[19]. On 17 May 2006, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on the British government to hold an independent public inquiry into Finucane's killing[20].

Finucane's widow, Geraldine (b. 1950), has written letters repeating this request to all the senior judges in Great Britain, and took out a full-page advertisement in the newspaper, The Times, to draw attention to the campaign, which has become a cause celebre amongst republicans and other activists.

In June 2007, it was reported that no police or soldiers would be charged in connection with the killing. [21]


Finucane's law firm, Madden & Finucane Solicitors, led by Peter Madden, continues to advocate for those it considers to have been victims of the State, or their survivors. The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), named in his honour, is a nationalist advocacy and lobbying entity in Northern Ireland.

See also


  1. Hansard, 5 May 1999
  2. "Timeline of Finucane murder probe". BBC, 23 September, 2004. Retrieved on 09 August 2008.
  3. Interview with Geraldine Finucane: Breaking the glass ceiling
  4. "Pat Finucane: A controversial killing". BBC, 13 September, 2004. Retrieved on 09 August 2008.
  5., Monday 13 September 2004 Loyalist informer admits Finucane murder
  6. Reconciling a dark past
  7. Collusion 'at heart' of Finucane killing By Rosie Cowan and Nick Hopkins, Guardian Unlimited, 14 June 2002
  8. Orde pressured over Finucane IRA claims By Alan Murray, Belfast Telegraph, 18 April 2004
  9. [ BBC 13 September 2004
  10. [ UN to Seek Inquiry into Finucane Murder - Sunday Tribune
  11. Sir John Stevens QPM, DL Stevens Enquiry:Overview & Recommendations 17 April 2003
  12. The Stevens Inquiry
  13. Collusion 'at heart' of Finucane killing By Rosie Cowan and Nick Hopkins, Guardian Unlimited, 14 June 2002
  14. Telegraph
  15. Spectator
  16. BBC News
  17. O'Callaghan - the truth
  18. Pat Finucane: A controversial killing BBC News
  19. "Judiciary must not take part in inquiry sham"
  20. US politicians call for Finucane inquiryRTÉ News, 19 May 2006
  21. "No security charges over Finucane" BBC News