Finucane death inquiry closer after fresh talks

A notorious Belfast political assassination which allegedly involved MI5, army intelligence and Special Branch officers is the subject of continuing negotiations between the authorities and the family of the victim.

Those involved in the killing of defence lawyer Pat Finucane, who was shot 14 times by loyalist gunmen in 1989, have already been shown in court cases and official reports to have included agents of the security forces.

Mr Finucane angered many, at various levels of the security forces, by his effectiveness in defending clients who were members of the IRA and other groups at the height of the Troubles.

The central allegation is that the loyalists who shot him were encouraged or ordered to do so by security force "handlers". The suspicions have deepened as more details have emerged over the years.

The Government has yet to announce if it will set up a public inquiry into the killing but authorities announced yesterday that officials had held "constructive" meetings with representatives of the Finucane family.

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Owen Paterson, said he had decided, with the agreement of the family, to take two months before reaching a decision.

Peter Madden, the family solicitor and Mr Finucane's one-time partner, said yesterday: "Although these were constructive and useful meetings, the fact remains that the independence of a tribunal is fundamental – the essence of a proper inquiry is independence."

The family has for years been at odds with the authorities over the form of an inquiry, with widow Geraldine Finucane and her relatives insisting on maximum disclosure in public proceedings.

The Labour government agreed to hold an inquiry, but in the meantime introduced legislation which has greatly limited the scope of such hearings, and given ministers a role in them. The compelling reason for this was said to be to prevent a recurrence of the costly and time-consuming Bloody Sunday inquiry.

Human rights activists claim, however, that another motive was to limit further revelations in the Finucane case.

Few doubt that any such inquiry would unearth troubling secrets of huge embarrassment to the authorities. Over the years, senior ministers and officials have privately conceded that intelligence agencies were deeply involved in the episode. One high-ranking official said that, of all the many security controversies, "This is the smelliest of them all."

A month before Mr Finucane's shooting, a Conservative minister had declared he believed there were "a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA".

Later it emerged that Brian Nelson, a senior "intelligence officer" within the illegal Ulster Defence Association (UDA), had been planted there by the army. Although he was not charged with the killing, he claimed he had informed his army handlers that one of the leaders of the UDA's assassination teams had asked him to gather information on Finucane.

It later emerged that another UDA member, William Stobie, had supplied the assassination squad with their weapons and was a Special Branch agent. Charged with the Finucane murder, he declared in court: "I was a police informer for Special Branch and on the night of the death of Pat Finucane I informed Special Branch on two occasions that a person was to be shot."

In another twist, the UDA member Ken Barrett was given a life sentence for the murder after BBC Panorama secretly filmed him boasting of his role. He claimed he had been encouraged to kill the solicitor by a senior police officer.

The former CID detective-superintendent who headed the murder investigation later said Special Branch had not told him one of its agents had been involved. If they had, he said, he was "pretty certain we could have brought the investigation to a successful conclusion".

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice