Pat Finucane's IRA and other republican clients made him deeply unpopular in police and military circles

 

Pat Finucane, one of Belfast's most prominent solicitors, was regarded by the security authorities as a thorn in their flesh due to his activities in representing IRA and other republican clients.

His unpopularity in police and military circles was so well-known that within days of his murder allegations were made in Belfast that the loyalist gunmen who killed him had been assisted by intelligence personnel.

The first defence counsel to be killed during the troubles, he appeared in a series of high-profile cases representing republicans and to a lesser extent loyalist clients.

His Belfast city-centre practice was one of only a handful of firms which specialised in cases involving republican and loyalist suspects charged under anti-terrorist legislation.

Among his most prominent clients was republican icon Bobby Sands, who died on hungerstrike in 1981. Mr Finucane also represented many other hungerstriking prisoners who were members of the IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army.

In another case he acted for the widow of a man shot dead by police in a so-called “shoot to kill” incident. At one point he walked out of a court hearing on the incident, denouncing it as a farce.

He successfully defended former hungerstriker Pat McGeown, another leading republican figure, unexpectedly securing his release after he was charged with the IRA killings of two army corporals in 1988.

Mr Finucane had been regarded with suspicion from much earlier since his brother John, who died in a car accident in 1972, was claimed by the IRA as one of its members.

After the solicitor's death loyalist sources claimed that several members of their organisation, the Ulster Defence Association, which shot Mr Finucane, had been encouraged to target him by police. The loyalists said police had described him and two other solicitors who often represented republicans, Paddy McGrory and Oliver Kelly, as “the brains behind the IRA.”

Both the other lawyers have since died of natural causes. Mr McGrory's son Barra was last year appointed Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland.

Today's report concluded that police knew that Mr McGrory, like Mr Finucane, was a potential target for loyalist assassination but had not informed him of two threats to his life. After the killing he was offered protection after intervention on his behalf by the Irish government.

In the wake of the Finucane killing a United Nations report called for an independent inquiry, declaring: “So long as this murder is unresolved, outstanding questions surrounding it demonstrate the need for an independent judicial inquiry.”

Police in Belfast responded to the report by saying it fell short in terms of objectivity, accuracy and fairness. It added: “As a supposed `fact-finding mission' it gives scant regard to measurable facts or evidence to support allegations.”

The government said at the time that the report made extremely grave allegations of security force collusion with loyalist terrorists but had failed to produce credible evidence of this.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy