Shaun Woodward accuses Government of breaking promise on Belfast
The Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward used his speech to the Labour conference yesterday to criticise the Government for not honouring the promise to hold an inquiry into a controversial Belfast killing.
He said the commitment by Tony Blair to investigate the killing of Pat Finucane, the defence solicitor shot dead by loyalist extremists in Belfast more than two decades ago, should be honoured by the Government.
The 1989 shooting has generated widespread calls for an inquiry amid allegations that elements of the security services helped direct the assassins. The process of setting up an inquiry, and deciding on the limitations likely to be placed on its remit, has taken many years. The Finucane family is pressing for an investigation which would be as wide and as open as possible.
In July the solicitor's widow, Geraldine Finucane, said Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson had promised her a decision on the inquiry earlier this year, but had not delivered.
She added: "It is an untenable and insensitive situation and confirms my belief that the policy of delay continues. I am also very unhappy that no reason has been provided to me for this delay."
Mr Woodward said yesterday that Mr Paterson would be taking a huge gamble if he decided against an inquiry, despite a promise which Labour had made in good faith. He declared: "He promised his decision would be soon, but no decision yet. If it is his intention to renege on the commitment, I urge him to think again."
Mr Woodward, who was Northern Ireland Secretary for three years, said that "when history looks back on the great achievements of Labour in government the peace process in Northern Ireland will rank high."
On the local economy, he accused the Government of undermining attempts by the devolved Belfast administration to bring foreign investment to Belfast. He said the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, were working hard to promote investment, and that they had secured some new jobs. But he added: "Their hard work is savaged by Coalition policy – not so much a helping hand as a succession of closed doors." He said that David Cameron's approach of limiting his availability to Belfast politicians "certainly leaves Northern Ireland weaker".
Although Mr Woodward commended the investment efforts of Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness, he made it clear he opposed their joint policy of seeking a cut in corporation tax to attract new companies. The major Belfast parties and most of the business community support such a cut, as does Mr Paterson. The Treasury has yet to confirm that it would agree to the measure. Mr Woodward said the proposed cut was "a huge gamble", since it would be paid for by an annual £300m reduction in Northern Ireland's money from London.
He declared: "Trade unions are against the cut – unions worried for the tens of thousands in the public sector who will pay for the cut with their jobs in schools and hospitals. Our fear is that it heralds a race to the bottom."
He said there were forecasts that 40,000 jobs are to be lost in Northern Ireland, which had the worst unemployment figures for young people in 15 years.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...