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Pat Finucane case discussed today at the Council of Europe

Minister Charles Flanagan, European Union, International Law, Press Releases, Ireland, Northern Ireland, 2015

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan TD, has announced that today, 8 December, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg discussed a number of legacy cases including the case of Pat Finucane.

The statement made on behalf of Ireland is set out below.

‘While significant progress was made during the recent political talks in Northern Ireland which concluded on 17 November, it is regrettable that resulting agreement - the Fresh Start Agreement - did not in the end include agreement on the implementation of provisions of the Stormont House Agreement dealing with the legacy of the past. The Irish Government very much shares the deep disappointment of the victims and survivors of the Troubles and their families.

It is particularly disappointing given that great progress was made during the talks on many of the details for the establishment of the new institutional framework for dealing with the past, including on ensuring the operational independence of the Historical Investigations Unit. The crucial issue where agreement could not be found was on striking the right balance between the onward disclosure needs of families and the national security requirements being sought by the British Government.

It was not the Irish Government who pressed for an agreement that completely left aside the legacy of the past. However, when it became clear that the choice was between having an agreement which uncoupled the past and having no agreement at all, the Irish Government most reluctantly agreed to have a less comprehensive deal that would at least ensure that the devolved institutions would be protected and placed on a stable and sustainable footing.

We are committed to continuing working with the British Government, and in consultation with Victims’ Groups and the political parties in Northern Ireland, to find a way forward on securing a solution to the remaining key issues, including on balancing disclosure and national security in a way that satisfies the concerns of the victims and survivors and their families. We remain convinced that the institutional framework agreed to in the Stormont House Agreement offers the best possible way of bringing whatever healing is possible to those affected by the Troubles.

For this to be achieved it is vitally important that these new institutions have the trust and confidence of the victims and survivors and their families. The needs of victims and survivors will therefore remain central to our work.

The Irish Government therefore remains committed to finding a way forward so that the establishment of the new institutional framework on the past can take place on an agreed basis as envisaged in the Stormont House Agreement. So while we regret that the draft decision proposed today could not have been welcoming the introduction of legislation to establish the HIU, we think it is appropriate that the Committee of Ministers strongly encourage the UK to continue efforts to introduce such legislation on an agreed basis following engagement with all relevant stakeholders. We agree that this legislation should guarantee the independence of the HIU enabling it to conduct effective investigations which are sufficiently accessible to the victims’ families. For this happen the issues around onward disclosure and national security will need to be resolved to the satisfaction of all involved.

Since the Committee of Ministers decided to close its consideration of individual measures in 2009 new and significant information has come to light and there is an on-going police investigation into the murder of Pat Finucane. This has emerged following a review of previous investigations into the murder by Judge de Silva, the so called de Silva review, which was ordered by the British Government. In these circumstances, Ireland supports the request being made by the applicant for the reopening of individual measures.

Our support for this reopening is reinforced by the Declaration of the Belfast High Court on 8 September 2015 which stated that as of March 2009, the date of the Committee of Ministers’ Interim Resolution, there had been no effective investigation in compliance with Article 2. Therefore, having regard to the obligation of the Committee of Ministers under Article 46(2) to supervise the execution of judgments of the Court the logical and appropriate action for the Committee to take would be to re-open the individual measures pending the outcome of the on-going police investigation.

However, recognising that domestic litigation in relation to Mr Finucane’s case is currently ongoing and therefore all possible domestic remedies have still to be exhausted, we can agree to the proposed decision on the basis that the Committee of Ministers will resume consideration of reopening the individual measures once the outcome of the current domestic appeals processes are known.

Finally, I would like reiterate to the Committee of Ministers that it is view of the Irish Government that a satisfactory outcome to this case will ultimately be best served through a full public inquiry in accordance with the commitments made by the British and Irish Governments in the Weston Park Agreement of 2001.‘

ENDS

Press Office
December 8 2015