Northern Ireland

Timeline of Pat Finucane murder probe

The killing of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane by loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA/UFF remains one of the most controversial murders during the Troubles. BBC News Online looks at some of the key events in the family's quest for a public inquiry.

12 February 1989

Image caption Pat Finucane represented some high profile republicans

Mr Finucane was shot 14 times as he sat eating a Sunday meal at home, with his wife and three children. His wife was wounded in the attack.

In its statement claiming the killing, the UFF said they had killed "Pat Finucane, the IRA officer".

While Mr Finucane had represented IRA members, the family vehemently denied the allegation - and have been supported in this by the police.

April 1998

The government rejects a call by the UN for an independent inquiry.

April 1999

Sir John Stevens, then deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is appointed to carry out an investigation into the lawyer's murder.

June 1999

Former UDA quartermaster William Stobie is charged with the murder of Mr Finucane.


Amnesty International calls on the then Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson, to open a public inquiry into events surrounding Mr Finucane's death.

November 2001

Stobie, who admitted supplying the guns used in the killing but denied murder, walks free from court after the case against him collapses as a key witness refuses to give evidence.

December 2001

Two months later Stobie was shot dead by loyalist gunmen.


Retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory appointed by British and Irish governments to investigate allegations of collusion by the RUC, British Army and Irish police into several killings during the Troubles, including that of Pat Finucane.

April 2003

A report by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, is published.

"Stevens Three" states that rogue elements within the police and Army in Northern Ireland helped loyalist paramilitaries to murder Catholics in the late 1980s.

The Finucane family reiterates its call for a full, independent, public inquiry.

May 2003

Loyalist Ken Barrett is arrested and charged with the murder of Mr Finucane.

January 2004

The Finucane family takes legal action against the British government for failing to publish Judge Cory's report.

Mr Finucane's widow lodged papers at the High Court, seeking an order compelling the secretary of state to publish it.

April 2004

Judge Cory concludes that military and police intelligence knew of the murder plot but failed to intervene. He recommends a public inquiry. The government refuses until the criminal proceedings against Barrett are completed.

September 2004

Ken Barrett, who confessed in court to murdering Pat Finucane, is sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment.

September 2004

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy announces an inquiry. He said it would be necessary to hold the inquiry on the basis of new legislation to be introduced.


The Inquiries Act 2005 introduced and led to the creation of Hamill, Nelson and Wright inquiries. However the Finucane family opposed the new law, fearing it would enable the government to interfere with the independence of any future inquiry because it enabled a British government minister to rule when an inquiry sits in public or private.

Autumn 2006

Plans to set up an inquiry into the murder of Mr Finucane are halted by the then Secretary of State Peter Hain.

June 2007

The Public Prosecution Service says no police or soldiers will be charged in connection with the murder of Pat Finucane.

It said insufficient evidence was "critical" in its decision.

November 2010

Then the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, says he will decide in the new year whether there should be a public inquiry into the murder.

May 2011

The Finucane family say they expect to hear soon that the government will hold a full inquiry.

Mr Finucane's son, John, said Mr Paterson told him in March that an announcement would be made after the election.

October 2011

The British government rules out an inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder but puts forward a proposal for a leading QC, Sir Desmond de Silva, to review the case.

His family are told the news during a meeting with David Cameron in Downing Street.

They cut the meeting short and pledge to continue their campaign for an independent public inquiry. They say they will not participate in the review.

The secretary of state says he wants the truth about the murder to be uncovered.

The Irish government and one of the UK's leading barristers condemn the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the killing.

November 2011

MLAs reject an assembly motion calling on the British government to establish a judicial inquiry into the killing.

Meanwhile, Sir Desmond de Silva QC says he is "determined to expose the truth" about the "appalling" murder.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny says he will push for a public inquiry, after meeting Pat Finucane's widow.

January 2012

The Finucane family win the right to a judicial review over the government's refusal to hold a public inquiry into his death.

October 2012

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers says there will be a government security check on the de Silva report, prior to publication, to rule out security breaches.

She says highly sensitive material given by the government to the author would not be included.

The Finucane family claims government "vetting" would undermine the credibility of the report.

December 2012

Sir Desmond de Silva's review confirms that agents of the state were involved in the loyalist murder of Pat Finucane and that the solicitor's killing should have been prevented.

However, he says there had been "no overarching state conspiracy" in the case.

Prime Minister David Cameron says the level of state collusion uncovered by the de Silva report was "shocking".

However, the victim's widow describes it as a "sham" and a "whitewash".

June 2015

At the High Court in Belfast, the Finucane family lose a judicial review of the prime minister's decision to rule out a public inquiry.

However, the judge says that the government has not fully met its obligations to conduct a prompt investigation of new evidence uncovered by the 2012 de Silva report.

The victim's son, John Finucane, says they are disappointed by the ruling but will continue their campaign.

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