The more I think about John Finucane’s decision to stand in the Westminster general election for Sinn Fein in North Belfast the more I find aspects to puzzle over.
The Shinners have clearly given up on Gerry Kelly ever persuading enough middle class Catholics in North Belfast to vote for him to make the seat winnable.
John Finucane however just might do the trick. He is a successful solicitor with a commendable track record in fighting for many years to expose the full story of his father’s murder. I have had dealings with most the Finucane family over the years but never John, But by all accounts he is a very nice guy, with genuine concerns for the people in his putative constituency and a lawyer with real interest in human rights issues.
He also comes from a family which is respected in the well-to-do Catholic parts of the constituency, of which there are quite a few. Unlike Mr Kelly, despite his ministerial mantle. As the saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig……..
John Finucane on the other hand just could pull off a surprise and deprive the DUP of a seat which for many years they have considered almost part of the family silver. And it would be quite a coup for Sinn Fein, signifying a new dominance of electoral politics in Belfast.
So running John Finucane in North Belfast makes a lot of political sense for SF.
But what about John Finucane? Why did he throw in his lot with Sinn Fein, aside from an ambition to be an MP? Or to put it another way, did he think that Sinn Fein did all that it could to help his family get to the bottom of his father’s death and that, in return, helping the party score a striking political victory in this crucial seat is therefore warranted?
In the run up to the final power sharing deal between the DUP and SF back in 2006, there were multiple opportunities for SF to insist upon a firm British commitment to a full judicial inquiry, held in public, into the Pat Finucane killing as a precondition to progress. But Sinn Fein never played that card, even though it could have done so.
It was well known at the time that the people who were really ready and willing to do anything about the Finucane case were the SDLP but their clout was minimal. The game at the time was all about getting the Shinners into bed with Paisley. SF were in the driving seat and could have named their price. But, in relstion to Pst Finucane, they didn’t.
So why not?
The UDA team that killed Pat Finucane in February 1989 was essentially from the same part of the organisation that had attempted to assassinate the Sinn Fein president and West Belfast MP, Gerry Adams in the autumn of 1988, just a few months before Pat Finucane’s assassination at his home off the Antrim Road.
Using a motorbike and pillion passenger, the UDA team had planned to place a limpet mine – constructed by a bomb-maker in East Belfast – on the roof of Adams’ car as he was driven away from a Housing Executive office in the city centre which he visited weekly. The mine had a very short fuse and the UDA calculated that it would almost certainly kill Adams.
The man who commanded the UDA unit for the Adams’ murder bid was the same man who led the unit which led and directed the killing of Pat Finucane. And in both cases, Brian Nelson, the UDA’s intelligence chief and an agent for the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU), did the preparatory intel work.
Pat Finucane, as we know, was killed by UDA gunmen who stormed into his home as he prepared to eat Sunday dinner with his family. Adams survived when the UDA’s limpet mine was discovered during a security force raid and the plan to kill him was then abandoned.
If there had been a proper public judicial inquiry into Pat Finucane’s death it is almost certain that the full story behind these two contrasting episodes would have been told. And given the overlapping role played in both incidents by FRU agent Brian Nelson, it stands to reason that this would have been a very interesting story.
Interesting for sure, but also possibly a story whose details would prove to be embarrassing and unwelcome for the Sinn Fein leader.
Is this why Sinn Fein never made a proper probe of the Finucane killing a precondition for sharing power with Ian Paisley? Was Sinn Fein just not willing to push for a public inquiry for fear of what might emerge?
If so, John Finucane should perhaps be asking himself why on earth he is standing for Sinn Fein in North Belfast?