I used to think that the killing of Pat Finucane touched people here, at least in part, because he was middle-class. A successful lawyer, living in a nice house, sitting down to a family dinner as so many people like him have done. And then the door opens and Death comes in.
I still think that the ease with which the middle-class could identify with him and his family played a part in his death standing out from so many others. But I’ve changed my mind that class was the central issue in terms of people’s response. I now believe it was because he was a lawyer.
The fact that he came from a republican family, the fact that he defended those charged with IRA activities should not have entered into his right to conduct his work with all the energy and talent he had. The fact is that Pat Finucane played by the rules – he worked literally within the law. And for that he was cut down mercilessly in front of his wife and children.
The family have for years been campaigning for a public inquiry into his death. The British PM David Cameron has accepted that collusion took place and apologised to the family – but he refused to set up a public enquiry. Instead he set up a review of the evidence under the London lawyer Desmond de Silva.
So what will the family get when the review reports on 12 December? Not what they asked for, that’s for sure. Cameron has appointed de Silva in the hope that people will be unwilling to criticise the report because it might be seen as criticism of de Silva. It won’t. The criticism of the report is and will be that it’s not a public inquiry. And it’s not a public inquiry because the British government is concerned that some very old skeletons might tumble out of the cupboard.
I do hope the Finucanes refuse to be fobbed off with the de Silva report. I don’t think they will.