10 February 2005 Edition
Families protest British Inquiries Bill
BY FERN LANE
The family of Pat Finucane were in the House of Commons in London this week to raise awareness of their deep concerns surrounding the British Government's proposed Inquiries Bill, legislation which, in its present form, threatens the viability and independence of all future public inquiries.
The family is particularly concerned that the new Bill will hand effective control of all future public inquiries to ministers, who will have sweeping powers to determine the terms of reference of any inquiries, their level of funding, and what evidence can be submitted to them.
Whilst at the House of Commons, the Finucanes also met with a number of other families who are seeking inquiries into the deaths of loved ones. Amongst them was Geoff Grey of the Armed Forces Families Justice Campaign and Maureen Kavanagh, who is campaigning for a public inquiry into the Southall Train Crash in September 1997
Geoff Gray's son, a 17-year-old private, also called Geoff, was found dead of gunshot wounds in September 2001 at Deepcut Barracks. He was one of four young recruits all of whom died at Deepcut in a similar manner between 1995 and 2002. The official version is that the four committed suicide, but the families do not accept this verdict and are campaigning for an inquiry into the deaths.
Maureen Kavanagh's son Peter was killed in the Southall train crash in September 1997, when seven people died and 147 were injured. Again, the official version, which blamed driver error, is contradicted by what the families of the victims believe. They argue that the crash would have been prevented by the installation of the safety system known as Automatic Train Protection, but that this had not been done because the company responsible, Railtrack, was not prepared to spend the necessary money.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Michael Finucane, son of Pat Finucane, said that he was hopeful that the meeting with other families pressing for inquiries will have helped to raise awareness of what the British Government is attempting to do with the introduction of the Inquiries Bill. He said he believes the motive behind it was entirely political.
"The Bill will have a particular impact on our case and we feel that it is being rushed through in response to the Pat Finucane Case, because the government doesn't want to have to deal with what would come out of an inquiry," he said.
He added that the government was also reneging on an agreement it made with the family to hold an inquiry. "We have an intergovernmental agreement that was made at Weston Park," he said. "The British Government agreed to implement the recommendations of the Cory Report, which called for an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, and now they are breaking that agreement. According to that agreement, we should have an inquiry now and it should be established under existing law.
"We are going to be monitoring the passage of the Bill through the Houses of Parliament and will continue to press for a proper Tribunals of Inquiry Bill."