Timeline of Pat Finucane case

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 00:00

1981 - Pat Finucane comes into the public eye when he acts as solicitor for Bobby Sands during the hunger-striker's successful campaign to be elected as a British MP. He handled the legal affairs of other hunger-strikers in the latter stages of their protest when, the prisoners believed, there would be legal moves made to revive them.

1987 - The British army's secret agent handling team, the Force Research Unit, recruits former loyalist paramilitary Brian Nelson to return to Northern Ireland and become an agent within the Ulster Defence Association. Nelson rises to become the UDA's intelligence chief.

1988 - Pat Finucane becomes widely known in Northern Ireland when he represents the families of three men killed in the so called "shoot to kill" episode in Armagh in 1982. He brought a successful High Court challenge to a coroners ruling that the RUC men involved in the killings should not be called to give evidence.

Pat Fincane represents Patrick McGeown, who was accused of helping to organise the March 1988 killing of two army corporals, when criminal charges against him are dropped.

January 1989 - British home office junior minister Douglas Hogg tells MPs that certain solicitors in Northern Ireland are "unduly sympathetic" to terrorist organisations, indicating he meant the IRA.

February 1989 - Pat Finucane is murdered by loyalist gunmen who burst into his home in north Belfast and shot him multiple times as he was having a meal with his children and wife Geraldine, who was wounded. SDLP and Sinn Féin politicians say Hogg's comments legitimised loyalist attacks on solicitors who represent republicans.

September 1989 - John Stevens, then deputy chief constable of Cambridgeshire Police, is appointed to investigate allegations of collaboration between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries. A fire at the headquarters of the Stevens team the following January destroys many of their files.

Mr Stevens' investigations primarily dealt with security force files about potential republican assassination targets falling into the hands of loyalist paramilitaries. He found evidence of a "small number" of individual security force members passing on information but said such collusion was "neither widespread nor institutionalised".

January 1992 - Brian Nelson goes on trial at Belfast crown court. Col Gordon Kerr of the Force Research Unit tells the trial Nelson wanted to save lives. He said that Nelson's information allowed him to hand police 730 reports of possible assassination attempts against 217 individuals. Nelson is jailed for 10 years on five counts of conspiracy to murder.

April 1993 - John Stevens begins the second inquiry into the security forces in Northern Ireland.

March 1998 - United Nations special investigator Param Cumaraswamy accuses the RUC of "systematic intimidation" of lawyers representing paramilitary suspects. He calls for an independent inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.

April 1999 - John Stevens, now deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, returns again to Northern Ireland to launch a third inquiry.

June 1999 - Former UDA quartermaster William Stobie, also a police informant, charged with the murder of Mr Finucane, but later acquitted. He was murdered in December 2001 by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used in the past by the UDA and Loyalist Volunteer Force.

May 2002 - Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory appointed to investigate six controversial killings in the North, including that of Pat Finucane, in which security force involvement was alleged.

June 2002 - BBC's Panorama programme provides details of undercover Force Research Unit and alleges an unnamed RUC special branch officer persuaded loyalists to murder Mr Finucane.

April 2003: Stevens third report concludes elements within the RUC and British army colluded with loyalist paramilitaries to murder Catholics in the late 1980s. Finucane family reiterates its call for a full, independent, public inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder. Also, Brian Nelson dies of cancer in Canada. Following his release from prison, he had been living under an assumed identity at a secret location in England.

July 2003 - The European Court of Human Rights rules that the police investigation of the murder of Pat Finucane was a breach of human rights.

October 2003 - Cory Reports handed to British and Irish governments with clear warning that text should not be altered. Delay in publishing reports sees British government accused of trying to "sex down" the findings.

April 2004 - Cory reports published and find "there is strong evidence that collusive acts were committed by the army (Force Research Unit), the RUC Special Branch and the security service." Judge Cory said the army handlers of Brian Nelson and their superiors "turned a blind eye" to his "criminal acts" which "established a pattern of behaviour that could be characterised as collusive". He recommends a public inquiry into Pat Finucane’s death.

September 2004 - Loyalist Ken Barrett receives a life sentence after admitting he had a role in the shooting of Pat Finucane. Then Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy subsequently moves to set up an inquiry into the Finucane case but says special legislation is needed because it would have to deal with sensitive matters of national security.

The Finucane family opposes the Inquiries Act 2005, arguing it would allow government to interfere with the independence of a future inquiry because a government minister could rule whether the inquiry sat in public or private. Plans to establish an inquiry are halted by then Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain.

October 2011 - Geraldine Finucane says she is “angry” and “insulted” after British prime minister David Cameron tells her he was proposing a barrister-led review of her husband’s case. Mr Cameron apologises to the family and acknowledges there was collusion. A limited 18 month inquiry into his death led by Sir Desmond da Silva QC is announced. He is allowed to examine existing documentation but not to examine witnesses under oath.

January 2012 - Finucane family granted a judicial review of the decision by the British government not to hold a public inquiry into his death.

December 2012 - The Da Silva report, which runs to some 500 pages, is published.