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Reflecting on Pat Finucane’s legacy

ANNIVERSARY: John Finucane remembers his father, Pat, who was murdered 30 years ago this week ANNIVERSARY: John Finucane remembers his father, Pat, who was murdered 30 years ago this week
By Michael Jackson

A SPECIAL event to reflect on the life and legacy of Pat Finucane is to be held at St Mary’s University College on Sunday.
Organised by Féile an Phobail, the event is being held to mark the upcoming 30th anniversary of the prominent human rights lawyer, who was murdered by British state-backed loyalist death squad in his home on February 12, 1989.
Mr Finucane’s son, John Finucane, who is also a solicitor, will be joined by Gerry Adams as they reflect on the legacy of his father’s death and work.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s event, John said it will also offer a chance to share personal memories of his father, who he fondly remembers as a fun-loving “messer”.
“It was just before my ninth birthday when he was killed, but I always remember kicking a ball with him,” he said.
“He was a good soccer player and would have played at a fairly good level in the Irish League and Amateur League. People still talk about him, and I don’t think there is that much rose-tinted glasses, as there can be when people aren’t about any more, but he was a very successful forward and good goal-scorer, and I remember kicking a ball with him in the back garden and going to games with him.
“I remember the house being very busy with phonecalls and taking messages. I also remember going on holidays – we used to go camping every summer – so I have all of those good memories.”
He continued: “He was a messer. He would have wound me up, he would have wound my brother and my sister up, and he would have been good fun about the house.
“The older I get the more I appreciate it more from doing this type of job – although he would have been doing it in a different context than me – but I imagine that it would have brought a lot stress and challenges and I suppose going back to the house and winding the kids up and having a bit of craic was a way to unwind.”
John was present with the rest of his family when loyalist gunmen broke into their Fortwilliam Drive home and murdered his father as they sat down to Sunday dinner. The “brutal” murder is still “very clear” to him as it changed his family’s lives forever. The proceeding years would be marked by the campaign for justice as they took on the British state.
“I don’t even think I appreciate how taxing the campaign has been,” John admits.
“My life growing up has been in the context of making allegations of collusion against the state in a time, from the early 90s onwards where the word collusion was a dirty word; you were a republican propagandist. That was my normality.
“It has taken me until my later years to appreciate that my mother was raising three kids, she was going to work and getting children up to get them ready for school, getting breakfast lunch and dinner ready – doing all of that having lost her husband. It has taken me a few years to realise the impact that it had on her, and that makes me appreciate and admire her a lot more than I already did.”
Pat Finucane’s case is still under review by The Supreme Court as his family continue to fight for an inquiry. Asked about the significance of the campaign for other victims of state violence, John said: “Something we have said from the very beginning of our campaign is that this apparatus and this policy that the British state had, which resulted in the deaths and the murders of so many people here, wasn’t just about Pat Finucane. They didn’t set this up just to kill my dad; they killed people before him and they killed people after him.
“I think it has been an example of what you can achieve if you are persistent and you have that support around you. We weren’t just a family, we had the support of NGOs, we had the support of investigative journalists, we had the support of governments and politicians. Whilst it hasn’t delivered in an inquiry, it has resulted in the word collusion having a very different context – people now accept that it happened and there is no longer a ‘few rotten apples in the barrel theory’ and it is no longer ‘republican propaganda’.”
He continued: “The support that people have given us over the years, it’s very hard to put that into words. Whether it’s people talking about their memories of my father, people having encouraging words about our campaign, or attending events like this one in St Mary’s, it really provides us so much support.
“It’s very humbling and we have always been grateful and we will remain truly grateful for that. My father came from a community that had very little and he wanted to use his education to make people’s lives much better, so for people to come out to remember and pay tribute to him means an awful lot to me and my family.”
Sunday’s event will be held at 1pm in St Mary’s University College, Falls Road.

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