McDonald refuses to be drawn on Finucane presidential candidate speculation

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Mary Lou McDonald has declined to be drawn on suggestions Belfast lawyer John Finucane might be Sinn Fein’s candidate for the Irish presidency.

Mrs McDonald said she had seen the speculation that Mr Finucane may emerge as the man to lead the party’s bid for the Aras.

Asked for her reaction, the Sinn Fein president answered cryptically: “I think John Finucane is wonderful.”

John Finucane
John Finucane (Niall Carson/PA)

While he was defeated by the DUP’s Nigel Dodds in that contest, Mr Finucane has maintained a prominent position within the party since.

He formally nominated Mrs McDonald as new party president at a special conference earlier this year and was also the man chosen to introduce her at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in June.

Other names mentioned in relation to the Sinn Fein candidacy include Fermanagh and West Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew and MEP Liadh Ni Riada.

Mrs McDonald was asked to comment on the rumours about Mr Finucane on a visit to Belfast on Monday.

“I saw that speculation,” she replied.

“We are in the very lucky position that we have any number of people who might come forward and contest the election for us.

“We have appointed a committee, a sub-committee of the Ard Comhairle, to report back in 10 days’ time to agree the process by which the candidate will be selected.”

Mr Finucane has been at the forefront of his family’s long legal battle to secure answers about his father’s notorious 1989 murder.

Pat Finucane, 38, who represented a number of high-profile republicans, was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife and three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989.

The killing, one of the most controversial of The Troubles, is shrouded in controversy amid allegations the security forces colluded with the gunmen from the outlawed Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

The family has so far failed in legal bids to make the Government see through a commitment made during peace process negotiations at Weston Park in 2001 to hold a public inquiry.

Judges have upheld the Government’s right to balance public interest factors, such as costs, when, years later it opted to commission a review of case papers by QC Sir Desmond de Silva rather than instigate an inquiry.

The matter is currently being considered by the UK Supreme Court.

In publishing his findings in 2012, Sir Desmond detailed shocking levels of state involvement in the case.

That included spreading malicious propaganda suggesting Mr Finucane was sympathetic to the IRA; one or possibly more police officers proposing him as a target to loyalists; and the mishandling of state agents inside the UDA who were involved in the murder.

While he found no evidence of an overarching conspiracy by the authorities to target the solicitor, Sir Desmond said the actions of a number of state employees had “furthered and facilitated” the shooting.

He also said there had been efforts to thwart the subsequent criminal investigation.

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