Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane was murdered to silence other human rights lawyers, his son has said.
This week marks 30 years since he was shot 14 times by loyalists in collusion with British security forces while enjoying Sunday lunch at home with his family. He was 39.
Mr Finucane’s son John was a schoolboy when his father died in front of him.
On Sunday, he recalled: “Our lives changed forever.”
It was a deliberate decision to kill him, to silence other lawyers and prevent them from doing that type of work John Finucane
His father’s best years professionally were ahead of him, his son said.
He added: “It was a deliberate decision to kill him, to silence other lawyers and prevent them from doing that type of work.
“What we see now is a generation coming through with lawyers, people wanting their human rights.
“I think that is very much a legacy of Pat Finucane and what he stands for and represents.
“That gives me enormous pride. While they did silence him they could not have made a bigger mess of it if they tried.
“The name reverberates around the world and an enormous amount of credit for that is to due to my mother.”
Former prime minister David Cameron acknowledged the “shocking” level of state collusion in the 1989 Ulster Defence Association (UDA) killing after receiving a report on the evidence.
Sir Desmond de Silva’s review confirmed agents of the state were involved and it should have been prevented – but ruled out an “overarching state conspiracy”.
@johnfinucane calls out the successive failure of British Govts to honour their commitments.
Pat was shot 14 times at his family dinner table in front of his children. He was directly targeted by the British government. Collusion is no illusion
— Martin McKiernan (@martinemmetmck) February 10, 2019
The Finucane family has engaged in years of litigation over what they say is the UK Government’s failure to grant an independent public inquiry and strongly opposed the decision to order the de Silva review.
A Supreme Court judgment on legal action connected to the case is pending.
Mr Finucane was from working-class west Belfast and took advantage of the opportunities afforded by university education to become a lawyer during the Northern Ireland conflict.
As a defence solicitor, he represented clients who included convicted members of the IRA and families involved in shoot-to-kill allegations against the former police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
During the Irish republican hunger strikes in prison during the 1980s he represented Bobby Sands.
His son said he represented all sides, while others at a special event in Belfast said he spoke up for the voiceless.
Mr Finucane recalled the early years of his family’s campaign for justice.
“We were attacked very deliberately and cruelly as nothing more than republican propagandists, that we were an IRA man’s children who did not deserve truth and justice,” he said.
He praised his mother Geraldine’s hard work, strength and resilience during a speech marking the anniversary of his father’s death.
Gerry Adams TD pictured at the event at St Mary’s University College Belfast entitled ÔPat Finucane 30th Anniversary, A Community ReflectsÕ. The event was organised by Feile an Phobail (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)
Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said Mr Finucane’s murder “haunted” the corridors of power to this day.
He said the Finucane family was using its influence to help everybody else, to raise their voices for those who had none.
He said he was a decent human being, a hero who dedicated his life to aiding others.
Mr Adams added: “As a human rights lawyer it didn’t matter to Pat whether you were a republican, a unionist, a loyalist, or none of these.
“If you were arrested you have rights and Pat’s responsibility – his vocation, his mission in life – was to vindicate and defend those rights.
“Pat believed that the law should uphold and protect the rights of citizens. But he was not naive.
“Pat understood the difference between the theory and the practice in the application of human rights.”