Northern Ireland news

John Finucane: Son of murdered solicitor Pat to stand for Sinn Féin in North Belfast

Solicitor John Finucane is to stand for Sinn Féin in North Belfast in next month's general election. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE youngest son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane is set to stand for Sinn Féin in North Belfast at next month's general election.

Veteran MLA Gerry Kelly had been widely expected to stand against the DUP's Nigel Dodds again in one of the north's most keenly fought Westminster constituencies.

But in a surprise move, he has instead nominated John Finucane to run.

Mr Finucane, a partner at Finucane Toner Solicitors, is one of the north's most prominent lawyers and a long-time campaigner for a public inquiry into his father's murder by loyalists in 1989.

He is also a former goalkeeper with Lámh Dhearg GLC in west Belfast and the Antrim county team.

A Sinn Féin member, he said he was "very proud to have been nominated to go forward for selection as the North Belfast Sinn Féin candidate".

Mr Kelly said he was confident "we can return a nationalist MP for the first time in the history of North Belfast and between now and June 8 we will be pulling out all the stops to make this possible".

"Sinn Féin is the only party which can take this seat from the DUP, which can send a clear message to Theresa May that she has no mandate to take the north out of the EU, that she has no mandate for Tory cuts and she has no mandate to continue to deny equality and rights for all."

The SDLP has not yet announced its candidate in the constituency, although it may be former mayor Nichola Mallon who already has a strong assembly vote.

The Ulster Unionists have already said they will not stand in North Belfast.

Nationalist commentator and former Sinn Féin council candidate Chris Donnelly last night said Mr Finucane was the "perfect candidate" for the party.

"It shows Sinn Féin getting sharper in terms of choosing its candidates and that's what it's had to do as it transitions away from the older generation," he said.

"He's perfect in terms of his professional background as a solicitor and his own personal background."

Mr Donnelly said in March’s assembly election, the combined nationalist vote was 42.5 per cent compared to 42.8 per cent for unionist candidates.

But he said the 3.8 per cent of voters who opted for People Before Profit are more likely to vote for Mr Finucane.

Mr Donnelly said he believed Mr Finucane would also be able to attract more moderate nationalist voters.

"He'll be able to get votes from the more affluent upper Antrim Road and Glengormley areas that Gerry Kelly has never been able to maximise because of his IRA background," he said.

Pat Finucane was shot dead by the UFF in front of his young family at his Belfast home in February 1989.

His family have long campaigned for a public inquiry into his death. However, the British government has refused to hold one.

A case review by QC Sir Desmond de Silva confirmed in December 2012 that agents of the state were involved in the killing and it should have been prevented.

Then Prime Minister David Cameron said the level of collusion was "shocking" and apologised but Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine insisted an independent inquiry should be set up.

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