THE family of a solicitor gunned down by loyalist paramilitaries as he sat down to dinner in his home were “appalled” by Tony Blair’s “ignorance” of the case, newly released archive files show.

The murder of Pat Finucane during the Northern Ireland Troubles became notorious not only for its ruthlessness but revelations of state collusion, which were later described by Prime Minister David Cameron as “frankly shocking”.

The high-profile defence solicitor was killed by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife and three children in the family home in north Belfast in 1989.

He had defended both republican and loyalist paramilitaries, but was well-known for defending IRA members.

A meeting between his family and UK Prime Minister Blair was set up after a pledge from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern earlier in 2000.

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In February 1999, based on the findings of a report by Jane Winter of the British-Irish Rights Watch (BIRW), it was conveyed to the Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam that the Irish government believed a public inquiry was “necessary”.

Though Minister of State Liz O’Donnell had said in a letter to Mowlam that the case for a public inquiry was “compelling”, the Irish government had not made a public statement calling for such a probe.

Documents released to the National Archives show the Irish government made more than one prompt to ensure the family met Blair.

The meeting at No 10 Downing Street was attended by Pat’s widow Geraldine and their children Michael, John and Katherine, and had been scheduled for 30 minutes but instead lasted 50.

Solicitors Paul Mageean and Peter Madden as well as Winter attended the meeting with Blair, who was accompanied by Jonathan Powell.

In a confidential document dated September 5 2000, Fergal Mythen, of the Irish government’s security section, said he spoke to Winter after the meeting.

“It was at the start a very disappointing meeting from the family’s perspective, with Blair sticking rigidly to the line that an independent inquiry was not possible while the Stevens’ investigation was ongoing,” the note said.

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John Stevens conducted three probes into allegations of security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

Winter said she thought Blair was “initially very dismissive of their case” and had initially tried to distance his Government from it.

“He was also badly briefed and they were ‘appalled by his ignorance’ of the details of the case,” the note stated.

Blair was told that the handling of the case could negatively impact the peace process and that it was about winning the confidence of nationalists in the system of law.

The note states that about halfway through the meeting, Blair went “off-brief” and began to “engage seriously” with the arguments being put to him.

“Blair said he wanted to know the truth and that, if he found that members of the security forces had targeted individuals for murder, then ‘they would be out of a job’.

“The Finucanes were encouraged by his evident strength of feeling on this point.”