Finucane portrait unveiling in Washington

Pat Finucane, ritratto di Robert BallaghA STUNNING portrait by Ireland’s top artist of murdered human rights lawyer Pat Finucane will be unveiled on Capitol Hill in Washington DC today (Thursday).

Congressman Richard E. Neal, Chairman of the powerful Friends of Ireland group, will take the wraps off the striking painting by acclaimed Irish artist Robert Ballagh. The portrait, which hasn’t before been seen in public, is reproduced inside this week’s Andersonstown News.

Pat Finucane was gunned down in February 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries working in collusion with state forces. Despite repeated calls by the Irish government and international human rights organisations, the British have consistently faced down calls for an independent international inquiry into the shooting.

Geraldine Finucane, widow of Pat, will attend the March 18 Capitol Hill reception to unveil the portrait.

“I’m delighted to be involved,” she said. “I’m impressed by the portrait, not only for its beauty but also because it successfully conveys a serious message.

“I have been going to Capitol Hill for many years now in my battle to find out the truth about the British government’s role in Pat’s murder and have always been met with a warm, welcome and sympathetic ear. It’s great to see that support underlined at this event which manages to find beauty from a very troubled time.”

Artist Robert Ballagh, designer of the Riverdance set and highly-regarded globally for his work, says the portrait shows a youthful Pat Finucane against a canvas which has been “shattered”.

“I wanted to capture the importance of this man as a human rights lawyer while also conveying, without sensationalism, the violent nature of his death,” he said. “For me and many people, Pat Finucane is a hero and with this portrait we are helping to ensure that he won’t be forgotten.”

Congressman Richard Neal said he was honoured to take part in the Capitol Hill ceremony.

“For more than 20 years, I have worked with my colleagues in the United States House of Representatives to campaign for the truth into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane,” he said. “In 2006, on a bipartisan basis, we passed a resolution calling on the British government to hold an independent public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death. As our search for justice and accountability continues, I am honoured to take part in this unveiling ceremony in the United States Capitol Building with Geraldine Finucane and the renowned artist Robert Ballagh.

“This extraordinary portrait, seen here for the first time, will help keep Pat’s spirit and legacy alive for years to come.”

The painting, which has been commissioned by the Belfast Media Group and Belfast art collector Paul Cooper, will go on display next in the Boston State House and also at the offices of Judiciary Committee Chairman Eugene G. O’Flaherty.