12/12/2012 17:07 GMT | Updated 12/12/2012 17:08 GMT

Pat Finucane Profile: How The Murder 'Hero Lawyer' Became One Of N Ireland's Most Controversial

Pat Finucane, murdered in 1989

Pat Finucane was a leading civil rights lawyer, known for representing some of the most famous IRA activists, including hunger strikers Bobby Sands and Pat McGeown, and families involved in shoot-to-kill allegations against the police.

He is a hero for many, a human rights lawyer, fighting for justice for Northern Irish families who was subject to the most hostile intimidation and death threats.

His murder is one of the most controversial killings during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The devoted Catholic father-of-three Mr Finucane was sitting down to Sunday lunch with his wife, daughter and sons, when loyalist paramilitaries used a sledgehammer to break into their house and opened fire in the kitchen.

SEE ALSO: Finucane Family Call Da Silva Report 'Whitewash, A Confidence Trick'

As his family watched, Mr Finucane was shot 14 times. He was 39 years old, having recently defended hunger striker Pat McGeown, who had been charged with helping to organise the 1988 murder of two Army corporals, and Finucane succeeded in getting the charges against McGeown dropped

In 2001, his son Michael, wrote a remembrance piece in the Guardian.

"I can still remember it clearly. It is an image seared into my mind. The thing I remember most vividly is the noise; the reports of each bullet reverberating in the kitchen, how my grip on my younger brother and sister tightened with every shot.

"It's not a memory I care to visit very often, but it's there. I expect it always will be."

The family have repeatedly denied that Mr Finucane was a member of the IRA.

His son described intimidation and harassment from police. "Detectives made threats, communicated to him by clients he represented. They began as snide comments about his legal ability or general personal insults, but escalated before long into death threats.

"A typical example was: 'He is a thug in a suit, a person trying to let on he is doing his job, and ... he, like every other fenian [Catholic] bastard, would meet his end." The detective continued, "He is a dead man. He'll be dead within three months.'"

But others have alleged Finocane was not the peace loving, freedom defender described by many of his supporters.

Sean O'Callaghan, a former head of the IRA Southern Command, told The Telegraph in 2003 that "Finucane should not have been killed - but he was in the IRA."

He wrote: "Pat Finucane was first and foremost an IRA volunteer, and he exploited his position ruthlessly to wage his war on the state.

"Pat Finucane was an effective agent for the IRA. Who knows what "punishments" were exacted by the IRA as a result of his activities?

"Finucane did end up being murdered, but not because being a member of the IRA was immediately punishable by murder or execution - unlike being a member of the RUC , the Army, the judiciary, a civilian worker at a security force base or an agent for the state."

Pat Finucane was a Catholic, the eldest of eight, but married a Protestant, Geraldine, who he met at Trinity College, Dublin.

The UN called for an an independent inquiry in 1999, but it was rejected, and Sir John Stevens, then deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was appointed to carry out an investigation.

In 2003, loyalist Ken Barrett was arrested and charged with the murder of Mr Finucane. After he confessed, he was sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment.

Various inquiries have been promised since 2004, halted in 2006 by the then Secretary of State Peter Hain.

In October 2011, despite rumours that an independent inquiry could still happen, David Cameron ruled out an inquiry, handing the case over to leading QC, Sir Desmond de Silva, to review the case, and his review was published this week.

The damning report highlighted "shocking" levels of state collusion into the death of Belfast's Mr Finucane, but did not find evidence the government was informed in advance of the murder or knew about the subsequent cover-up.

Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, Mrs Finucane said: "The dirt has been swept under the carpet without any serious attempt to lift the lid on what really happened to Pat and so many others."