New material for Smithwick tribunal
Twelve new pieces of intelligence relating to allegations of Garda/IRA collusion during the Troubles have been sent to the Smithwick Tribunal by the PSNI.
The new material follows five new pieces of intelligence that caused consternation among parties at the tribunal when they were revealed by the PSNI in July.
The tribunal is investigating allegations of Garda/IRA collusion in the murders of two RUC officers, Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan, who were ambushed minutes after they left a meeting in Dundalk Garda station in 1989. The tribunal was established in March 2005 and began investigating in early 2006, with public hearings beginning in June 2011.
The revelation of a combined total of 17 new pieces of intelligence will now severely test the tribunal’s ability to meet is revised deadline to present its findings to the Oireachtas by October 31st.
As the tribunal resumed public hearings after the summer break this morning, tribunal lead counsel Mary Laverty SC said assistant chief constable of the PSNI Drew Harris would be taking the stand to give evidence.
However, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for an Garda, asked “how it came to pass that the tribunal was apparently misled” by the PSNI in relation to its earlier assertions that it had presented all evidence in relation to collusion.
Mr McGuinness said recent months had seen 17 pieces of evidence emerge after the tribunal was in existence for seven years.
He said the tribunal had “pursued diligently” one piece of intelligence provided by the PSNI, and known as an SB50, in public hearings over the last year. Mr McGuinness said it was unknown if Mr Harris would address the SB50, the five intelligence documents revealed in July or the latest 12.
Solicitor James McGuill for Finbarr Hickey, one of three former members of Dundalk gardai represented at the tribunal, said the tribunal “may have to embark on a re-hearing of the entire evidence in the case” due to the late arrival of intelligence.
Jim O’Callaghan SC, for former detective sergeant Owen Corrigan, said the tribunal was “placed in an impossible position”. He recalled PSNI officer Roy McComb had told the tribunal in May that if there was any further information the tribunal would have been given it.
Mr O’Callaghan said Mr McComb came back and told the tribunal in July that there was a further five pieces of information that were credible and reliable and exculpatory of his client. Now, he said the PSNI had revealed a further 12 pieces of information.
“The tribunal can not be prolonged indefinitely by the PSNI coming in at the 11th hour," he said.
On an application from Mark Robinson, for the PSNI, Judge Smithwick agreed to hear the evidence of Mr Harris in private session, and he asked the media and public to leave the chamber.