Smithwick tribunal to hear evidence from witnesses

Tue, Jun 7, 2011, 01:00

THE SMITHWICK Tribunal investigating Garda or State collusion in the IRA ambush of two RUC officers will this week begin hearing evidence from witnesses for the first time, five years after it was established.

Inquiry chairman Peter Smithwick, the retired president of the District Court, will make an opening statement today and hearings of evidence will begin on Thursday. The duration of the tribunal, which has cost €8 million to date, and the lack of information it has disclosed about its progress have become the subject of controversy.

The inquiry was set up in 2005 to investigate if there was a basis to allegations that there was collusion by gardaí or by other State employees in the murder of RUC officers Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan in 1989. They were killed in an IRA ambush near the Border village of Jonesboro, Co Armagh, as they returned home from a meeting with senior Garda officers in Dundalk earlier that day.

The impetus for the inquiry was an earlier investigation conducted by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory into allegations of police and State collusion, north and south.

Last week, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter moved a Dáil motion obliging the tribunal to furnish an interim report by the end of this month and a final report by the end of November. The move led to accusations by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Independent TD Thomas Pringle that Mr Shatter was imposing a deadline, or guillotine, on the work of the tribunal. Mr Shatter rejected the assertion.