Tribunal to decide on extra time

Wed, Sep 19, 2012, 01:00

THE SMITHWICK Tribunal is expected to announce today whether it will seek additional time to investigate new information on possible Garda-IRA collusion.

The move comes as the North’s DUP Minister Arlene Foster said she will lead a delegation of IRA victims to Dublin to seek an apology from the Irish Government for what she said was the failure of the South’s authorities to adequately combat the IRA.

The Smithwick Tribunal has been asked by legal teams for the families of murdered RUC men to fully investigate new material which comprised PSNI intelligence documents alleging a previously unknown Garda officer may have been passing information to the IRA on security matters.

The tribunal which has been running for more than six years and has been holding public hearings since June 2011, received the material from the PSNI in July.

Three former gardaí formerly based in Dundalk are being investigated by the tribunal. They are former detective sergeants Leo Colton and Owen Corrigan and former sergeant Finbarr Hickey. Mr Hickey served a prison sentence for signing blank passport application forms which enabled false passports to end up in the hands of known republicans. Mr Hickey claimed he did not know the passports were destined for republicans and said he signed them at the behest of Det Sgt Colton. Mr Colton denies this.

All three men have consistently denied allegations of collusion with the IRA.

Developments at the tribunal are understood to be keenly followed by the DUP, including the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson. On Monday the Northern Assembly passed a DUP motion calling on the Irish Government to apologise for its alleged role in the emergence of the IRA by 47 votes to 46.

During the debate Ms Foster said the IRA had been able to engage in “ethnic cleansing” along the Border aided by acts of omission at least, on the part of the Irish authorities. The new information on the possible Garda-IRA collusion arrived just as the tribunal was expected to wind up its investigations. The tribunal’s terms of reference are to investigate allegations of Garda-IRA collusion in the 1989 murders of RUC officers Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan.

Public sittings of the tribunal have been in recess since the first week of August.