Collusion findings ‘deeply shocking’ - former NI secretary
Tom King, who served at time of killings, says he heard of other allegations of Garda links
The findings of Garda collusion by Judge Peter Smithwick (pictured) were deeply shocking, former Northern Ireland secretary Tom King has said. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
The Smithwick Inquiry’s declaration that two senior RUC officers were killed by the IRA with the aid of members of the Garda is “deeply shocking”, former Northern Ireland secretary Tom King has said.
“It is a terrible event, deeply shocking because originally the view was that there hadn’t been collusion,” Lord King, who served in Stormont at the time of the killings.
Mr King served as Northern Ireland Secretary from 1985 until July 1989, but suspicions about the killings of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan had begun to circulate even before he left Belfast.
“I did hear the stories on this occasion. There were allegations that there had been collusion. I think not long after, to be honest,” he told the Irish Times tonight.
However, the Breen/Buchanan killings were the only example of Garda collusion that he heard of during his time as Northern Ireland Secretary.
The Smithwick Inquiry’s findings will “shock an enormous number of good and very responsible members of the Garda for whom I have always had a high respect”, he declared.
However, Lord King did go on to make the point – one that will be contested – that the Garda Siochana did not arrest as many IRA members as they could have during the Troubles.
“There were many occasions when we had excellent co-operation with the Garda. They prevented a number of what could certainly have been serious atrocities based on intelligence that we were able to provide
“But there weren’t often many arrests made. Whatever outrage it was might be prevented and explosives and firearms recovered, but they were not always very successful in arresting people,” he said.
Asked if he believed that was as a result of policy, or blunder, Lord King said: “It was a comment that people made to me, purely an informal comment that was made.
“But, if you would, keep this in perspective there was undoubtedly many occasions of excellent co-operation but there was always a challenge to enhance it.
“Obviously, there was always an impatience when terrorists committing offences disappeared over the Border and there was always a hope that more could be done,” he went on.
The issue of the action to be taken by the Irish authorities against IRA members who had fled across the Border “was a continual subject of discussion at inter-governmental conferences on security”.
However, he accepted that successive Irish governments were never in a position to match the resources that were spent by their British counterparts over decades on security.
The northern side of the Border “was heavily policed – police, army, observation posts – whereas it wasn’t possible and there couldn’t be the same level of policing on the other side.
“It was partly a question of resources. We obviously had a major challenge and committed very substantial resources to the problem. We had 14,000 plus soldiers in NI at that time,” he said.