Smithwick report is to be vetted by the DPP

Tribunal spent seven years investigating allegations of Garda/IRA collusion


The report of the Smithwick Tribunal into allegations of Garda/IRA collusion in the murders of two RUC officers has been received by the clerk of the Dáil.

The report will now be examined by the director of public prosecutions to ensure its publication “would not prejudice any criminal proceedings”.

It is expected to be laid in the Dáil library an expression which effectively means the report will be published, in about a week’s time.

The Smithwick Tribunal was set up in May 2005 and commenced operations the following year. It is unique among the tribunals in that it was inquiring into something which happened outside the State.

Chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush on the Edenappa Road in south Armagh, 400 metres from the Border, on March 20th, 1989.

The officers were returning from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station. Their deaths prompted speculation that there was a mole in Dundalk who was passing on information to the IRA, although this was denied by security services on both sides of the Border in the immediate aftermath of the killings.

A book Bandit Country: The IRA and South Armagh by British author Toby Harnden published in 1999 and revised in 2000 carried allegations there was a leaf from the Garda and this was subsequently reinforced by journalist Kevin Myers writing the Irishman’s Diary column, in the Irish Times, in March 2000.

As part of negotiations on the implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the British and Irish Governments agreed to appoint a judge of international standing to look at a range of allegations of collusion between paramilitaries and security forces, in six murder cases in Northern Ireland. One of these was the Breen and Buchanan killings.

The other cases were the murders of Pat Finucane; Lord Justice Maurice and Lady Cecily Gibson; Robert Hamill; Rosemary Nelson; and Billy Wright.

Retired Canadian supreme court judge Peter Cory later discounted the allegations voiced by Mr Harnden and Mr Myers. But he said intelligence documents from security sources “if accepted” could be found to constitute collusion. On this basis he said “there must be a public inquiry”.

Public hearings of the Smithwick Tribunal began in 2011 after more than five years of private investigation carried out by the tribunal.

Both judges, Cory and Smithwick, took a broad view of the definition of collusion, defining it as what may have been done, and what may have been avoided, instances where a blind eye may have been turned or where people may have failed in their duty.

Three former members of Dundalk Garda station were granted legal representation at the tribunal. they were former det sgt Owen Corrigan, sgt Leo Colton and sgt Finbarr Hickey. All three denied passing information to the IRA to assist in the identification and murder of the RUC officers.

In more than a year of public sittings the tribunal heard from British agents, and former members of the IRA, the PSNI, the RUC, the Garda and politicians from both sides of the Border.

In a short statement the Houses of the Oireachtas press office said the report would be referred to the DPP. “Under the Tribunal of Inquiries (Evidence) (Amendment) Act 2002, the Clerk of the Dáil is obliged to ensure that publication of the report would not prejudice any criminal proceedings. Following completion of his obligations in that regard, the report will be laid in the Houses of the Oireachtas library.”