Preparations were under way last night to publish the final report of the Smithwick Tribunal today. The inquiry was set up more than eight years ago to examine allegations of collusion in 1989 between gardaí and the IRA killers of two senior RUC officers.
Judge Peter Smithwick submitted his report last Friday to the acting Clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan. The report examines the murders of RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan. They were killed in an IRA ambush in south Armagh, 400m from the Border, on March 20th, 1989. They were returning from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.
Following Mr Finnegan's consideration of legal advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the tribunal document is likely to be lodged in the Oireachtas library before lunchtime today. It will then be considered published and, from that point, will be made available online.
Before publication, Mr Finnegan is obliged to ensure that the release of the tribunal’s findings would not compromise any criminal proceedings. Under the tribunal’s terms of reference, it falls to him alone to receive and publish the report.
The Press Association reported last night that the tribunal gave sight of the findings yesterday to the families of the two RUC men and their legal representatives. Mr Buchanan’s son William had called on the Government to allow him to read the report some hours before it was published.
Three former gardaí based in Dundalk were granted legal representation at the tribunal. They were former Det Sgt Owen Corrigan, Sgt Leo Colton and Sgt Finbarr Hickey. Each denied passing information to the IRA to assist in the murder of the RUC officers.
The tribunal was set up in May 2005 and investigated privately for five years before holding public sittings in 2011.
The inquiry is unique in that it inquired into killings that happened in another jurisdiction. In more than a year of public sittings it heard from British agents, the PSNI, the Garda and politicians from both sides of the Border, as well as former members of the IRA and RUC.
Speculation that there was a Garda “mole” passing on information to the IRA was denied by security services on both sides of the Border.