Smithwick Tribunal report next week

Inquiry set up over allegations of collusion by gardaí in murder of RUC officers in 1989

The final report of the Smithwick Tribunal into allegations of collusion in 1989 between gardaí and the IRA killers of two RUC officers is likely to be published next week.

After sitting for more than eight years, the tribunal delivered its findings yesterday to the acting Clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan. The document is understood to run to some 300 pages .

Mr Finnegan sought legal advice on the report from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Although these engagements continue, the expectation remains that the report will be lodged in the Oireachtas library next week.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Finnegan confirmed receipt of the report from Judge Peter Smithwick, chairman and sole member of the tribunal.


“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,” the statement said.

“Following completion of his obligations in that regard, the report will be laid in the Houses of the Oireachtas library.”

The report, which will be considered published once lodged in the library, will be available online from that point.

The Dáil does not sit again until Tuesday but there is nothing to stop any submission to the library on Monday.

Under the tribunal’s terms of reference, it falls to Mr Finnegan alone to receive and publish the report. Only at that point will the tribunal’s findings be made known to the Government, which must then determine its political response.

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

The officers were returning from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

Three former members of Dundalk Garda 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 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 tribunal is unique in that it inquired into killings which 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 the RUC.

Speculation there was a Garda “mole” passing on information to the IRA 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 Toby Harnden, published in 1999, carried allegations there was a leak from the Garda. Such allegations were reinforced by journalist Kevin Myers in The Irish Times in March 2000.

Judge 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.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist