Smithwick report finds Irish police officers colluded in RUC murders

December 9, 2013

By ChristineKeighery

The report from an eight-year public inquiry into allegations of IRA/Garda collusion was finally published last week.

The Smithwick report found that Irish police officers colluded in the IRA murders of two senior Northern Ireland policemen.

Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were shot dead in March 1989 in an IRA ambush on the Edenappa Road, near Jonesborough while returning from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

In 2003, Canadian judge, Peter Cory, recommended that a tribunal should be set up to examine allegations of collusion in the murders of the two most senior RUC officers killed during the Troubles.

The Smithwick inquiry was subsequently set up in 2005 to investigate the allegations  but public hearings did not begin until 2011, and lasted until June this year.

During the two year public inquiry the tribunal has heard from former high level RUC and garda officers, a former government minister as well as British agents and former IRA members.

In the report of his inquiry, judge Peter Smithwick said he was “satisfied there was collusion in the murders”.

Smithwick said that while there had been no “smoking gun” he was “satisfied” that there had been collusion by one or more Garda officers in the murders

He also referred to former garda sergeant Owen Corrigan, concluding that “what may have started out as a professional relationship with subversives for the legitimate purpose of intelligence-gathering ultimately developed into a relationship of an inappropriate nature”

Judge Smithwick highlighted that the IRA had placed gunmen on the road where the officers were killed just ten minutes after their arrival at Dundalk Garda  station and said the circumstances suggested that it was “likely that the information came from Dundalk Garda station” to trigger the IRA operation.

“This was as a direct result of confirmation having been received that the officers had arrived at Dundalk,” he said.

The judge said he believed Harry Breen was the IRA’s target, as after the killing of eight IRA men and a civilian in Loughgall, County Armagh, by undercover soldiers in 1987, he had been pictured with weapons recovered by police.

“There was, in the wake of the murder, triumphalism in relation to the fact that the Provisional IRA had killed the officer who had appeared in that photograph ‘etched in every republican’s mind’,” he wrote.

The report also criticised two earlier garda investigations into the murders, describing them as “inadequate”.  He also said it was “highly regrettable” speculation of a mole in the immediate aftermath of the killings was dismissed by the most senior police officers on both sides of the border. He said this was “political expediency” at the expense of the victims.

He concluded that “too often that culture has resulted, some years later, after doubts, grievances and injustices have festered, in the setting up of investigations, commissions or tribunals of inquiry”and said he hoped his report would contribute in “one small part to changing that culture”.

Bob Buchanan’s son, William, said: “The findings of Judge Smithwick are both incredible and shocking, and confirm the existence of a mole in Dundalk station – this led to my father’s death.”

A solicitor, speaking on behalf of Chief Supt Breen’s family, said the report was “a truly remarkable exposé and indictment of wrongdoing and collusion with terrorists by some within An Garda Siochána”.

The family said the report detailed in the most stark and dramatic fashion the failure by state systems to address these matters year upon year.