Former Garda officers challenge Smithwick findings

February 3, 2014

Three former Irish police officers have challenged the findings of last year’s Smithwick Tribunal which investigated alleged collusion by Garda officers in the IRA murders of two senior Northern Ireland policemen.

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, on probability, there had been collusion by one or more Garda officers in the murders and that an un-named Garda officer had tipped off the IRA when two senior Royal Ulster Constabulary officers left Dundalk garda station.

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.

They were the most senior RUC members to be killed in the Troubles.

The three former senior Garda officers challenging the findings are retired Chief Supt John O’Brien, former Chief Supt Michael Staunton and retired Chief Supt Michael Finnegan.

All three served in Dundalk at various stages in their careers. They argue that the Smithwick finding is not based on fact and have called on the Irish government to reject the judge’s conclusions as “a matter of urgency and justice”.

The trio has compiled a 30-page critique that they have sent to the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, and the justice minister, Alan Shatter, amongst others.

In it they maintain that the finding of collusion by the Smithwick inquiry “undermines the capacity of the state to actively pursue the many substantiated acts of collusion committed in the conflict”.

They also say the findings have damaged the good name of the Garda Siochana and the work it carried out in fighting paramilitaries during the Troubles.

The critique condemns both the conclusions and the methods of the Smithwick inquiry believing greater weight should have been given to the statements of former IRA members who said the killings resulted from a long-standing surveillance operation in which there was no garda involvement.

No IRA member appeared in person at the tribunal for cross-examination.

Judge Smithwick is also accused by the officers of accepting information given in private by PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris that unidentified garda members had colluded in the murders.

Despite the clash the Garda Siochana and the PSNI, both forces have reiterated that they are fully united in the cross-border battle against crime and dissident republicans.