The Smithwick tribunal into the possibility of collusion between the 26-County Gardai police and the IRA in a deadly ambush has today published a report which accepts that collusion likely took place, without saying how, or by whom.
RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were shot dead by an IRA unit on March 20, 1989, near the border in south Armagh.
The died shortly after a meeting with a senior gardai in Dundalk, County Louth, and were among the most senior members of the Crown forces to die in the conflict.
After eight years as the chairman and sole member of the tribunal, Judge Peter Smithwick today released his findings. At the conclusion of his 500-page report, he says he is “satisfied” that collusion took place in some form, and suggests that an unidentified IRA mole likely leaked information about the movements of the two RUC men on the day they were killed.
He criticised a lack of investigations by the security forces on both sides of the border.
“It is particularly regrettable that both police services acted swiftly to dismiss speculation of the possibility of collusion rather than to deal with that by means of a thorough and credible investigation,” he found.
“This was an example of the prioritisation of political expediency in the short term, without due regard to the rights of victims and the importance of placing justice at the centre of any policing system.”
Judge Smithwick issued a series of findings on the culture and attitudes towards dealing with rogue police.
“The integrity of and confidence in An Garda Siochana can properly be maintained only if suggestions of inappropriate or illegal conduct by members are taken seriously, transparently and thoroughly investigated and, above all, not tolerated or ignored on the basis of some misguided sense of loyalty to the force or to its members,” he said.
Three former garda officers - Owen Corrigan, Leo Colton and Finbarr Hickey - were granted legal representation and all vigorously denied allegations of collusion.
Corrigan’s evidence to the tribunal was vague, evasive and inconsistent and was not credible, the report concluded, but stopped short of linking him to the attack.
The setting up of the Smithwick tribunal was prompted in 2003 by the Canadian judge Peter Cory. It was long viewed as an attempt to balance three other inquiries recommended by Cory into cases of RUC collusion in the murder of northern nationalists: Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson, and Pat Finucane.