Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has described the decision by three former members of the IRA to give evidence to the Smithwick Inquiry as a “significant and unprecedented development.”
While the men will give evidence at the tribunal into the deaths of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan who were killed in an asmbush in Co Armagh in 1989, they will not take the stand despite recent meetings in attempts to encourage them to do so.
Members of the Tribunal’s legal team had been due to meet former IRA members but they withdrew from a meeting in 2012 to discuss the possibility of a witness giving oral evidence at a hearing.
Mr Adams said that while Tribunal chairman Peter Smithwick, sitting in Dublin, would clearly be disappointed about this, it was not an unexpected move.
“This was a decision for the three former members but it should be viewed in its context,” said the Louth TD. “This was the first time former members of the IRA have ever given evidence to an inquiry into an IRA action.
“It was historically unprecedented. They agreed to do so voluntarily and I understand they answered the questions put to them in a full and frank fashion. Their evidence will be published today and people will be able to judge for themselves the extent of their co-operation and whether it rebuts claims that there was some form of assistance or collusion with members of An Garda Siochána.”
The Tribunal is to resume on Friday following a break.
The Sinn Féin leader also called on the Irish and British governments to invite an international organisation to establish an Independent International Truth Commission, and said he would encourage republicans to support such a process.
“There are many more families who seek truth and closure,” he said. “Sinn Féin has repeatedly called on the British and Irish governments to invite in a reputable and independent international body to establish an Independent International Truth Commission which would be independent of any state, combatant groups, political parties, civil society and economic interests.
“It should have a remit to inquire into the extent and pattern of past violations as well as their causes and consequences and would be dependent on the full co-operation of all the relevant parties.
“Of course, such a process would not be easy. There are vested interests who do not want the truth and who will oppose the creation of a meaningful truth recovery process.
“For my part I would actively encourage republicans to co-operate with such a process.”