Garda collusion with the IRA in the murder of two senior RUC men will have major implications for ongoing peace talks in Northern Ireland, it was warned last night.
Unionist politicians called on Dublin to acknowledge the role they believe the Irish government played in helping create the IRA, after the release of the Smithwick report.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson expressed fears over the Haass talks process aimed at resolving Northern Ireland’s difficult issues.
“I believe that the finding of collusion on the part of the Garda with members of the IRA is significant and has major implications for the way in which we deal with the past under the current talks process being overseen by Dr Richard Haass,” he said.
The DUP’s Arlene Foster said that “all too often we have seen the Irish government call for investigations into events in Northern Ireland but take grave offence at suggestions of wrongdoing from within their state.”
She added: “This must act however as a catalyst for further movement towards acknowledgement by the Irish government of the role played by Dublin in the formation of the IRA and how republican terrorists were able to operate across the border with relative ease.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “The report has confirmed what we already knew... Throughout the Troubles the Republic was effectively a safe haven for republican criminals and it comes as no surprise that the Garda colluded in the murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan.
“It is time for Dublin to come clean on their role in arming the IRA and facilitating their campaign of terror, not, as some unionists have suggested, to ‘draw a line’ under the issue.”
UUP justice spokesperson Tom Elliott MLA said Judge Smithwick “clearly did not believe a word he was told by the former IRA men who gave evidence”.
He added: “I refer to his conclusion that the preponderance of evidence points to the fact they specifically targeted Chief Superintendent Breen, despite the IRA personnel denying this fact.
“Combine this with Martin McGuinness confirming to the Saville Inquiry that there were matters regarding his involvement with PIRA he would not discuss ‘under any circumstances’ and the IRA have delivered the death knell to the credibility of any truth commission.”
Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford said a rogue officer acting outside the law should not result in the loss of trust between the PSNI and gardai.
“Since taking up this office I have worked to build the levels of co-operation between the two services and Alan Shatter and I, as the two ministers, will continue to do this,” he said.
Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said she will raise the collusion scandal with the Irish government.
“An important point to remember is that levels of co-operation between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI are now at unprecedented levels and are playing a crucial part in combating terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland,” she said.
The SDLP’s Dolores Kelly commended Judge Smithwick for his independent and fearless approach.
“The fact that Judge Smithwick identified ‘misguided loyalty’ that resulted in certain matters being covered up is a matter that the Irish government must now reflect on and address,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the collusion uncovered in the tribunal was different from what went on in Northern Ireland.
“During 30 years of war the British state was responsible for structured, institutionalised and co-ordinated state-run collusion and death squads which led to the deaths of hundreds of citizens, including those killed in the Dublin and Monaghan and Dundalk bomb attacks,” he added.
“The British Government refuses to hand over vital information on these.”
The Superintendents’ Association of Northern Ireland said its thoughts “are first and foremost with the families of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan”.
A PSNI spokesman said: “The murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan are still open. PSNI has fully engaged with and supported the Smithwick Tribunal and any new evidence that comes to light as a result will be fully considered and assessed.”