Ireland’s police chief has said he is horrified that a collusion inquiry has found that a terrorist mole in the ranks of the force gave the IRA a tip-off that led to the ambush and murder of two RUC officers.
Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were gunned down on March 20 1989 near the border in south Armagh, shortly after a meeting with gardai in Dundalk, Co Louth.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the Smithwick tribunal had identified a betrayal from within the force.
“It’s a source of great disappointment that no-one has been made amenable to date for their cowardly murders,” Mr Callinan said.
“These were colleagues of ours who were travelling to Dundalk garda station to take part in discussions with our colleagues in relation to very serious policing and security matters.
“I’m horrified that any member of the An Garda Siochana would be involved in colluding with the IRA.
“I accept the conclusions arrived at by the chairman of the tribunal.
“To think that any member of my force would engage with the IRA at any level is beyond comprehension.
“And to betray both themselves and my organisation in such a fashion is beyond me.”
As well as confirming long-held suspicions of the IRA mole in Dundalk station, Judge Peter Smithwick said there was collusion in the killings but was unable to point the finger at an individual and said he suspects there could have been another person passing information to the IRA.
He also accused current Garda chiefs of trying to protect the reputation of the force by undermining a retired superintendent who testified that he passed intelligence on a death threat against Mr Buchanan to the highest ranks in the force the year before the attack.
The IRA are thought to have been tipped off about the RUC officers’ meeting in Dundalk at about 11.30 on the morning of the ambush.
The information came from inside Dundalk Garda station, the judge found.
Within about three hours the ambush had been set up and carried out, with Mr Breen shot as he tried to surrender and Mr Buchanan killed at the driver’s seat.
Earlier, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams caused outrage when he claimed Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan disregarded their own safety.
He also accused them of thinking they were immune to an IRA attack and of sailing in and out of Dundalk Garda station.
In the interview on Newstalk radio the Sinn Fein leader said: “When you have that type of laissez-faire disregard for their own security, by both An Garda Siochana in relation to these two officers, and more importantly these officers themselves - here they were in the heart of south Armagh in the middle of a very, very severe conflict at that time, and seemed to think that they were immune from attack by the IRA, and tragically as it turned out for them that was not the case.”
Ireland’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the comments were nauseating while SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness said it was a vile assessment of the brutal murders.
Arlene Foster, DUP MLA, said it was beneath contempt that Mr Adams would so explicitly blame the victims for their murder.
“Adams’ words also fall into an increasingly prevalent pattern whereby republicans seem determined to retraumatise the victims of their terrorism,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Garda Commissioner said it was “unfortunate” that Judge Smithwick found that the force had tried to undermine a superintendent who gave evidence about a death threat against Mr Buchanan in the year before the attack.
Mr Callinan apologised for any wrongdoing on behalf of the force.
“I unreservedly apologise for any wrongdoing on behalf of any member of the force,” he said.
“I’m absolutely horrified that any member of An Garda Siochana would betray the fundamental principles of An Garda Siochana, and the disloyalty shown by whoever was involved in this killing.”