Unionist MLAs have called on the Irish government to build on the findings of the recent Smithwick Tribunal and investigate the extent to which it “nurtured the fledgling IRA”.
The calls came during a debate yesterday in which MLAs passed a DUP motion calling on Dublin to “pursue justice” and ensure no repeat of the Garda-IRA collusion in the murders of RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in 1989.
Yesterday’s DUP motion was passed by 58 votes to 39. An SDLP amendment which said the Garda response to the Smithwick Report has been adequate failed by 52 votes to 48.
Last month Judge Peter Smithwick published his findings that there had been collusion in the murders.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP yesterday emphasised that Smithwick found “no direct evidence” of collusion and that his conclusion rested “on the balance of probability”.
DUP justice spokesman Paul Givan endorsed Smithwick’s findings that two previous inquiries into the murders had been inadequate for reasons of “political expediency”. He also cited Smithwick’s findings that there had been attempts by lawyers to undermine the testimony of retired Monaghan Chief Supt Tom Curran.
Mr Curran said that he experienced ambivalence at the highest level of his force over his complaints of collusion in Dundalk.
Mr Givan said he also wanted to see an investigation into the role of former Taoiseach Jack Lynch’s government, “its assistance in the creation of the IRA” and Irish army captain James Kelly’s role “in importing guns for the IRA”.
He added: “In October 1969 Capt Kelly met with senior IRA members. So let Smithwick be the catalyst for the Republic of Ireland government to come clean on its relationship with the IRA.”
His party colleague William Humphrey pointed up the role of former Irish cabinet minister Neil Blaney and others in the emergence of the IRA.
“The role of Lynch’s government must, I believe, be fully investigated,” he said,
A third DUP member, Sydney Anderson, also called for investigations into “the extent to which they [The Dublin government] nurtured the fledgling IRA”.
SDLP MLA Alban Maginness noted that the Smithwick Tribunal had come from the Weston Park talks, which also required an inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane. He noted with concern that this inquiry is still outstanding.
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said southern collusion differed from that of the British state, he claimed, because the latter was “systematic” and involved the deaths of “hundreds” of Catholics.
But DUP MLA Gregory Campbell said that former IRA members, including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, had failed to cooperate with Smithwick and Saville inquiries on IRA matters. Several DUP members said this seriously undermined republican calls for others to come clean about the Troubles.
Sinn Fein MLA Mitchell McLaughlin said the Smithwick Report had set a new standard of evidence, and pressed unionists to accept “the balance of probability” to prove loyalist collusion also.
“If you accept this new threshold of evidence so will we,” he said.
But Justice Minister David Ford insisted the DUP motion was somewhat unnecessary because he and the chief constable were already working with their southern counterparts to improve cross-border policing.
“Significant action has already been taken,” he added.