Unionist MLAs have called for a close examination of the Smithwick Tribunal report to establish the full extent of Garda collusion with the IRA.
During a debate in the Assembly yesterday, Paul Givan of the DUP said there are “clear challenges” to the leadership of An Garda Siochana “which has not yet been fully recognised”.
In his findings published last week, Judge Peter Smithwick confirmed there was collusion involving at least one member of the Irish police in the murders of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan in 1989.
TUV leader Jim Allister said the findings exposed how political expediency led to emphatic denials of a mole at the time, and raised the question: “How many times over the years did that political expediency play its hand in conning and deceiving as to what was going on?”
Ross Hussey of the Ulster Unionists hit out at Sinn Fein MLAs over claims by Gerry Adams that those who carried out the shooting “had a duty to murder” the senior officers.
Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan were ambushed on March 20, 1989 as they returned from a meeting with their Garda counterparts in Dundalk police station.
The two men were required to make frequent trips to the Republic as they liaised on ways to improve border security and clamp down on smuggling.
As well as confirming long-held suspicions of the IRA mole in Dundalk station, Judge Smithwick identified collusion in the murders but was unable to name any individual.
He also raised the possibility of another person in the station passing information to the IRA. The respected judge also accused current Garda chiefs of trying to protect the force’s reputation by undermining a retired superintendent who gave evidence that he passed intelligence on a death threat against Mr Buchanan to high-ranking Garda the year before the attack.
During yesterday’s debate, Mr Givan praised the judge for resisting attempts by the Irish government to “rush proceedings through arbitrary deadlines”, and said: “Any process needs to deal further with the role of the Irish government in other cases, not just that of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson but that of the Hanna family, where there are strong suspicions of collusion.”
Mr Givan added: “They also need to look at the role that the Irish government played under Jack Lynch in the infancy of the Provisional IRA movement in arming, assisting and facilitating it; the Irish government’s refusal in over 90 per cent of cases to extradite those whom the UK Government sought for terrorist activities; and their failure to protect the border.”
Mr Allister said: “I must say that I was most disappointed by our Justice Minister’s mealy-mouthed response last Friday when he tried to downplay the findings of collusion with a line, the essence of which was, ‘Well, you know, there are bad apples in every large organisation.’
“Was that another example of political expediency kicking in to avoid facing up to and to help deny the realities that were found?”
The TUV leader added: “Then, of course, we had the disgusting comments from the disgusting Mr Adams, to suggest that these men had only themselves to blame. That was shameful.”
Also hitting out at Sinn Fein over the party’s response to the Smithwick findings, West Tyrone MLA Ross Hussey said: “Everybody knew that the police officers who travelled between the north and south were not allowed to carry their firearms, so they were murdered in cold blood.
“It was a shoot-to-kill policy by the IRA ... no Sinn Fein member can stand up and say anything different.”
David McNarry of Ukip questioned whether we should “expect victims to believe that the Smithwick findings began and ended with one or two so-called rogue guards”.
He said: “I call on the Taoiseach to publicly answer this question: did gardai collusion begin and end with the killing of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan?”
Sinn Fein’s Mitchell McLaughlin responded by saying the British Government was still refusing to hand over vital information on other killings.
He said: “It is already clear that what Judge Smithwick describes as collusion is very different in form and scale from the collusion that occurred in the north.”