Garda Ombudsman (GSOC) declines to investigate ‘IRA collusion’ in murder of Ian Sproule after four years of deliberation

Southern authorities have been accused for hypocrisy on legacy matters after the Garda Ombudsman declined to investigate a high profile murder involving alleged Garda-IRA collusion.

By Philip Bradfield
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 5:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 4:45 pm
Ian Sproule
Ian Sproule

The IRA riddled Ian Sproule’s car with bullets at his home in Castlederg in 1991. They later produced a Garda intelligence file on Ian to the media to try and justify their murder, something his family says demonstrates collusion with the Garda.

They believe that someone in the Garda leaked the file to the IRA to have him murdered.

The Sproule family met with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) four years ago, and say they were assured there was a case to answer. However despite some 30 letters and emails, they said there had been no communication of any substance since.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The IRA sprayed Ian Sproule's car with bullets outside his home in 1991

Ian’s brother, John, said: “GSOC gave us their word that they would do something about it. They did say there was a case to be answered. At the end of the day it makes you so angry. We know there was collusion but they are doing nothing about it.”

Yesterday DUP MLA Diane Dodds said the the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, whilst he was an Assistant Chief Constable with the PSNI, told the Smithwick Tribunal he was satisfied beyond doubt that there was a leak from the Garda to the IRA in respect of Ian’s murder.

“Despite this the Garda Ombudsman refuses to sanction an investigation and have told the Sproule family their case has ‘timed out’.

“Whilst we hear public opposition from Dublin to the UK Government’s amnesty proposals we see them enacting the same disgraceful policy in practice. This is a clear example Irish state speaking out of both sides of its mouth on legacy and attempting to evade its duty to take responsibility for their role during the troubles.”

Kenny Donaldson, Director of Services with the South East Fermanagh Foundation, which has lobbied GSOC persistently on the matter, demanded the investigation be reopened.

“It is not sustainable for the Irish Government and its’ Police Force to wish away the case and murder of Ian Sproule,” he said. “The Irish State may not have pulled the trigger but because of the misleading intelligence a member of their Police Force made available to the Provisional IRA, a man is dead.

He added: “Following the latest insult from GSOC nothing more will be acceptable now than a full reinvestigation of the murder of Ian Sproule and there can be no further opt in, opt out powers for the Irish State, for once they must deliver full disclosure. The psychological terrorisation of The Sproule family must end”.

TUV leader Jim Allister said he wrote to the Irish Justice Minister about the case only last week.

In his letter he wrote: “Yours is a government which regularly proclaims its aversion to terrorism and dedication to truth. Moreover, as a signatory to the Stormont House Agreement your government promised “full co-operation of all relevant Irish authorities, including disclosure of information and documentation”.

“Further, your government has aggressively demanded investigations in this jurisdiction of Northern Ireland and vigorously supported such campaigns.

“Yet, when the spotlight falls on Garda collusion in the murder of Ian Sproule - and his not the only case - the shutters come down and no excuse is too risible. The duplicity is as shocking as the resulting cover up.”

However a spokesman for the GSOC said that, unlike the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, it does not have legal authority to investigate legacy cases.

He said that when it was set up in 2007, the related legislation allowed only a six month time limit for lodging complaints, amended to 12 in 2015.

“It has been the experience of GSOC that the investigations of complaints that come outside the statutory limit, particularly that come significantly outside the provided for 12 months, are difficult to pursue as the gathering of evidence and witnesses years after alleged criminal activity can be severely hampered,” the spokesman said.

“As GSOC has no jurisdiction over retired members of the Garda Síochána it is also the experience that allegations which are not criminal in nature but may constitute breaches of the Garda Discipline Regulations made years after the event cannot be pursued against retired members.

“Unlike our colleagues in the Police Ombudsman Northern Ireland there has never been a Historical Investigations Unit provided for in GSOC. This Unit in Northern Ireland has a dedicated staffing provision to deal with such cases. No similar provision exists in GSOC.”


A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Acting Editor