Assembly to debate ‘Dublin’s failure to address claims of IRA collusion with Garda’

The Assembly is to debate a motion next week which condemns the “longstanding failure” by Dublin “to address substantive allegations of collusion in atrocities committed by the IRA”.

Saturday, 25th September 2021, 9:00 am
Garda are investigating the death of Stuart Hamilton

The debate comes several weeks after the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC) declined to investigate alleged ‘Garda-IRA collusion’ in the murder of a Co Tyrone man.

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

They say that four years ago the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) assured them there was a case to answer. However two weeks ago it concluded it has no statutory authority to investigate legacy cases.

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One of those lobbying the on the matter has been DUP MLA Diane Dodds. She and her West Tyrone colleague Tom Buchana have brought a motion before the assembly for debate on Tuesday on the matter. Their motion also rejects UK Government plans for a Troubles amnesty.

The Upper Bann MLA said: “The [UK] Government’s amnesty proposals are a perversion of justice and they have rightly been opposed by all shades of political opinion as well as by the vast majority of victims. They do not want to see those crimes swept under the carpet, but that is equally true for incidents impacting on either side of the border.

“There has been a complete failure on the part of the Irish authorities to address the serious allegations of collusion between PIRA and members of the Garda.” She said GSOC’s refusal to investigate allegations of collusion is “an equally outrageous denial of justice”.

“There is an obligation on the Irish Government to fulfil its obligations under human rights law. They regularly criticise the UK Government yet appear to believe they can operate under different rules.”

A spokesman for the Irish Department of Justice responded that investigations had found no evidence of Garda-IRA collusion in Mr Sproule’s murder.

“The murder of Mr Ian Sproule by the Provisional IRA was an appalling act with no justification,” the spokesman said. “The Sproule family suffered a terrible loss, and like many others who in the course of the troubles lost loved ones, they continue to bear that loss today.

“Allegations have been made that members of An Garda Síochána colluded with the murderers of Mr Sproule. These allegations were investigated at the time and subsequently and no evidence to support the allegation was found. If any new evidence comes to light it will of course be fully investigated.

“Dealing with the legacy of the troubles on this island is complex and challenging and can only be achieved by proceeding on an agreed basis. The Department would like to emphasise that the Government is, and always has been, fully committed to the provisions of the Stormont House Agreement on addressing the history of the violent conflict in Northern Ireland.

“The Government has a long record of interaction with the victims of troubles-related violence and interest groups from all communities and has repeatedly made clear by its words and deeds that it sees no hierarchy of the victims of violence. All bereaved families should have access to an effective investigation and to a process of justice, regardless of the perpetrators.”

Claims of collusion between the Irish state and the Provisional IRA go back to the very genesis of the Troubles. In 1993 former Irish Minister Neil Blaney told BBC journalist Peter Taylor in a documentary that his own cabinet had helped the fledgling Provisional IRA with support in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Blaney said: “We didn’t help to create them [PIRA] but we certainly would have accelerated by what assistance we could have given their emergence as a force.”

A range of key players from the IRA, Irish state and Sinn Fein gave Taylor almost identical accounts of how the Irish government help create the Provisional IRA.

In his book, a Secret History of the IRA, Ed Moloney told essentially the same story. He claimed the Irish government helped foment the creation of the Provisional IRA from the old IRA in 1969. He said the aim was to stifle the socialist threat of the old IRA, which it was feared would overthrow the Dublin government. Instead, it is claimed, the Irish state helped create a more green and nationalist IRA which would focus all violence north of the border.

Moloney wrote: “[Irish] cabinet papers of the day [1969] reveal that this was a policy agreed upon by all Taoiseach Jack Lynch’s ministers in April that year, long before the August riots [in Belfast, August 1969]. The papers show that the Department of Justice had recommended a policy of dividing the IRA’s rural conservatives from the urban radicals and that the cabinet endorsed this. Even so, the working out of the policy put Haughey and Blaney at the centre of the scheme, almost as if it was their private freelance plan.”

In 2012 the Assembly called on the Irish government to apologise for its alleged role in the emergence of the Provisional IRA. The motion was passed by 47 votes to 46.

In 2013, the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin concluded that Irish police officers colluded in the IRA murders of two senior Northern Ireland policemen. Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were shot dead in an ambush in March 1989 as they crossed the border into Northern Ireland after a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

The relatives of ten civilians murdered by the IRA in the Kingsmills Massacre in south Armagh have persistently criticised the Irish government for refusing to opens its files on the murders, despite absolute promises by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the families in Bessbrook in 2015. Weapons and vehicles used in the attack were recovered in the Republic and many of the suspects had served time in the south for terrorism or fled there after the atrocity. Despite their legacy inquest opening five years ago, the families have still not been able to secure a Garda witness to give testimony.

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