The Smithwick Tribunal which spent eight years investigating those responsible for the deaths of two of the most senior RUC officers killed during the Troubles has stunned the Garda Siochana in Dundalk, and the state, with its findings that collusion most likely took place between the gardai and the IRA and that a source at Dundalk station led to the deaths of the RUC men.
Mr Justice Smithwick said that “on the balance of probabilities” collusion did occur. However, he did not identify any individual member of the gardai.
He found that the IRA was tipped off by at least one person at Dundalk Garda station and that this member or members of An Garda Síochána collaborated with the IRA in the Louth-Armagh border region to set up the assassination of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in March 1989.
The RUC policemen were the highest-ranking officers to die at the IRA’s hands during the Troubles. Chief Supt Breen’s command included the south Armagh area. Supt Buchanan was border superintendent for the region.
Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan were shot dead after a leaving a joint top level RUC-Garda conference on security in Dundalk. The meeting discussed how to target IRA smuggler and then chief of staff of the Provisionals Thomas “Slab” Murphy.
Mr Buchanan’s son, William Buchanan, said the findings are both “incredible and shocking and confirm the existence of a mole in Dundalk station. This led to my father’s death”, he said.
Three former garda sergeants based at Dundalk, Owen Corrigan, Leo Colton, and Finbarr Hickey have denied allegations that they played any role in helping the IRA set up the ambush. The tribunal found there was no evidence they were involved in any collusion.
A statement issued on behalf of Leo Colton by his solicitor Dundalk Dermot Lavery, said the former garda sergeant fully respected the integrity and hard work of Judge Smithwick.
However, in respect of the findings made against him by the judge that he had assisted the IRA in providing forged passport forms, Mr Colton said he rejected that “totally and utterly”.
He said he was not involved with the IRA and never would be involved with such an organisation.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said after the publication of the Smithwick Tribunal report that he accepted the conclusions arrived at by Judge Peter Smithwick but said it was a source of great disappointment that no one has been held accountable for the murders of the two RUC officers.
“To think that any member of the gardaí would engage in collusion was beyond comprehension and it was beyond belief that someone would betray the force,” Garda commissioner Martin Callinan said.
The Minister for Justice Alan Shatter described remarks by deputy Gerry Adams as “nauseating”. Mr Admas claimed the RUC officers had been “sailing in and out of Dundalk Garda station in a quite open way”.