Leader Gerry Adams has defended his controversial comments that two senior RUC officers murdered by the IRA had taken a “laissez faire” approach their to personal security.
He stopped short of apologising for his remarks and said it was “nonsense” to suggest he was blaming the officers – Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan – for their own deaths.
Mr Adams was left isolated this week after he claimed the men had only themselves to blame, following the publication of the Smithwick report on the 1989 murders.
Reacting to strong criticism from both sides of the Border, Mr Adams last night stated it was never his intention to cause the Breen or Buchanan families any additional hurt.
“Everyone knows the IRA was responsible. That was never in question,” he added.
Chief Supt Breen and Supt Buchanan were gunned down on March 20, 1989, in South Armagh, shortly after a meeting with senior gardai in Dundalk, Co Louth. The Smithwick Tribunal found an IRA mole in the gardai likely tipped off a terrorist hit squad that the men were attending a meeting in the town.
Mr Adams claimed the RUC men thought they were immune from attack and had “a laissezfaire disregard for their own security”.
In a statement, released through his Twitter account yesterday, Mr Adams said his comments “reflected what is recorded by Justice Smithwick” in his report.
He said: “So those who attack me are at odds with what is contained in the Smithwick report.”
“I am very conscious that at the heart of this issue are two bereaved families. I did not need reminded of this by any of my political opponents and I am concerned, as I was during the Newstalk interview, not to say anything which detracts from that,” he added.
He said there is also no question the report records serious concerns about the security arrangements for RUC officers travelling to Dundalk through south Armagh.
“It is a fact that RUC officer Bob Buchanan was crossing the Border on average 10 times each month and on most occasions he travelled in his own car which was ‘readily identifiable’,” he said.
He said the report identified other examples of concern and the decision to travel frequently across the Border without escort left the “RUC officers open to the real possibility of attack”. Mr Adams said he had co-operated with the inquiry and Sinn Fein had supported the establishment of the Smithwick Tribunal.
Meanwhile, several more Sinn Fein politicians have been dragged into the controversy.
The party's justice spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn said there was “no direct evidence of collusion” in the report.
When asked on TV3 if he felt the IRA personnel who murdered the two officers had a “duty” to do so, Mr Mac Lochlainn said he believed the “IRA were fighting a legitimate war”.
Speaking on RTE, Sinn Fein senator Trevor O Clochartaigh defended his leader's comments saying he was quoting and paraphrasing the report.