JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has described Gerry Adams’s claim that two RUC officers were to blame for their own murders as “nauseating”.
The Sinn Fein Leader has being strongly criticised after making shocking comments about the deaths of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.
Mr Adams sparked fury after he accused the two men of displaying a “laissez faire disregard” for their safety.
He further claimed in a radio interview this morning that the deceased officers “seemed to think that they were immune to attack by the IRA” prior to their murders in Armagh in 1989.
Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were gunned down on March 20, 1989, in south Armagh, shortly after a meeting with senior gardai in Dundalk, Co Louth.
The details of their deaths have come to light again following last night’s publication of the Smithwick report which found that there was collusion between gardai and the IRA.
Mr Adams was strongly criticised today by Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party for his remarks.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter described the comments as “nauseating”.
“I thought Gerry Adams’s contribution this morning to be nauseating. The truth is you had two respected senior members of the RU barbically murdered in cold blood by people Mr Adams is associated with,” he said.
“Insofar as Gerry Adams refers to there being a war at that time, the war was essentially created by the provisional IRA., targeting innocent individuals and targeting members of the security forces on both sides of the border.
It seems to me Mr Adams has mental reservations about his responsibities in these areas.”
The statement was met with astonishment after the Smithwick Tribunal’s finding that gardai colluded with the IRA in the build up to the 1989 murders.
Solicitor John McBurney who represents Chief Supt Breen’s family described the Sinn Fein leader as “an apologist for the terrorists who murdered these two officers”.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he would try to come to the defence of those who murdered these officers if that’s what he’s attempting to do.”
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin today demanded that Gerry Adams apologise to the families of the murdered officers.
“It is insulting to the families concerned and it should be withdrawn. Essentially, it almost blames by implication the officers themselves. We should be very clear that this was premeditated murder carried out by so-called republicans and people supported by the Sinn Féin leaders and others,” he said during ‘Leader’s Questions’.
Meanwhile, An Garda Siochana has given his first comprehensive response to the findings of the Smithwick Tribunal.
Speaking this afternoon, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan described the act of collusion as a “betrayal”.
“To think that any member of my force would engage with the IRA at any level is beyond comprehension,” he said.
“And to betray both themselves and my organisation in such a fashion is beyond belief. And I know I speak on behalf of every single member of An Garda Siochana in terms of that betrayal, and that’s what it is, a betrayal,” he added.
Judge Peter Smithwick found that at least one person in Dundalk garda station tipped the IRA off ahead of the shocking killings in 1989.
But in a radio interview Mr Adams reiterated that former IRA volunteers had told the tribunal that they monitored the comings and goings at the garda station before the ambushed.
“So when you have that type of laissez faire disregard for their own security by both An Garda Siochana in relation to these two RUC officers and more importantly by the RUC officers themselves.
“Here they were in the heart of south Armagh, in the middle of a very, very severe conflict at that time and seemed to think that they were immune to attack by the IRA and tragically as it turned out for them, that wasn’t the case,” Adams said.
He added “sure the same thing happened to IRA volunteers” in the North during the Troubles.
Speaking with the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk Mr McBurney said it was “outrageous” to try legitimise the murders.
In his 500-page report, Judge Peter Smithwick found there was collusion in the killings, but has not pointed the finger at any individual officer or civilian.
“It is particularly regrettable that both police services acted swiftly to dismiss speculation of the possibility of collusion rather than to deal with that by means of a thorough and credible investigation,” he wrote.
“This was an example of the prioritisation of political expediency in the short term.”
Justice Minister Alan Shatter yesterday “unreservedly apologised” to the families of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan.
He said the Government will give “careful consideration” to recommendations made by Judge Smithwick on policing.
Mr Shatter believes that if similar allegations of collusion were made today they would be taken seriously.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan welcomed the report, but declined to comment further until its contents have been “carefully examined” by him and his senior officers.
Judge Smithwick issued a series of damning findings on attitudes towards dealing with rogue police.
“The integrity of and confidence in An Garda Siochana can properly be maintained only if suggestions of inappropriate or illegal conduct by members are taken seriously, transparently and thoroughly investigated and, above all, not tolerated or ignored,” he said.
Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan travelled to Dundalk to discuss a possible joint operation with gardai on lands owned by prominent republican Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy.
On their way home on the Edenappa Road near Jonesborough, a van with a gang of up to six armed IRA men cut them off.
Both policemen were in civilian clothes and neither was carrying a weapon.
Mr Buchanan tried to reverse the red Vauxhall Cavalier out of danger but got stuck in a ditch and was shot several times.
Mr Breen tried to surrender. He got out of the car, walked to the front of it with his hands up and was shot several times.
The tribunal was established in 2005, with lawyers spending six years examining intelligence and witness statements from police, undercover agents, IRA bombers and politicians.
By Niall O’Connor and Sarah MacDonald