Tuesday 21 October 2014

Smithwick cast a cloud on all gardai, say veterans

Tom Brady Security Editor

Published 18/02/2014 | 02:30

Mr Justice Peter Smithwick
Mr Justice Peter Smithwick

RETIRED gardai have accused the Smithwick Tribunal of inflicting a lifelong injustice on scores of their colleagues.

They claim the tribunal's finding of collusion by unnamed gardai with the Provisional IRA killers of two senior RUC officers has cast a cloud of suspicion over all gardai who served in Dundalk and surrounding stations at the time.

The findings by Judge Peter Smithwick related to the terrorist ambush of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan, who were shot dead as they returned across the Border following a meeting about smuggling with senior garda officers at Dundalk, on March 20, 1989.

The tribunal reached the conclusion after the late intervention by PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, who provided fresh intelligence, described as "live and of the moment".

Now the Garda Siochana Retired Members Association, which represents 7,500 former gardai of all ranks, has called on the tribunal to allow their colleagues the opportunity to issue a response.

The association accepts the findings – but says it reserves the right to raise a number of issues that gravely concern its members and, in particular, those who served in Dundalk and elsewhere along that section of the Border at the time.

The association points out that three former gardai, who were named in the tribunal, were allowed to defend their good names by giving evidence to Smithwick and being represented by lawyers, who could cross-examine their potential accusers. The three successfully grasped that opportunity and were cleared by the tribunal.

But the rest of the station party in Dundalk, the association argues, have been left in a position where they cannot defend themselves as they do not know what the specific allegations are, the basis on which they were made or where they originated.

In an article published on its website, the retired gardai also want to know why this information was introduced at the last minute and then given in private by Assistant Chief Constable Harris.

The association points out that no opportunity was given to anybody to challenge that information, which was described by Diarmaid McGuinness, senior counsel for Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, as not merely nonsense but "nonsense on stilts".

It says that while Mr Harris had been nominated to give that evidence to the tribunal, it was generally accepted that it did not originate with him.

The association asks: "So, who did provide this crucial piece of intelligence?"

It then quotes an article in the Irish Independent, which stated that the critical intelligence had come from the British security service, MI5.

The association called on the tribunal to outline the source of that intelligence and also provide every serving and retired garda members in Dundalk station a chance to review that evidence with their lawyers.

Otherwise, it says, the tribunal is in danger of inflicting a lifelong injustice on a group of brave men and women.

Irish Independent

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