Thursday 18 January 2018

Gardai's evidence 'mixed up' in Smithwick report

Mr Justice Peter Smithwick
Mr Justice Peter Smithwick
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THE Smithwick tribunal has made an error in its final report by mixing up the evidence given by two retired gardai, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Judge Smithwick published his final report into Garda collusion in the IRA murders of two RUC officers in December. The two men were ambushed and killed shortly after they left a meeting at Dundalk garda station on March 20, 1989

One of the retired gardai, Thomas Brady, a former superintendent, noticed the mistake last month and alerted the Smithwick tribunal, which has promised to correct the online edition, but not the published hard copies of the final report.

The error follows recent criticism of the Smithwick tribunal's report by three former senior gardai, who claimed that its finding of Garda collusion with the IRA in the murders of Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan are unfounded and not supported by evidence.

The mistake occurred in chapter 18 which covers the "career and activities" of another retired sergeant, Leo Colton, who signed passports that ended up in the hands of the IRA. The final report attributes some evidence given by Thomas Byrne, a garda sergeant who was suspicious of Leo Colton, with evidence given by another garda, Thomas Brady.

Thomas Byrne had indicated to the tribunal that he was "frustrated" with Colton's activities, had complained about him. But the tribunal attributed part of this evidence to Thomas Brady, who gave evidence on an entirely different matter.

Thomas Brady contacted the tribunal last month and was informed that the typographical mistakes will be corrected on the online edition of the report on the Oireachtas website. But Brady said the report also exists in disc and hard copy format, and these must be amended too.

In a statement last week, Brady said he accepted that a "clerical error" had been made. He added: "I did give evidence to the Smithwick tribunal in other matters and that it is correctly recorded in the final report.

"In the circumstances, I believe that the Smithwick tribunal has a legal and moral duty. In my correspondence with the tribunal in relation to this matter they have acknowledged the error and stated that they would take steps to amend the online version of the report. I have pointed out to the tribunal that the hard copies and discs of the report in the public domain also need to be amended."

Brady said he is "awaiting developments", but expects the tribunal to afford him the same terms as has applied to errors made in the Mahon tribunal report.

"That is all I am asking for. Most reasonable people accept that errors do occur in all aspects of human endeavours. How they are dealt with is important," he said.

The Mahon tribunal on planning matters unreservedly apologised to Charles Haughey's son, Conor, for mistakenly referring to him instead of his brother, Ciaran, in its final report. Conor Haughey was not even a witness at the Mahon tribunal. A number of other errors were corrected in statements on the Mahon tribunal's website.

The Smithwick tribunal confirmed the "typographical errors" in section 18.2 of the final report.

"It is currently in the process of amending these errors and a corrected version of the report will be available on the Oireachtas website in the coming days. The tribunal has confirmed the position to the individual who brought these errors to its attention."

Leo Colton "totally and utterly" rejected the tribunal's findings in a statement issued after the Smithwick tribunal report was published.

Sunday Independent

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